Dogs are pack animals, they view humans as their pack. Keeping a dog on a chain is not only cruel, it may even result in behavioral problems, such as aggression, for the dog involved.
When we talk about dogs kept on chains we are not referring to the ones who are chained for a brief time to go out in the yard to urinate, or when their owner is on a walk with them and ties them up briefly, but rather those who spend the majority of the time on a chain. Keeping dogs outside on chains for the majority of the time is cruel, and unfair.
photo source Entitled Release Me, by Shane Gorski
The fact that chaining dogs in yards leads to problem behaviors is so well known some cities, and some states, have bylaws against it, and many shelters will not adopt dogs out to potential owners who do not have fenced yards or a dog run.
Dogs become protective of the area where they are chained, a behavior that is not seen as much in dogs that are kept loose in a yard. Chained dogs are more apt to bite. They may even show aggression towards their owners when their owners approach them while they are chained. This problem does not start all at once, but it grows over time and spirals, as the more a dog is left chained up, the more anxious and defensive it becomes, then the more anxious and defensive a dog is, the less the owner interacts with it, and we see a cycle where by the dog looses.
Increased aggression and negative behaviors are not the only reasons dogs should not be kept on chains.
Indeed when a dog is put outside on a chain it always runs a risk of strangulation. Even the safest of systems have room for error, and many dogs have been found dead at the end of their chain as a result. Another risk is that the dogs limb becomes encircled in the chain, and it loses circulation.
When a dog is kept on a chain its owner may check it less frequently, the chain may become wrapped around a tree, and may restrict the dog from reaching its food, water, or shelter.
Dogs kept on chains, where no fence is present, are at risk from feral dogs, coyotes, and even people. Theft of dogs is not unheard of. In areas where dog fighting is common a chained dog might represent easy pickings for somebody who is already living outside the law, and wanting a dog to use as bait. While this may seem extreme, theft for this purpose does happen.
A dog who has been kept on a chain may run away when taken off the chain and given a bit of freedom. Their owners, having become too dependent, on the chain to restrict the dog, often fail to train them correctly, and many chained dogs lack any type of “recall”.
Chained dogs are frequently neglected dogs. In some cases dogs on chains are so neglected their collar is too tight for their neck. The United States Humane Society has found many cases of dogs left on chains that were parasite ridden, underfed, and in generally poor condition. Many of these dogs are restricted from access to their owners home – remember again, that dogs are pack animals, they see humans as their pack, a life outside on a chain is not proper pack lifestyle.
photo source This poor dog is a perfect example of what happens to chained dogs, not only has it obviously been neglected for some time (note the ribs and the chain for a collar) but the owners moved out a day before this picture was taken and left the dog behind.
Dogs should not spend their lives on chains. They are companion animals, who need to be part of the pack. People who want a dog should find a way to include the dog in their everyday routine, take it to obedience lessons. If they do not have time for a dog, they should not get one. Keeping dogs on chains for the majority of its life is cruel. If people want an outdoor only pet, perhaps they would be better off with a llama, or horse.
Please note that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs kept on chains kill more children than do falls from trees and playground equipment and accidents involving fireworks combined. PETA, and many other animal welfare groups, are very much against keepign dogs on chains.