Talking to Owners
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!
Read two great success stories:
Cuddles were both rescued by women who
approached the dogs' owners in a friendly way. It works!
Bring a friend for safety reasons. It is very important to be nice,
friendly, and respectful to the dog’s owners. Bring a bag of dog treats
and some human treats like cookies or brownies. People love free stuff!
Say something like:
- I saw your dog in the backyard. I have a big bag of dog food I don't need
any more. Could you use it? I'd hate for it to go to waste. By the way, I made
some cookies and thought you might like some.
- 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 have an extra
doghouse I'd be happy to bring over. Is that OK?
- 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 love shepherds. My shepherd died and I really miss him. Can I go back and
meet your dog? What's his name?
- I have a friend who owns a fencing company, and I can probably get some
fencing materials donated if you would like a fence for your dog.
- Since winter is coming, I'm giving hay to people with outside dogs. Could
you use some hay for your dog's house?
- I have some fence materials. How about I get some friends to help us build a
fence for the dog?
- My dog died and I have some left-over food, toys, doghouse, etc. Can I bring
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
for the dog.
If the dog is chained because he is a fence-jumper, offer to put up fence
extensions or an electric fence or
hotwire (see 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.
If the owner is receptive to building a fence, use social media to gather
funds/friends and have a building party.
materials for the owners to
If you don't feel comfortable approaching the owners, you can always
ask Dogs Deserve Better
to send them a letter. Just provide the address. They will not use your
IT MAY TAKE MULTIPLE VISITS to gain the owner's trust. Keep at it, and
take baby steps each time you visit.
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 or ashamed! 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
Some people steal chained dogs to provide a better life for them. But the owners might put an new puppy right back on the chain.
And, since dogs are legally considered property, stealing a dog is a felony. Be
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?
Guard Dog page to learn more about this
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 or put up a fence. If all you can do is get a decent
doghouse, a well-fitting collar, and some treats, that is a success and the
dog’s life has been improved.
We cannot battle all unconsciousness and cruelty in the world. To keep yourself
from getting too depressed about all the animal cruelty and neglect, remind
yourself that it's ultimately the owner's choice to neglect his dog and
responsibility to care for his dog. Rather than thinking, "I HAVE to save this
poor dog", think "I will try to help this dog and educate the owner, but it
makes me sad and mad that the owner chooses to treat his dog this way." This
will help you keep the guilt where it belongs - on the owner, not on you! Every
dog in the world isn't your responsibility, but you can feel good about helping
where you can.
I recently visited a man with four chained, neglected dogs. He refused any help,
including a free fence. Those dogs are still chained and it makes me sad.
Generally, though, I have gotten a positive reception and been able to help.
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
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 had a disability that makes it difficult for him to walk
Maggie. He didn't want to relinquish her, and didn't
want her to have access to his whole yard because of his vegetable
garden. Also, Maggie was a fence jumper. We put her on a 20-foot
trolley which gave her much more freedom of movement. (I no longer
recommend trolleys because dogs can strangle on them.)
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 brought treats to Maggie and walked her as often as I can.
Once a week I would take her to the dog-groomer up the street to
spend the day at “doggie daycare,” where the workers doted on
her. They didn't even charge me, because they knew Maggie is
not my dog and they felt sympathy for her.
everyone reading this to "adopt" a dog like I did Maggie.
Because I took action to help this dog, I no longer had to drive
past with a sinking feeling in my heart, feeling sad and hopeless
about the situation. I could drive past and say, "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
In an ideal world, all 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 called me just to chat. I never would've thought that would happen when
I first knocked on his door!!
Note: Miss Maggie died at the end of her
trolley. I am so glad that I was able to bring her some happiness and fun
while she was alive.
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