Chaining Up A Dog--How Can I Stop This?
February 17, 2011 7:28 AM   Subscribe

My parents have a guard dog that they chain up, all day and all night. How do I stop this?

My parents are from a non-Western country where dogs are not uncommonly treated like shit, IMHO.

They have a guard dog (a very sweet girl) that they have taken to chaining all day and all night ("or it will dig a hole and escape"--as my father will tell me).

I cannot abide by this. In fact, it makes me crazy just to think about that poor animal (my eyes start tearing up in both sadness and anger), so much so that I start thinking I'm the crazy one.

I'd really prefer not to call the the animal cops on them, however, as I don't want them going to jail. Does anyone have experience getting their parents to treat a dog with greater consideration and care? I've thought about threatening them to treat the dog better, but since they live across the country, I'm not sure if my threats will do much.

Help, not sure what I should do. My brain tells me I might also be overreacting, but my heart says absolutely not.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One thing you can tell them is that it's considered animal mistreatment and is therefore illegal in many places -- maybe where they live, too.
Another thing you can tell them is that it makes a dog much more likely to bite. It ruins their spirits and they become dangerous. Here is some info on that. Even if they're not too concerned about being bitten, if this dog ever does manage to bite someone, your parents can be sued and lose everything.
Having it chained up like that can make it more likely that they'll be seen as having created a biter.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 7:37 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can you intervene to do some things on the dog's behalf that will make its life better, since you're unable to change your parents' minds? You could buy or build it a shelter if it doesn't have one. You could go to their house every day to walk and socialize it, or maybe pay a neighborhood kid to do it.
posted by scarykarrey at 7:37 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

They won't go to jail for chaining the dog outside. Unfortunately, folks do a lot shittier things to animals every day and they don't go to jail either.

It would be helpful to know where your parents live, in case anyone here has direct knowledge of animal control laws in that area.
posted by crankylex at 7:41 AM on February 17, 2011

Can you offer to take the dog to be trained? Dogs can be trained to guard, and not to dig. A dog that obeys voice commands will be more in the control of your parents, not less.
posted by pickypicky at 7:41 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

If this is a guard dog who has not been properly socialized, do not pay a neighbor or a kid to walk it. The liability is huge, and if the dog should act out either against other dogs or any humans, it will be both worse for the dog and for your parents.

It sounds like your parents need to be educated on dogs and how to treat dogs. It also sounds like there is a cultural difference here and they need to learn that in many places, their understanding of dogs and how they should be treated is incredibly different. Can you make a plea to their own human vanity by saying that you worry about how their neighbors view them for the way in which they treat your dog?

I have a friend who is an animal cop. And, unfortunately, she has to prioritize cases. While this would hit her radar, it would, unfortunately, not be high on her list of situations to check out immediately. I will point her to this question and see if she can offer any further insights.
posted by zizzle at 7:42 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are not over-reacting. Dogs who are chained day and night are not properly socialized, and are more likely to act aggressively towards non-threats - this means that your parent's dog is more likely to bite or attack a human, which could end with the dog's death and civil or criminal implications for your parents.

This sounds like a really difficult situation for you - if your parents won't listen to the facts, then you'll have to decide if preserving a close relationship with them is worth the personal violation of ethics that comes from silently agreeing with their practices. Can you talk to the police department anonymously to figure out the impact from reporting your parents? If the dog is otherwise-well cared for, I doubt that reporting them will result in jail time - most likely the dog will be removed and your parents will have to pay a fine.
posted by muddgirl at 7:43 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I seriously doubt that the "animal cops" would (or even could) jail your parents for this. I don't know where they live or what the laws are there, but I'd guess that there would probably be a verbal warning, then a fine, if it's illegal at all.

Beyond that, try appealing to some value they actually hold, as opposed to demonizing them for not feeling the way you do. If they will do favors for you out of kindness to you, then ask them to do it for you. If they prefer to fit in socially, suggest that the neighbors probably look down on them for this habit. Impugning their character when they're just doing what they think is right is a non-starter.
posted by jon1270 at 7:47 AM on February 17, 2011

Ugh, I just deleted a long rant. I don't know that there is much you can do if you don't live close.

I agree with the poster who said don't just hire a neighbor kid to walk the dog, but what about a professional dog walker (with lots of experience and insurance)?

Would you be financially able to pay for say, three walks a week (or offer to split them with your folks)? It's not an ideal solution by any stretch but it would make the dog's life a bit better and also make you feel like you're doing something.

Also, you say she is a sweet dog. Is there any way you can convince your parents to at least bring the dog in for the night? Tell them she's not going to be much help against an intruder if she's chained up outside.
posted by Glinn at 8:08 AM on February 17, 2011

Anyone who can leave a dog chained up for it's whole life probably isn't going to magically wake up one day and start lavishing significantly more love and attention on it. So personally, I'd report them and see if it had any effect. It won't result in jail time unless the level of abuse is significantly greater than you describe. Probably, they'd just get a lecture; maybe a fine. It might even be taken away from them, but not on a first visit. If your own appeals have had no impact, you can only hope that an official may have more effect. Good luck.
posted by londonmark at 8:15 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

You've tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade them to treat the dog better. A visit from animal control might be more persuasive.

Call the non-emergency number for your parents' area. Don't name names (yet), but say you have a few questions about a family you suspect is mistreating their dog and ask what office you should call in order to get some answers. Ask the staff at the relevant office whether the conditions your parents are keeping their dog in are legal. If you want, make up a story about visiting a friend and seeing this in one of their neighbor's yards. Ask if there's a way to report this family and what would happen to them and to the dog if you did.

Your parents will not go to jail for keeping a dog chained up, although it's possible the dog would be taken away from them (and, frankly, should be, if they think this is acceptable treatment). Once you know what will happen, report them. If they call you with a "Can you believe it? Animal Control is trying to tell us we can't keep a dog chained up..." you can suggest either that they find a trainer/obedience class for the dog or a home security system that relies on an alarm, not a dog (and find the dog a new home).
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:18 AM on February 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

What about this - can you offer to buy them an in-home security system, so that they don't need a dog? Then contact a rescue organization near to their location (either dedicated to that specific breed, or to rescuing poorly-socialized dogs in general). It's possible that your parents are "in over their heads" so to speak, and may offer to give up the dog if they thought they had other options.
posted by muddgirl at 8:20 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I'd really prefer not to call the the animal cops on them, however, as I don't want them going to jail."

It's almost certainly a ticket, not jail. Call animal control.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:42 AM on February 17, 2011

. . . from a non-Western country where dogs are not uncommonly treated like shit, IMHO.

And unfortunately, this dog sounds like its probably treated better than a lot of dogs where I grew up in the Ozarks. My parents and most people from my hometown would scoff at the suggestion that chaining a dog outside is mistreatment.

While I wouldn't do it because I just don't see the functional purpose of imprisoning a dog, I just don't have the conviction or sense of injustice to pick such a battle with someone else who sees the dog as a biological burglar alarm. Frankly, I think chaining a dog outside all the time is stupid, but not necessarily cruel. A dog adapts.

Just curious: would your parents be upset if someone stole their dog?
posted by General Tonic at 8:53 AM on February 17, 2011

Yes, dogs "adapt" by become unsocial, aggressive, and territorial.
posted by muddgirl at 9:07 AM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Seconding what muddgirl said. Socialization with both humans and other dogs is really important.

We took in a stray that had clearly been chained up outside. She's super sweet and affectionate 99% of the time, but there have been a couple of incidents where she was surprised or scared by something, and directed her fear and aggression at our other dog, resulting in some serious injuries.

We took her to an aggressive dog expert and she attributed it to the lack of socialization and affection. Unfortunately, it also means that it's not safe for her to be alone with our other dog. It's pretty heartbreaking because she's a big, cuddly dog that loves to snuggle and has never shown any aggression towards people, or the cats.

We're in the process of adopting her out to someone who's familiar with her dog aggression issues, but we got really lucky.
posted by electroboy at 9:17 AM on February 17, 2011

It doesn't sound like your parents will consider arguments based on compassion for the dog or the behavioral result of this treatment, they're used to dogs being chained up and don't consider it a problem.

To convince them otherwise, base your argument on effectiveness of the guard dog, logistics of it achieving it's purpose.

1. A chained dog is not effective as preventing robbers, because they can avoid it by staying outside the chains reach.
2. the chain may endanger the dog, I can't recall what movie has as chilling image of a dog hung over the fence it hopped while chained up, is it "Stand and Deliver" ?
3. You need to address your dad's concerns about the dog running away. Dogs don't "tunnel" when they dig. They may dig a hole near a fence, but not under cartoon prison break style. To keep "diggers" in doors, my Dad has always buried a section of chicken wire around the circumference of the fence, dog's can't dig through it and it's way more ascetically pleasing then chains. this site has more tips on what works and doesn't
posted by oblio_one at 10:20 AM on February 17, 2011

Report them. People will change their behavior to avoid fines a whole lot faster than they'll change their minds about a cultural issue at the urging of their kid -- they don't have to agree with animal control.

I'd really prefer not to call the the animal cops on them, however, as I don't want them going to jail.

It's pretty difficult to get someone arrested for how they treat their pets. If they're feeding the dog and it's not getting beaten or used for dogfighting, this may be treated more as a barking-dog-nuisance issue. But hopefully, a visit from authorities will help convince your folks that like it or not, they need to take this issue more seriously.

When you call animal control/SPCA/their town authorities, make it clear that you have personally witnessed this behavior, and that it's the norm, not some special circumstance. (Hopefully, some neighbors have complained about the barking as well.)
posted by desuetude at 10:48 AM on February 17, 2011

And unfortunately, this dog sounds like its probably treated better than a lot of dogs where I grew up in the Ozarks. My parents and most people from my hometown would scoff at the suggestion that chaining a dog outside is mistreatment.

It's the proper way to keep a large dog where I'm from originally (US Pacific NW), and it's often very cold in winter. Sometimes folks bring their dogs into the house when it hits -15 or -20F, but most just make sure there is hay in their doghouses. I'm actually a bit surprised by this thread and that people have issues with chaining a dog.... but maybe I'm misunderstanding. You're saying there's an issue with having a dog on a length of chain? As long as the chain is somewhat long and there is a doghouse for cold weather. I'm honestly surprised people take issue with this. I really haven't been exposed to the idea that chaining a dog is bad. It's normal where I'm from and people don't really have large dogs in the city. The people that I do know that have larger dogs don't chain them, but I just assumed that was a personal preference.

Thinking I was crazy I just asked a coworker what they thought. They didn't have an issue with it either. I think some people might be sensitive to this and others it doesn't really register as mistreatment at all. Just wanted to try to help you understand that this might be largely your own opinion and that of a few passionate dog owners.
posted by Craig at 10:50 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding Craig above that chaining is incredibly common. In my neighborhood it seems from casual observation that roughly 30% of dogs are chained regularly.

But being common has little correlation with being decent. A list of once common practices now considered unacceptable cruel:
* slavery
* lobotomy as a first step treatment for mental problems
* medical experimentation on mentally challenged children.
* etc. etc.
Not saying that chaining a dog is like any of those practices, just pointing out that decent societies will accept insanely cruel practices because they are common. It's not a good benchmark.

Research seems to indicate a clear connection between chaining a dog up and dramatically increased aggression in said dog:
(source : )

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association: Dog Bite Related Fatalities from 1979 through 1988 by J. Sacks. R. W. Sattin, & S. E. Bonzo. Volume 262, pages 1489-1492.
posted by oblio_one at 11:04 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

The links I have provided which explain why day-and-night tethering is dangerous for dogs, for families, and for communities come from the Humane Society of the USA.
posted by muddgirl at 11:11 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

In my city, it is illegal to tether a dog unless you are attending to it; for example, tying a dog to a tree while you're picnicking a few feet away. Find out about the law where your parents live. Put together some research on the effects of chaining an animal. Take this information to your parents. Tell them you are concerned for the animal's sake and there own. Come from a place of genuine concern and not judgment or anger and you're more likely to get a good response. Offer to help them find a real home for the dog where she will be treated as a pet. Then help them find an alternative for home security. Assuming they are properly attending to her vet care, the cost of the dog's upkeep should be comparable to a security system. If none of these efforts are fruitful, at least buy the dog a doghouse so she will have a shelter. Good luck!
posted by Francophilex at 11:11 AM on February 17, 2011

My parents are from a non-Western country where dogs are not uncommonly treated like shit, IMHO.

Are they Muslims who believe that it is only permissible to own a dog if it is a guard dog or hunting dog, and that angels will not enter a house with dogs in it? if so, you might stress that the Messenger of Islam (pbuh), despite a reputed dislike of dogs, always insisted that animals be well-treated.
posted by orthogonality at 11:14 AM on February 17, 2011

this might be largely your own opinion and that of a few passionate dog owners.

This isn't a question about whether you should let your dog sleep in your bed--or even inside your house. It's not about crazy dog people saying dogs need daily massages and organic treats. This is a question of whether it's appropriate to keep a dog on a chain day and night. I am a dog person. However, I don't see a problem with keeping a dog outside most of the time, or even all of the time (climate permitting), as long as the dog is properly socialized and is able to stay warm enough or cool enough depending on the weather. That said, keeping a dog on a chain all the time is inappropriate. Muddgirl's link does a really excellent job of explaining why. It may be common practice, but it isn't healthy or safe (for the dog or for humans she might encounter).
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:26 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

For those seemingly confused that the a dog on a chain is bad, I'm not sure the OP is necessarily upset that the dog is chained up at all. I think her issue is the dog being chained up 24 hours a day, every day, all alone. Unless I've read that completely wrong. I can see from the responses that some people still wouldn't see a problem. If that is you: please never get a dog.

I'd like to address some of the folks who don't have any problem with this because "it is something that is commonly done", but oblio_one did a pretty good job. Another example: denial of basic rights to women. Still common in a lot of places! Of course it's not the same thing. That's not the point.
posted by Glinn at 11:30 AM on February 17, 2011

Why not encourage them to fence in their yard? That way the dog can roam without a chain. A lot of dog owners bury the bottom of the fence when they build it, so the dog can't simply dig a hole under it.
posted by halseyaa at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2011

I don't know enough about dogs to say for sure whether this is cruel or not - please set me straight if this is a bad suggestion. But in the neighbourhood I grew up in, a lot of people chained their dogs to cables, which they hung across their yards like clotheslines. The dog's chain would be attached to a ring which would slide back and forth along the cable, giving the dog access to the whole yard. If you can't convince your parents to treat their dog like a beloved pet, perhaps installing a system like this would at least make the dog less frustrated?
posted by embrangled at 12:57 PM on February 17, 2011

In Jacksonville, FL, (Duval County), chaining a dog (or other domestic animal) is legal, under the conditions described by this city code:
"Sec. 462.204. - Restraint by chaining.

Restraint by chaining may be used provided the following conditions are met:

The chain or tether shall not weigh more than ⅛ of the animal's body weight;
The chain or tether shall be at least ten feet in length with swivels on both ends;
The chain or tether shall be attached to a properly fitted collar or harness worn by the animal; and
The animal, while restrained by chain or tether, is able to access shelter with sufficient floor, three walls, and roof to protect the animal from the weather, extreme temperatures and direct sunlight; and is able to access sufficient water and sufficient wholesome food."
Not that I think most experienced dog owners whose dogs are pets, advocate such. Still, a lot of people out in the country around here have pit bulls, hunting hounds, and other non-pet dogs, some apparently worth hundreds and thousands of dollars, who are otherwise apparently well treated, and yet live the bulk of their lives, chained.
posted by paulsc at 1:05 PM on February 17, 2011

Mod note: comments removed - please help the OP solve their problem and don't get in fights with other commenters, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:01 PM on February 17, 2011

I am not a Dog Person, though I do like some dogs quite a lot. However, I *am* an Animal Person in general. And yes, I think this is cruel. So it's certainly not just a few dog-lovers.

It's probably quite useless in your situation, but I suspect I myself would steal the dog and make sure she was treated right. I once went kitty-rustling in the night to take two kittens from my mother's house who were not getting the care they needed. They are now nearly eight years old, healthy and happy and loving, and asleep on my couch right now. And my mom got over it. ;)

But again, that's me, and I doubt other people would react in the same way, even if they had the means to. Do call Animal Control, because there's no way they'll get arrested for that behaviour, given what people are allowed to do to animals without repercussions. Beyond that, if you live anywhere nearby, try to visit her as often as possible, and walk her and play with her. And yeah, building or buying her a doghouse would probably be a good idea too.

Good luck. And thank you for caring.
posted by Because at 9:33 PM on February 17, 2011

Buy an dog obedience course for your parents to attend?
If it's just out of ignorance, a dog training course is as much about training the owners in how to treat and care for a dog.
posted by Elysum at 6:32 AM on February 18, 2011

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