Are Outdoor Dogs Happy? (Solved & Explained!)

Outdoor dogs can be happy, but the feelings and effects are often short-term. While most dogs are excited to be let outside, boredom and behavioural issues are prominent in dogs left outdoors for extended periods of time.

The question of canine happiness is a complex one. Environment, breed, interaction and other aspects all have a part to play but here is how you can determine what’s best for your current or potential pooch.

First, which breeds are most commonly known as outdoor dogs?

When looking into dog breeds, some of the most frequently listed canines for outdoor activity and lifestyle are Siberian Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Australian Shepherds, Australian Cattledogs and Labrador Retrievers, just to name a few.

Many of these dogs were historically bred for outdoor working roles such as being acting gun dogs, sled dogs, stock dogs or cattle dogs. Today, these breeds are commonly purchased both in the country and in the city with owners who have habits of letting (out), petting and forgetting.

Alternatively, which breeds are most commonly known as indoor dogs?

Pugs, Shih Tzus, French & English Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Beagles; except when it’s time to go, these dogs are commonly thought of as the family-friendly “indoor dogs” of our time.

Most of these breeds are very common in city and suburban areas because they tend to be low-maintenance, can fit in smaller accommodations such as apartments or condos and only seem to make a fuss to go outside when it’s time to -go-.

I leave my dog out on a balcony (no yard). Is this okay?

While there are certainly ways to make balconies more pup-friendly such as Pooch Patches, comfortable furniture, balcony rail guards and shade makers, it’s unfair to the dog(s) to use balconies as a yard or crate alternative, especially when it’s for long periods of time; not to mention borderline dangerous.

Fall risk, barking, urine drips, poop incidents and boredom are just some of the risks that come with leaving a dog to fend for itself on any balcony. 

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Why would dogs get bored outside in any scenario?

To many pet experts, it’s a misconception that almost any breed wants to spend every waking minute outside in the yard. Unlike farm animals such as livestock and animals born and raised in the wild, domestic dogs are social animals who thrive on companionship.

While a particular dog may not be the only pet you have in your lifetime, chances are you’re the only human your dog will have ever had, and they’re attached to you. If you’re not out there with them, the fun you thought they were excited for as they ran out the door will expire very, very quickly.

How can you tell the dog is bored?

The number one tell of a bored outdoor dog is barking.

While it may be common for a given dog in any scenario to bark at nearby dogs and humans, canines left outdoors for long periods of time don’t always need these triggers to form further barking habits. They will often just bark in hopes of finding you, to use up any remaining energy and because, frankly, they’re bloody bored.

What are other signs my dog doesn’t like being outside?

Additional signals your dog is unhappy or bored outside can include chewing outdoor objects (furniture, fencing, tools), random or frequent digging of large holes or an increase in the preparedness or willingness to bite.

When I let my dog in, or finally go somewhere with him, he still won’t stop barking (at people or animals). Why?

Whether still outside or finally let in, it’s very likely your dog is frustrated at the lack of interaction with passing animals, passing people or their own humans. The excitement of finally being given access to one of these can be overwhelming or seem extreme with a high level or volume of barking.

Unfortunately, the common reaction to this is that the dog is aggressive or misbehaving, resulting in having these external opportunities for interaction further taken away in an attempt to reduce the barking. A further reduction in social activity will not minimize a dog’s own verbal request for, or reaction to, interaction.

What if I have to put my dog outside because people are in the house and they can’t behave?

Putting your dog outside for long periods because of the presence of people is often a bandaid more than a solution to a symptom of the dog’s overall behaviour.

Going back to how dogs are social creatures, a dog who is frequently left outside is more than likely to get overly excited at the sight and presence of any company. This can result in behaviour that comes across as naughty or aggressive such as loud, continuous barking or attempts to touch or climb the person they’ve spotted.

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Rather than punish the dog with further social isolation and boredom, it’s better to seek professional training or even just advice from a certified behaviourist.

I’d still like to leave my dog outside from time to time. How can I make him or her happier in doing so?

Outdoor toys, proper food, water bowls, comfortable bedding, runnable space and frequent breaks for social interaction can increase a dog’s tolerance and ability to remain outside. These however should not act as means for leaving them out the majority of the day.

Your home is the only home they know, and you’re their person. They need you more than they need the grass, snow or fresh air we were taught they’re obsessed with. 

Are there any further precautions I should take in having an outdoor dog?

Ensure your dog is properly registered with a local veterinarian and/or your city/town of residence, if applicable. Dog tags and microchips are also highly recommended in case of the worst-case scenarios.

Should your loyal pooch ever accidentally or purposefully escape its designated outdoor space and become lost or found, it will be easier to not only identify but for those taking care of them to get in contact with you about it.

You could also consider attaching GPS-powered tracking devices to dog tags or collars for peace of mind.