In the doghouse
September 15, 2008 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Ethics/legality of doghouses in winter states. What are the laws and animal cruelty considerations of keeping a dog outside in a doghouse during working hours in winter cold/summer heat?

I have been briefly (that means only casually) entertaining the idea of adopting an older dog, however, the research I've done on costs of dog walkers is prohibitive. I have a very large back deck, but due to back walls being all glass, cannot install a doggie door. My instinct says that it is most likely inhumane to force a dog to spend my working hours in a dog house on the deck during the extremes of heat and cold that New York City is subject to, but I thought perhaps there are certain breeds that could handle it. Before I go any further with this idea, I'd like to hear from actual experts/people who have dogs. Is it 100% out of the question both legally and ethically to build a dog house and keep the dog in it during the day in winter/summer or are there breeds that could handle it without this being cruel/illegal?
posted by spicynuts to Pets & Animals (19 answers total)
NY State laws on the subject.

Basically you would need to create a backyard enclosure that would include a place that contains adquete food, water, shade (for the winter), and a house that would protect the dog from rain, snow, ice, etc. The dog would need to also be kept warm "enough" during the winter.

It would probably be much easier to just crate and weepad train your dog and keep your dog in a small enclosure inside your house during the day (assuming you adopted a smaller dog). If you wanted a large dog, I doubt that would be a viable strategy because I personally couldn't stand holding "it" in for ten hours and would probably not want to force a small animal to do the same.
posted by Stynxno at 7:09 AM on September 15, 2008

Very few shelters or rescues will place a dog in a home where it will spend that much time outside alone. You can litter train dogs, perhaps that would be an option?
posted by biscotti at 7:16 AM on September 15, 2008

Can you litter train an older dog or do you need to start at the puppy stage? I don't want a puppy.
posted by spicynuts at 7:19 AM on September 15, 2008

Anecdotal Evidence time:

My parents live in Peoria, IL, and we've always had outside dogs. Our current one has a 300 sq. ft. pen with a 21 sq. ft. corner shielded from the elements (fence with tarps and boards over most of it, and a roof). In the shielded part during the winter we put a half dozen straw bales, plus there's a dog house with a flap over the door. Also a heated water dish.

This works fine 90% of the time. However, if the temp will be too low during the night (say, below zero) they bring the dog into the garage.
posted by sbutler at 7:24 AM on September 15, 2008

Any dog of any age can be trained to do almost anything, if you have patience. Here is a Google search for a few suggestions.

And yes, dogs can survive outside. This does not mean it is optimal for the dog, even though it might be optimal for the owners. Dogs are pack animals, they should be with their pack (which is what you become when you take on the responsibility). There is a reason reputable shelters and rescues will not place dogs in homes where they will be "outside dogs".
posted by biscotti at 7:35 AM on September 15, 2008

When you say your back wall is "all glass", does that include sliding glass doors? Because there are indeed pet doors that work with those.
posted by amtho at 7:46 AM on September 15, 2008

And yes, dogs can survive outside. This does not mean it is optimal for the dog, even though it might be optimal for the owners.

Yeah I am not interested in the dog just 'surviving'. I would want to eliminate any un-necessary discomfort or suffering completely.

When you say your back wall is "all glass", does that include sliding glass doors? Because there are indeed pet doors that work with those.

Yes it does have a sliding glass door. Can you give me any links?
posted by spicynuts at 8:39 AM on September 15, 2008

Gonna try to remain calm in light of some answers here.

You don't have to be like some of us and let your dog sleep in your bed. That's fine. What you need to understand is that modern, domestic dogs aren't like hyenas or African Wild Dogs. They're not built, psychologically or physiologically to live outdoors, away from humans. Forcing a dog to live like that turns them into a weird creature---protective of their limited space, often exhibiting some semi-psychotic behavior as they randomly associate cause and effect.

If you are positive that you could come home, daily, and play/love/cuddle your doggy pal, then you probably could come up with an outdoor shelter that will suffice for daytime. I'll mean losing your deck and shelling out some cash for things like an insulated doghouse and whatnot.

There's a huge difference between crate training and "outdooring" a dog.
posted by TomMelee at 8:40 AM on September 15, 2008

TomMelee...relax...I am not going to do this in light of what I'm reading here. I was merely trying to educate myself prior to even considering it as an option. I am a considerate person, which is why I do not just run out and get myself a dog because I want one.
posted by spicynuts at 9:03 AM on September 15, 2008

Patio pet doors. A friend of mine had one of these way back in the 70s and it worked just fine. I am a big fan of the fenced yard/dog door equation - it's worked for my dogs for years.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:05 AM on September 15, 2008

If it's too hot/cold for you on the porch, then it's likely too hot/cold for the dog.
It's a pretty easy rule of thumb, though in my experience, big dogs tend to be a little more cold tolerant than most humans.
If you can work out a way to keep your deck cool in the summer, shade it with awnings perhaps, then your dog will be fine. Just make sure there is plenty of water.
In the winter, those insulated, heated dog houses can be pretty cozy. Some dogs just like a big dog bed to keep them off of the surface.

Legally speaking, as long as you are caring for your dog like any normal person would, there is no problem leaving them out on the deck.
Once you do get the dog, in the interest of happy neighbors, please find out if it's a barker. A quick tour through will let you know that nothing seems to annoy a neighbor faster than a barking dog left out all day. heh.
posted by madajb at 10:00 AM on September 15, 2008

Spicy--Really I'd prefer you to go for it, but maybe consider a smaller dog you can more easily crate in the daytime, or something. I think you'd be a good doggy parent because you are thinking it out---but don't over analyze. There's a direct correlation between letting your dog into your house and letting it into your heart. :)
posted by TomMelee at 10:10 AM on September 15, 2008

is the cost of dog a walker greater than the cost for an insulated doghouse and whatever else other people are mentioning that you'd need? If not, there's your answer. I know NYC is a different economy than the rest of the country, but couldn't some poor high school/college kid walk your dog for cheap?

Also, I don't know about crate training for older dogs, but we've crated our two (45 lb, eight year old) dogs since they were puppies and they fare just fine. Put them together. They're pack animals and appreciate the company. If they were outside, they could use each other's body heat.
posted by desjardins at 11:40 AM on September 15, 2008

Many (adult) dogs can just "hold it" while you're at work. My dog does, with no problems. We adopted her at about a year old, and she was already crate-trained by her foster mom, though it wasn't long before we just started letting her roam the house during the day. We go for a long walk (and potty) in the morning, and then again when we get home; that and plenty of games of fetch keep her from having lots of destructive extra energy. I'm pretty sure she sleeps all day, or maybe follows the cats around to sniff their butts.

I would really recommend against keeping a dog outdoors all day, every day. I second what TomMelee says, and to add to it, a dog left on its own outside can get bored and dig, bark and annoy all your neighbors, and try to escape (and often succeed). Of course, they can also get bored indoors, so you'd want to find a fostered dog whose foster can tell you how it does alone.

This IS do-able, as I learned; consider a fostered/rescue dog and you'll be saving a life!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 12:38 PM on September 15, 2008

To address some of the posts:

is the cost of dog a walker greater than the cost for an insulated doghouse and whatever else other people are mentioning that you'd need?

Well, frankly, yes, because the doghouse/dogdoor is a one time cost, whereas a dog walker is for the life of the dog. Also, generally, to get a reliable dog walker that I trust WITH THE KEYS TO MY HOUSE, I am not going to hire a college kid on the cheap (especially in NYC).

Many (adult) dogs can just "hold it" while you're at work.

Is it legitimate to provide a pee pad even for a larger dog 'just in case'? If the dog has been housebroken but is not used to a pee pad, is it difficult to train them to use it?
posted by spicynuts at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2008

I would not use pee pads, I would litter train the dog. Or better yet, use a dog door. Once you open the door to the bathroom being inside, you make it much more likely that the dog will not truly be housetrained, ever. Teaching the dog to use a litter box at least limits the indoor bathroomular activities to a specific, unique area which does not look like anything else. Pee pads are basically like peeing on the floor, or on paper. I would not expect the dog to hold it for this long, you need to provide a way for the dog to relieve itself during the day.
posted by biscotti at 4:28 PM on September 15, 2008

A patio pet door (as mentioned above) is the answer. It is the first thing that I bought when moving into my townhouse and I can't imagine life without it at this point.
posted by fieldtrip at 5:26 PM on September 15, 2008

You know, as dogs get older, they feel the cold and get ache-y with cold weather -- just like your gran. Our older dog started not wanting to go out when it snowed from age 9 onwards (he was a long-lived breed -- for many breeds old is 7+). Think about how keen your gran would be on living in a frigid house and dealing with blistering heat. Our old dog used to come up and pant at us pathetically when the heat hit 80 degrees in the house with a wonky air conditioning unit. If you are really thinking of an older dog, it would be cruel to keep it outside in NY weather. Older dogs tend to end up in the shelter for two reasons: (1) the family is bored with them now they are not so active any more, or (2) they have a medical condition that the owner does not want to pay for medication for (most usually a minor thyroid condition, or arthritis - in which case you do NOT want to keep the dog outside). Medication is not usually expensive, especially online - but some people won't spend any money on a dog. So you will probably have a dog who needs more comfort and attention than the average dog, at least until it is settled.
If you do plan to keep your dog outside, make sure that there is some rudimentary heating in the dog shelter and bring the dog inside when the heat is uncomfortable for you to stay outside. But you really don't need to keep it outside. Dogs -- particularly male dogs -- have a pretty good ability to hold it until they are let out, once they understand that they should. Our dogs have always been able to have the run of the house and be left for 12+ hours (in extremis) without accidents, even with our older dog (who was continent right up to age 15 and then learned to use a litter box).
A lot of shelter dogs need house training (or a refresher of the idea -- they have just spent the last few weeks or months in a place where they could not get out of their enclosure to do their stuff). As someone who helps out with a rescue organization, I can vouch that dogs often end up in the shelter because some idiot owner did not realize that they weren't self-training. Be prepared for a few accidents in the first few weeks after adoption: this always happens as the dog adjusts to your hours, the stress of fitting into a new "pack," and your not understanding the signals that they used to tell their previous owner that they needed to go out. Training works both ways: your dog learns to understand your commands and you learn to understand their signals (our old adopted dog just looked at you meaningfully when he needed to go out). Get a litter box and train the dog to use it when he/she goes out, then bring it in to a room with a moppable floor. Be patient -- your dog will adjust after a few weeks and you will probably have few or no accidents after that. Do NOT punish or yell at your dog if it does have an accident in an easily cleanable place - I made the mistake of telling off our old dog and he interpreted this as he should have gone on the rug instead - an impression that stayed with him for the rest of his life). Dogs tend to go out if at all possible and learn not to foul the pack living areas as puppies (from their mothers). So if the dog does have an accident, it is usual involuntary. It is way better to have a puddle in the middle of the kitchen than in the middle of the living room ... :-) Get your new dog accustomed to certain words that indicate that it is OK to go in certain areas (I still feel an idiot saying "go potty" to our female dog, but this is what she seems to understand).
posted by Susurration at 6:43 PM on September 15, 2008

Leaving a single dog outside all day is not a good idea for the aforementioned reasons, they are social creatures like us and your dog would be constantly bored, and boredom = destructive behavior, digging, barking, etc.

How long are you away during the day? Most medium-to-large size adult dogs can hold it while you're at work. I have a dogwalker come once during the day if I am out on a job, but my dog has no problem waiting until I get home. My roommate also has a dog who is perfectly fine while he is at work every day, even when he stays late.
posted by bradbane at 9:06 PM on September 15, 2008

« Older help me find a DVD I would love to buy   |   Colonics - positive feedback? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.