Dogs Travel & Safety

Tying Dogs Out: How and Why It Can Go Wrong

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It’s an all-too-common sight (particularly in large urban areas) to see dogs outside businesses with their leashes tied around bike racks or no-parking signs while their people are inside buying a doughnut or picking up their dry cleaning or even grocery shopping.

People who tote their dog to the store and then tie the dog outside look on it as a means of taking their dog on an outing and completing errands at the same time. They don’t mean harm, but a lot can go wrong.

While it’s great that people want to run errands with their dogs, tying out dogs, either at home or in public, is stressful for most of them, and it may be dangerous.

Here are nine issues with leaving dogs tied out in public and at home:

  • Dogs can be stolen, particularly puppies.
  • Dogs can get loose and run off, becoming lost or potentially get hit by a car.
  • When it’s cold out, tied-up dogs may be uncomfortable, even if wearing a coat or sweater, because they’re unable to move around. Small, thin-coated, or senior dogs may be susceptible to frostbite.
  • In hot weather, tied-out dogs may be uncomfortable or suffer from heatstroke.
  • When you aren’t there to supervise, someone can pet your dog or even just walk by and claim the dog was aggressive and a dog bite occurred. Or maybe a child walks up to the pet the dog, and the child falls either because the dog jumped up or the child was clumsy. It doesn’t matter as anyone can sue anyone for anything. Without a witness, such suits can be a challenge to defend.
  • Your dog may be friendly, but a dog walking by might not be. Dogs who are tied up have nowhere to run if threatened.
  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection, and unless vaccinated, drinking from potentially tainted water from a puddle or from water at the curb  could cause illness. And leptospirosis is zoonotic, which means potentially it may be transmitted to people.
  • In some cities, such as Chicago, it’s illegal to tie out dogs; scofflaw owners may be ticketed and fined.
  • Some dogs tolerate being tied up without any apparent distress, but most dogs simply don’t like it and some even panic. Even if they don’t panic, many tell everyone how they feel about it, in barks, howls, or whines.

There are better ways to leave dogs home alone or take them on errands. At home, a dog run or a pet-proofed area in the home is a better alternative. If you want to run errands, find out ahead of time which local businesses are dog-friendly: dry cleaners, banks, home-decor chain stores or boutiques, art galleries, home improvement stores, department stores such as Nordstrom and Macy’s, outdoor sports stores such as Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, and of course pet supply stores often welcome well-behaved dogs. Policies vary by location, so call ahead to check. When in doubt, bring a friend so one of you can stay with your pup or leave him at home and plan a different outing he can be a part of.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Steve Dale, CABC (certified animal behavior consultant), hosts two national pet radio shows and is on WGN Radio, Chicago. He’s a regular contributor/columnist for many publications, including CATSTER, Veterinary Practice News, and the Journal of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. He’s appeared on dozens of TV shows, including Oprah, many Animal Planet Programs, and National Geographic Explorer. He has contributed to or authored many pet books and veterinary textbooks such as “The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management” and co-edited Decoding Your Dog, by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. He speaks at conferences around the world.
Photo by Qusai Akoud on Unsplash

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