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Junkyard/Backyard Dogs

A Dose of Good Dogma

Good Dogma has been training humans and their dogs since 1996. Readers are invited to submit questions to Contact information for all offered services can be found on our website

April 26, 2024

By Lisa Ellman

Have you ever wondered why “junkyard” dogs always seemed so vicious? It’s not because they were ever specifically trained to protect or guard the property, that would be way too expensive; it’s because they were never socialized to people or considered part of the family pack. Their fierce aggressiveness was most likely borne out of fear of humans coming onto their territory. I doubt those dogs ever had much interaction involving play or bonding with their owner in any way. That wasn’t their purpose.

I mention all this because, although not necessarily in junkyards, there are still people who think that letting their dogs live in the yard night and day is just fine. It’s not.

Domesticated dogs did not evolve as solitary creatures. More than any other domesticated species, dogs are pack animals that thrive on the companionship of others. As companion animals to us hairless apes, they rely on the bonds and trust that comes from their human pack.

One way that bond is developed is by sharing a den.

Unfortunately, through no fault, or choice of their own, there are still dogs that are relegated to living outside, alone and separated from the pack.

You can find these dogs in almost every neighborhood. It might be tethered to a stake or tree in the backyard or left in the garage while the people are away. Perhaps it’s attached to a long line that can move across the yard from above. Maybe there’s shelter, maybe not. Food and water may be absent, empty, or just beyond the dog’s reach. 

Isolated and captive, the backyard dog suffers. Think of the barking, whining or the destructive behavior you’ve heard or seen in people’s backyards. That dog is trying its hardest to attract attention, of any kind! Even getting someone to come outside and yell at them offers the reward of contact.

People that consistently keep their dogs outside often rationalize, saying they spend time with the dog while working in the yard, taking the occasional walk or spending a few minutes throwing a ball when they have a chance. It’s possible that someone may be providing food, water and some engagement on a regular basis, but the dog remains alone and isolated for a majority of the time. Alone and abandoned outside the pack, dogs become stressed, anxious, bored and frustrated, contributing to behaviors like fear and escape. These components are what lead directly to aggressive, destructive and inappropriate behaviors and destroy two of the dog’s strongest instincts, denning and human sociability. And, as with humans, a dog that is constantly stressed, anxious and agitated, is more likely to develop serious health issues.

All of this is not to say that one must spend every minute devoted to catering and entertaining the dog. Training and socializing will allow the dog to learn the rules of being indoors. Play, exercise and enrichment activities will burn up energy so that once indoors, the dog can enjoy a chew toy and calmly be with you as you watch TV or read a book. Often, your dog will happily curl up under your feet and sleep.

The crucial thing to remember is that being incorporated into the family pack is both comforting and necessary for your dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Good Dogma has been training humans and their dogs since 1996. Readers are invited to submit questions to Contact information for all offered services can be found on our website 

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