Research: Behavioural/Psychological (2001)

"IT'S TIME!" The AAS Yard Dog Report
Research into behavioural/psychological effects
of tethering and isolation

Independent research on the behavioural/psychological effects of isolation, chaining and substandard living conditions.

As a society, we have yet to recognize and appreciate the emotional and psychological needs of dogs. For the dog, the absence of attention and affection is tragic. The SFSPCA (San Francisco) believes that sharing one's life with a dog is a privilege, governed by general principles, which we call Dog Rights. But just as these rights form a contract between dogs and their human families, we believe that they should also constrain the animal control policies of city governments, the practices of humane organizations, and the principles of all human interactions with dogs.

Dog Rights. SF SPCA Advocacy Issues.

Chaining means confining a dog with a tether attached usually to a doghouse or a stake in the ground. It is one of the commonest forms of animal cruelty; yet, it has received little attention from many humane societies. Chaining is a widespread practice and - as with many historical injustices - this may cause people to assume it is acceptable. In fact, it is an improper way to confine a dog, with negative effects on the dog's health, temperament, and training. A chained dog's life is a lonely, frustrating, miserable existence, without opportunities for even the most basic dog behaviours of running and sniffing in their own fenced yard. Dogs chained for even a few weeks begin to show problems...Virtually every dog that spends most of the day on the end of a chain will show temperament problems... Chaining, by definition, keeps a dog in solitary confinement, continually thwarting its pack instinct to be with other animals or with its human 'pack'. The most common problem resulting from chaining is hyperactivity...The chained dog is continually frustrated by having its movements restricted. Fear biting and aggression are other common behaviours of chained dogs. Chained dogs often serve as targets...It is not surprising that chained dogs that are so quick to bite also often display timid, fearful behaviour when handled. When WHS humane officers ask people why they chain dogs, common answers include, 'I'm keeping him chained until he learns not to run away, or until he is housebroken, or until he calms down.' In fact, chaining is going to make all of these positive dog behaviours extremely difficult to obtain...Chaining doesn't work. It's cruel for the animal. Chained dogs are miserable, and their owners are often frustrated. Chaining is not an acceptable practice. It's a long-overlooked form of cruelty that must be stopped.

Jean V. Johnson, Executive Director, Washington Humane Society. Chaining:Cruel, Unnecessary, and Too Often Overlooked. WHS/SPCA news. 1991, Issue 2.

Human contact is the single most consistent and important factor in encouraging dogs to be active. Observation of the monitor and time lapse video recordings showed that the dogs had heightened interest and activity when humans were present in the room or arena...Thus, when programs for exercise are established by the USDA and attending veterinarians, emphasis needs to be placed on human-animal interactions.

Howard C. Hughes, Sarah Campbell and Cheryl Kenney, Laboratory, "The effects of cage size and pair housing on exercise of beagles", Laboratory Animal Science, Vol.39, No. 4

Dogs have all the social needs that wolves - and, in fact, humans - have. One way that wolves severely punish a pack member is to ignore the animal...dogs experience their prolonged chaining and separation from the rest of the 'family/pack' as rejection. Dogs treated like this probably are depressed. Some become aggressive, but more typically the dogs will become lethargic and listless... They may suck or chew on themselves, sometimes causing serious injury...When we deprive animals of their instinctive behaviors; we create neuroses or even psychotic-like conditions. For dogs, prolonged chaining is emotional abuse.

Dr. Theo Capaldo,Past President, Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals "Dogs at the Ends of Their Rope", Ambuja Rosen. Dog World Magazine, 2000

[Chaining or tethering] is inhumane and can be dangerous to the confined dog, people, and other animals. Constant chaining makes dogs neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and often even aggressive. And in too many cases, the neck area is constantly irritated or sore from improperly fitted collars and the constant yanking and straining of their necks in their desperate attempts to escape confinement. Because of the psychological damage caused by continuous chaining, dogs that are subjected to, they can become dangerous and vicious animals. They are more likely to bark incessantly and even attack children or adults who mistakenly enter into the area of the dog's confinement. And if they do escape their restraint, they are not adequately socialized and are more likely to bite... Rarely does a chained or tethered dog receive sufficient care. They may be sporadically fed, rarely given water, and their shelter may be less than adequate...

HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) fact sheet: Chaining or Tethering Dogs 2/97

Dogs that become complacent on chains may be demonstrating what is known as 'learned helplessness'. Dogs that have realized that they are restricted to the length and entanglement of a chain usually become sedentary and listless while on their chain with intermittent bouts of barking out of frustration and boredom...These same dogs are reported to be uncontrollable in normal family situations. Dogs that live on chains have a greater chance of becoming aggressive and unruly.

Brandy J.Oliver, M.A. Doggie Door to Canine Behaviour. 2/22/01

In assessing the psychosocial well-being of dogs, social isolation may be as harmful or more harmful than spatial restriction. 'Psychologic' well-being is a state in which an animal is free from distress most of the time, is in good physical health, exhibits a substantial range of the species-typical behaviours, and is able to deal effectively with environmental stimuli. Dogs are highly social animals. With varying degrees of social isolation...dogs are likely to develop maladaptive behaviours such as kennel dog syndrome or the more severe isolation syndrome. It has also been shown that dogs' activity patterns are strongly influenced by the presence of humans. Dogs housed in the greatest degree of social isolation spent the most time moving, showed the greatest number of bizarre movements, and spent the most time vocalizing...

Social isolation or restriction has been regarded as a major stressor for social species to which dogs can respond by emitting separation distress vocalizations. Duration of grooming behaviour was considered to be potentially important because of the possibility of excessive grooming resulting in self-mutilation.

Suzanne Hetts, J. Derrell Clark, Janet P. Calpin, Cheryl E. Arnold, and Jill M. Mateo. Influence of housing conditions on beagle behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol. 34 (1992) 137-155.

Psychological theories emphasize the experiential impoverishment of isolation and the consequent lack of stimulus-induced neural organization which enables and organism to cope with the complex post-emergence environment...Even ordinary environments are so intensely stimulating to previously isolated dogs that they arouse an emotional reaction which leads to acquisition of responses incompatible with normal social and manipulative behaviour.

John L. Fuller and Lincoln D. Clark. Genetic and Treatment Factors Modifying the Postisolation syndrome in Dogs. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, Vol. 61, No. 2, 251-257.

Early restriction affects not only learning ability, but also motivation, emotionality, and social behaviour. The effects of restriction endure for some time after the actual restricting conditions have been removed. The restricted dogs had perceived less of the environment and consequently had had less opportunity than the normal animals to form general perceptual schemata into which novel stimuli might be fitted. In this way, at least, they were psychologically retarded and, as the results showed, acted more like the young normal animals.

William R. Thompson and Woodburn Heron. The effects of early restriction on activity in dogs. The Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology. Vol. 47, 77-82.

Chaining is the most frequent type of abuse humane officers investigate. Their case files are filled with examples of dogs chained outside in the blistering heat and the frigid cold, of dogs on miserably short chains, of dogs who have hanged themselves, and most often of terribly despondent dogs deprived of social contact and the ability to carry out their instinctual desires. As one would expect, these dogs often become aggressive and pose a threat to neighbours. Because dogs who live on chains soon become difficult to handle, most are never let off their chains. They never get a chance to become well-behaved dogs. They get no exercise or veterinary care. All too often, they have no food or water. Their areas become filthy with wasted, which attracts flies. Stuck in one spot, they fall prey to a host of internal and external parasites, from which they cannot escape. Several municipalities in the United States have outlawed the continual chaining of dogs, and have alleviated much suffering by doing so.

Paw Print Animal Resources (WHS). A prohibition against keeping dogs on chains. 2/22/01

Discover which of the common problems discussed below is the cause of your dog's barking...Social isolation/Frustration/Attention seeking: Your dog may be barking because he's bored and lonely if: He's left alone for long periods of time without opportunities for interaction with you. His environment is relatively barren, without playmates or toys...Recommendations: Expand your dog's world and increase his 'people time' in the following ways: Walk your dog daily-it's good exercise, both mental and physical...If your dog is barking to get your attention, make sure he has sufficient time with you on a daily basis (petting, grooming, playing, exercising) so he doesn't have to resort to misbehaving to get your attention. Keep your dog inside when you're unable to supervise him.

Eileen Drever, BC SPCA, The Barking Dog. SPCA Chilliwack Newsletter.

The HSUS strongly recommends that all pets be kept indoors with the family. We do not discourage pet owners from letting their dogs spend time outside, as long as their dogs are supervised and under control at all times. Leaving a dog outside, especially chained or otherwise tethered, is extremely detrimental to a dog physically, emotionally, and behaviourally. Dogs need companionship, care, exercise, and attention. Tethering or otherwise leaving a dog outside for an extended period of time without supervision not only deprives him or her of these things, but can also lead to behaviour problems (including aggression). It also may place the dog in serious physical danger. A confined or tethered dog is unable to escape the harsh effects of weather (heat, cold, storms, etc.), attack by other animals, or theft or abuse by humans. The HSUS receives countless calls and letters from pet owners or neighbours about dogs who have died from exposure or been stolen, abused, or even killed while left tied outside.

Pet Cruelty and Other Issues - What you can do about a dog that's being left outside all the time. HSUS programs, Companion Animals 2/17/01.

Dogs that spend their lives on chains do not have adequate freedom of movement. They often exhibit psychological behaviours caused by stress. Stress is proven to be detrimental to an animal's health. It is cruelty to keep an animal under these conditions.

Jan Marks, Cruel Confinement. Dog Fancy Magazine, January 1994.

Our humane law enforcement program receives hundreds of calls each year about chained dogs, and we respond from the standpoint that continuous chaining inflicts unnecessary cruelty and suffering. WHS humane officers handle these cases with a three-step approach: Step 1: Education...about why chaining is improper, explaining that it can create a problem dog...advise owners about fencing options, house-breaking and socializing their dogs, and other care issues. Usually, owners are responsive to education. Step 2: Impoundment When the owner refuses to take the dog off the chain, we determine if shelter, food, water, vaccinations, and other aspects of care are proper. Very often, they are not, jeopardizing the health and safety of the dog...

"What WHS(Washington Humane Society) is doing about chained dogs" WHS/SPCA news. 1991, Issue 1

To chain a dog is to deprive it of its essential nature. A dog is a wolf...and to turn that animal into an isolated chained prisoner is the height of cruelty.

Jeffrey Masson, Ph.D. E-mail communication 3/12/0

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