“Unchain Me,” Dogs Deserve Better

Dogs on chains often become chronic barkers. Their barking serves to say, “I’m here. I’m alone. Please help me.”

When I was a child one of our neighbors kept a black Labrador retriever on a chain across from my bedroom. The dog became a chronic barker. I don’t recall him barking at night from inside of his house. But during the day, he never failed to bark a few times per minute all day every day. I knew something wasn’t right. I felt sad for that poor dog.

Dog on chainIf at that time I had known that animals have rights to good welfare and freedom from poor treatment, I would have talked my parents into making a complaint. As it was, our family and other neighbors suffered the constant barking. Now I know that the dog’s suffering was far worse than ours.

What does being left on a chain do to dogs?

First of all, dogs develop huge frustration from not being able to do their natural behaviors.  New research on animals points to their need to walk, run, and seek out new places, animals, and smells.

Living staked out on a chain inhibits positive emotions in dogs.

Being social animals dogs crave company. They crave the companionship and interaction of people and other dogs. A dog in a chain stresses and struggles to join his family, to play and to run. Dogs often will choose to nap near a favorite person in their household or to follow someone at work from office to office.

Chain restraints set up reinforcement of negative emotions.

A dog on a chain doesn’t feel safe because dogs live in social groups. Being staked out on a chain makes a dog vulnerable making a chained dog crazy and dangerous. A chained dog can’t flee, hid or run to safety when he feels scared or threatened. This is why many dogs on chains become aggressive to all who approach. When dogs cannot explore, exercise or use their healthy curiosity, dogs often become chronically fearful.
Fear can become full blow rage.

As Temple Grandin points out in, Animals Make Us Human, we can give dogs good lives by providing for their positive emotions called SEEKING. Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist, calls the core emotion systems “blue-ribbon emotions.” People and animals live happier lives, when our curiosity, physical comfort, and safety needs are met.
“…when you stimulate the brain systems for one of the core emotions, you always get the same behaviors from the animal.” Temple Grandin

The negative emotion of FEAR in people or animals rapidly can become RAGE.
We need to provide for dog welfare by not chaining dogs, not subjecting them to living conditions that cause them to feel fear and rage.

What is thought to be a dog aggression problem might in fact be a people problem. This is a problem of people not understanding a dog’s need for positive emotional experiences and freedom from negative emotions.

Many agencies work for animal welfare. Specific agencies work to educate and to advocate to free dogs from chains. If you want to help this cause, follow this link to Dogs Deserve Better Than Life on a Chain or in a Pen

16 thoughts on ““Unchain Me,” Dogs Deserve Better

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  6. Deborah, you are so good, and life with animals is so much more rewarding when we converse in their language. Thank you for another lively and important post. While we remain dogless pack currently, having horses and catz, I still love to read of one of my favorite companions.


  7. Great article and I can back up the findings experiencing what I’ve seen in all our adopted dogs. None have ever been caged or chained at home (actually we were missing a fence section for awhile and they never left the yard), but while on walks their behavior changes because I leash them. They get more aggressive. We take ours to work every day and they know their bounds, no going in the street and they have a certain perimeter they can go free, mostly to visit the neighboring business who loves to see them walk in the garage door (and welcomes them with treats) and then to their potty area.

    I do have the bad habit of leaving our home side door open when I go out to weed the front yard veggie beds, clean the front yard or water and the one dog just loves to ignore the threshold and shows up right by my side, the same one who follows me everywhere I go inside at home or at our shop. He just can’t help himself, he has to be right by my side, or right behind me so I have to look before I turn quickly and walk quickly as is my habit.

    These are the same dogs who are TRULY THRILLED when I come back from a 15 minute quickie trip to the store to get eggs, like I’ve been gone hours, and I would have taken them but it was 90 degrees outside.

    Hope I don’t get ripped for anything. We’ve always had 2-3 adopted dogs we treat like this and take to work with us everyday. Dog hair covering the inside of the car, dogs following me everywhere in the house, thumping tails if gone for one minute seem to be a way of life and i wouldn’t trade it for anything.


    1. Thanks for writing. Good to hear that you have figured out what works for your dogs.
      Your dogs seem to be very tuned into you and respect the boundaries you have set for them. Not all dog parents have dogs who can live safely off leash or live in areas where their dogs will not be hit by traffic.

      You are right, some dogs become aggressive on leashes.

      There are options for changing this aggressive leash response. Rewarding dogs when they walk quietly by other dogs or people can be effective. Dog trainers teach a dog on a leash to sit when other walkers pass. Usually a trainer or dog parent must train one dog at a time. While the dog sits, he or she gets praise and treats.

      This method has worked with my dogs. Yet when I had a pair of dogs, the female was highly protective of her male companion, Nabisco. All her life, I had to watch carefully to insure she did not lunge or nip children or people who approached when she was on a leash near Nabisco.

      In addition, various halters or head leaders have been invented to keep dogs from lunging at others. I’ll write more about these options later.


    1. Hi Jody. Yes, they may have be debarked, which often happens to show dogs. Tissues could have been removed from their vocal cords. Here is a link which explains this proceeder that has now been forbidden by law in the UK. http://www.dog-health-handbook.com/dog-debarking.html

      Other conditions can affect a dog’s ability to bark, make him wheeze or choke. Many breeds, especially small dogs, suffer from tracheal collapse.

      Thanks for reminding me “Straining Against A Collar” is a topic for another post.


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