Q: One of our neighbors has a dog that they have kept outside for a few years now. We just found out they want to get rid of it and we were thinking of taking him in. He seems like a really nice dog and we would never think of having him live outside if we took him. Do you think a dog that has lived outside would be happy living in the house?
A: I commend you for thinking of taking a dog who has probably lived a lonely life outside and bringing him into your home. Dogs are social creatures who were bred to live with humans as part of a pack. Any dog kept socially isolated from its pack will become stressed and/or depressed. Bringing him into your home where he can interact with you on a daily basis will make him feel he is an essential part of your family. This is very important for his wellbeing.
I believe an outside dog can adjust to living in the house and would be quite happy to do so. Many dogs in rescue or humane societies are picked up off the street as strays, or have been kept outside in their previous homes, and turn out to make wonderful indoor pets.
Teaching an outdoor dog to be a well-behaved family member will take some time, but will be well worth it as he becomes a loving friend. He may be very excited when first coming in so keep him on a leash to gain some level of control as you walk him through the house to sniff and explore. He has a whole new set of manners to learn and with a little effort, most dogs come around quite nicely. Teaching him a few basic commands such as “sit,” “down” and “stay” along with the meanings of “no” and “good dog” he can learn the rules of the house very quickly.
A dog that has lived outside may not realize he shouldn’t go potty wherever he wants. Fortunately most dogs learn quickly to go to the bathroom outside once they understand what you want. Be sure to take him out often, especially when he wakes up and after meals, praise him when he does his job. Never leave him unsupervised in your home until he is reliably going outside. Leaving him free to roam the house is an invitation for messes and not getting him properly housebroken.
When making the transition into the home the dog will not know what he is allowed to play with and what must be left alone so it is important to keep the house picked up of things like shoes and children’s toys. Provide him with his own toys, especially ones you can stuff with treats to help keep him entertained. Also clear counters and tables of food to avoid temptations. Once a dog starts to counter surf it can be a challenge to stop. Make sure garbage containers are not accessible to the dog.
When you move the dog into your house decide where you want him to sleep and show him that spot every night. It could be in a crate or a dog bed in your room. If you do not want the dog on the furniture make that clear from the start.
Provide plenty of exercise because a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Throwing a toy to fetch or long walks are good options.
The happiest dogs are ones that are part of the family.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].