Talking to Owners

First Step | Be Constructive | | Guard-dog Issue | 2 Main Goals | Real Case

Are you concerned about a chained dog in someone else’s yard? There are many things you can do to improve that dog’s life!

The first thing to do is get acquainted with the dog’s owners.
Bring a friend with you for safety reasons, and knock on the door. It is very important to be nice, friendly, and respectful to the dog’s owners. Offer a sack of dog treats as an ice-breaker.

Read a great success story of a woman who approached a chained dog's owners in a friendly way--and ended up taking Gus home with her to stay!

Remember to stress that anything you offer is free. People love free stuff! Start out by politely introducing yourself.

Then say something like:

    I am a volunteer with the humane society and I came by to offer you some free resources for your dog (even if you are not a member of a specific humane society, most people recognize the term "humane society volunteer" as someone who cares about animals.)

    I live in the area and saw your dog in the backyard. I'd love to help you out by bringing over a doghouse, etc.

    Dogs get lonely and frustrated when left on a chain. And they often get aggressive when chained. I'd hate for your dog to bite someone. I’d be glad to help you build a fence, which would make your dog a lot happier and would prevent strangers from approaching the dog.

    I noticed your dog lives on a chain. I'm sure he would love the chance to exercise. Could I come by a few times a week to walk your dog?

    I have a trolley/electric fence kit/ 20 foot tie-out at home that I don’t need anymore. Do you want me to bring it over and install it here for free?

If the owner seems receptive, ask if you can go with the owner to meet the dog. Ask the dog’s name. This will give you an opportunity to get to know the dog and the owner, and to learn why the dog is on a chain. Sometimes you can help solve the problem. For instance, if the dog is chained so it won’t breed with another dog, investigate low-cost sterilization for the dog (people in Little Rock can contact CARE to find about about free and low-cost sterilization.)

If the dog is chained because he is a fence-jumper, offer to put up fence extensions, put the dog on a trolley or tie-out, or to put up an electric fence or hotwire (see 21 Ways to Help).

If the dog is chained because the owners never really wanted the animal in the first place, offer to find the dog another home.

Bring along materials for the owners to read, too.

Be Constructive, Not Critical

If the dog is too thin, infested with parasites, matted, etc--DON’T be critical of the dog’s owner. You don’t want to make him mad! Just say, “I’ve got some extra flea treatment at home I can bring over to put on Boss” or “I think Boss would look better with a few more pounds on him. How about if I bring over a free case of dog food for you?” or “I like grooming dogs. Could I come over sometime and get these mats out of Boss’s hair?”

Once you have met the owner, try to keep up a good relationship. Leave dog treats and toys on their porch. Stop by to check on the dog. Offer to take the dog on walks and to the vet.

Eventually, the owner may let you have the dog. Although some chained dogs are aggressive, others make perfectly good pets with some love and training. If the dog is relinquished to you, you can now place the dog into a good home. Sometimes a dog owner will sell the chained dog to you. Offer to buy the dog only if you think the owner won’t go right out and get another one.

Some people steal chained dogs to provide a better life for them. The problem with that is that they might just put an new puppy right back on the chain. And, theft is a felony. Something to think about.

Guard-Dog Issue

Some people chain their dogs as guard dogs. Explain that chained dogs do not make the best guard dogs. Chained dogs become aggressive, not protective. An aggressive dog will attack anyone: the child next door, the meter reader, the mailman. The way to raise a protective dog, who knows how to distinguish friend from foe, is to socialize the dog and bring him inside with the family.

Besides, what can a chained dog do to stop an intruder except bark?

Visit the Guard Dog page to learn more about this issue.

Two Main Goals

You should keep two goals in mind when talking to the owner of a chained dog:

    Educate the owner so that he will think of the dog in a new light; as a living creature who needs love and attention and care. Hopefully, he will learn how to treat dogs better in the future.

    Helping the dog a little is better than doing nothing at all. You may not be able to convince the owner to relinquish the dog. You may not be able to convince the owner to put up a fence. Even if all you can do is get a decent doghouse, a well-fitting collar, and some toys for the dog, that is a success and the dog’s life has been improved.

Maggie: A Real Case

One of the first chained dogs I became concerned about was Maggie. Maggie is a gorgeous husky who had lived on a short chain for six years by the time I found out about her. A friend and I knocked on the owner’s door. We were anxious, because he had a no trespassing sign by his door saying, “If you are a salesman or Jehovah’s Witness, don’t knock. If you can’t read this sign, I may have to SHOOT!”

In spite of the sign, his long hair, many tattoos, and leather biker clothes, the owner turned out to be a friendly and reasonable guy! He does have a disability that makes it difficult for him to walk Maggie. Maggie's guardian didn't want to relinquish her, and didn't want her to have access to his whole yard, so we put her on a 20-foot trolley. I took Maggie to be spayed at a free clinic and kept her at home for a week to recover (she had already had four litters).

I bring treats to Maggie and walk her as often as I can. Once a week I take her to the dog-groomer up the street to spend the day at “doggie daycare,” where the workers dote on her. They don't even charge me, because they know Maggie is not my dog and they feel sympathy for her.

Maggie still lives on a chain, but I know she is happier since we came along to improve her life. I encourage everyone reading this to "adopt" a dog like I did Maggie.

Because I took action to help this dog, I no longer have to drive past with a sinking feeling in my heart, feeling sad and hopeless about the situation. Now I can drive past and holler, "Hey Maggie" out the window and know that I can walk her anytime I please. You can do the same thing for the dog you are concerned about. It is a good feeling.

In an ideal world, all chained dogs would live inside with an adoring family. But that's just not going to happen for every dog (just as it doesn't happen for every child). I am still working to come to peace with this fact. All a volunteer can do is try to educate the dog's guardian and try to improve the dog's life as much as possible within the limits the guardian sets. And try to get better laws passed!

P.S. Maggie's owner actually sent me a Christmas card and even calls me just to chat. I never would've thought that would happen when I first knocked on his door!!

Read about other dogs we have rescued.