Doesn't Man's Best Friend Deserve More than Life on a Chain?

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18 Ways to Help a Chained Dog

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If you're reading this, you are concerned about a chained or neglected dog. Maybe the dog is your own and you want to better his life. Maybe you are worried about a dog in your neighborhood. There are many things you can do to help end this form of animal cruelty!

  1. Bring your dog inside!  Wouldn’t you enjoy having a dog who sleeps by your bed, greets you when you come home, protects your family, and is a loyal friend? Dogs get bored and lonely sitting on the same patch of dirt year after year. Dogs want to be inside with their "pack" - you! Read training tips to help your dog be a good “inside” dog.

    Did you know that inside dogs make the best guard dogs? It will take some time for your dog to adjust to the new environment, but it will improve the quality of the dog's life and yours, too!
  2. Get to know the dog’s guardian if you are concerned about someone else’s chained dog. Read tips on talking to a stranger about helping their chained dog. Once you get to know the owner, you may be able to improve the dog's life or even find him another home.

  3. Put up a fence. Fences give dogs freedom and make it easier for owners to approach their dogs, since they won't be jumping at the end of a chain. Fences don’t have to cost much if you do some work yourself. You can attach mesh fencing to wooden or metal posts for the cheapest fence. Visit our Building Fences page for info. Contact Dogs Deserve Better for fencing grants up to $250. 757-357-9292 or

    Workers at stores like Home Depot, Tractor Supply, and hardware stores will show you what to buy and give advice. Ask fencing companies if they have leftover materials to donate.
  4. If your dog can escape your fence:

    • Extend height of the fence with mesh fencing.
    • Attach inexpensive bamboo or reed fencing, which comes in 6-foot rolls, to the fence. It is hard for dogs to climb this slick fencing.
    • Install an electric fence. At Petsmart and other pet supply stores you can buy electric fence kits for fenced and unfenced yards. Some attach to fences and others are buried underground.
    • Install a "hot wire" to the top of your fence for $40-$50. Call a farm supply store for advice. Hotwires are commonly used to contain cows and horses. They keep burglars away, too!
    • To stop diggers, bury chicken wire one foot below where the fence meets the ground (bend-in the sharp edges) or place concrete blocks around the bottom of the fence. You can dig a trough under the fence and fill it with concrete (along the full length of the fence or only in "trouble spots").

  5. Spaying and neutering will help the dog calm down and stay closer to home. A sterilized dog won’t try to escape to find a mate! Sterilization is healthy for your dog: it reduces his or her risk of getting certain types of cancer. Sterilization won't change your dog's personality. Sterilized dogs still make great guard dogs and hunting dogs.

    Investigate low-cost spay/neuter programs in your area. Call SpayUSA at 1-800-248-SPAY for a coupon. If you are trying to help someone else’s dog, ask your own vet and ask if s/he will give you a discount as a community service.
  6. Replace old collars with a new nylon collar. You should be able to easily fit two fingers between the dog's neck and the collar. If you need to add a hole to a collar, hammer a thick nail through it, or heat a pick and poke it through. 
  7. Provide food and fresh water every day. Every day you eat, your dog needs to eat. Put a water bowl in a tire or hole in the ground to keep it from tipping. 
  8. You can attach a water bucket to a wooden doghouse or fence. Stretch wire, a small chain, bungee cord, or twine across the bucket and secure on either side.

  9. Provide good shelter. You can buy dog igloos pretty cheaply from discount stores, farm supply stores, and hardware stores. If you can’t afford to buy a doghouse, you can make one.

    • Doghouses should be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in, but small enough to retain body heat.

    • Wooden doghouses should be raised a few inches off of the ground to prevent rotting, keep out rain, and retain body heat. Flat concrete blocks are an easy way to raise a doghouse.
  10. Give toys and rawhides. Dogs like to play, just like kids do. A big rawhide, which you can get at the grocery, will give your dog several hours of fun. Even a knotted towel or ball can be fun for your dog!
  11. Go on walks! Your dog will be so happy to get of the yard, see new things, and smell new smells! Walking is great exercise for both of you. Prong collars look harsh, but don't hurt if used correctly, and make it much easier to control a large and strong dog. Leash training will take some time, but you will establish a routine in a few weeks! Harnesses are also a great option.

    If the dog belongs to someone else, offer to walk the dog yourself!
  12. Go to school! Obedience classes can help your dog learn to be a good “inside” dog. Most pet stores offer inexpensive classes.
  13. Protect from fleas and worms. Biting fleas make a dog’s life miserable. You can buy flea treatment at grocery, discount, and pet stores. Read a fact sheet on parasites and how to treat them. Most farm supply stores sell wormers and vaccinations at much cheaper prices than vets.
  14. Protect from winter cold.  Dogs get cold in the winter just like we do, especially short-haired and small dogs. If it's too cold for you to sleep outside, your dog is going to be cold outside, too.

    • If you can’t bring your dog in, fill doghouses with hay or cedar chips to help retain heat. (Cedar chips won't rot like hay, but some dogs may be allergic.) You can get cedar shavings and hay at farm supply, hardware, discount, and home improvement stories. If you use hay and it gets wet, spread it in the sun to dry.

    • To keep cold air out, the door should be covered with a plastic flap. You can use a car mat, a piece of plastic carpet runner, or even a piece of carpet.
    • You can buy cheap vinyl by the yard at fabric stores.
    • Dogs need more food in winter, as keeping warm consumes calories. Check your dog's water bowl daily to be sure it isn't frozen.
  15. Provide shade and a kiddie pool in the summer. A doghouse isn’t the same thing as shade. Doghouses get very hot in summer! Bring your dog in during heat waves if possible. Plant trees or create shade by stretching a tarp between two trees. Dogs enjoy cooling off in a pool as much as we do. What a cheap way for your dog to beat the heat!
  16. Change the law in your community to ban chaining!
  17. Call your local animal control, humane society, or sheriff’s department if you see a dog who is:
    • Without food, water or shelter
    • Sick or infested with parasites
    • Too skinny

    A city/county official or humane society investigator must investigate if the owner is breaking your community’s animal cruelty law. In most communities, it is considered cruel to leave a dog without food, water or shelter; to not provide medical care to a sick dog; and to keep a dog undernourished. Even if your city's ordinance doesn’t have an animal cruelty section, your state law will have an animal cruelty section. Your state laws are online: do a keyword search for "Your State Code" or "Your State Statutes."

    Once you report the situation--don’t be afraid to follow up! Keep calling authorities until the situation is resolved. If animal control doesn't respond, write a letter describing the situation to your mayor. The dog is counting on you to be his voice.

  18. Educate people about chaining! Keep some educational brochures and flyers in your car. If you see a chained dog, you can put a brochure in that person’s mailbox.

    (NOTE: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the following PDF files. You can download this software free.)

    • This document is for the owners of chained dogs. It's a compilation of information from this website; you may want to use all of it or just certain pages.
    • Download and distribute "A Chained Dog's Plea" and two other poems. Sometimes these poems can be more effective than a factual brochure.
    • Send a letter to the editor or guest editorial to your local newspaper sharing your thoughts on why chaining is bad. Ask for the editorial department to find out who to sent it to. You are welcome to use any or all of the editorial I wrote, change it up however you like, and put your name on it.
    • Download a Q & A sheet geared toward passing a law.
    • Download a sheet of photos of chained dogs and children who have been attacked and injured.
    • Download a presentation about chaining in PDF or PowerPoint.
    • Encourage educators in your community, from scout leaders to teachers, to teach children why chaining is cruel.
    • Visit Dogs Deserve Better to download free informational flyers, letters, and brochures for distribution. Spanish letters and Spanish flyers are available.
    • Join Dogs Deserve Better on Facebook to easily share info with friends!
    • Get 20 "A chained dog can only watch as life goes by" brochures in Spanish for a suggested $5 donation.
    • Visit the Dogs Deserve Better Store to buy brochures, door hangers, books, magnets, buttons, DVDs, yard signs, stickers, tee shirts, car magnets, and tons more! (View DDB materials by design.)
    • Join DDB's E-Newsletter to get updates on efforts to help chained dogs. Enter your email address in the right column of their homepage.
    • Check with your local TV stations to see if they will air one of the following free PSAs. Just ask for the Community Affairs person or whoever is in charge of PSAs. The station will probably want it in BETA--and PETA does provide the PSAs in BETA format. Click here to have a PSA sent to your television station.

      See Public Service Announcements for TV: 

      Michael Strahan Cold Dog
      Chilly Dog
      Justin Theroux Chained Dog
      Loretta Lynn Sings "I Wanna Be Free" Anti-Chaining

      All Companion Animal PSAs

      ASPCA offers a great PSA featuring hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons encouraging people to report animal cruelty and be kind to animals.
    • Jason Taylor also has an anti-cruelty PSA.

      A great way to reach out to young people!

    • Click the picture at the right for more information on's Unchain A Dog campaign.
    • Humane Society of the United States also has a campaign to help chained dogs, as does the ASPCA.
    • Little Rock residents can distribute this brochure.

18. Choose to take ONE STEP today toward helping a dog. You may not be able to save all the neglected dogs, but surely there is one thing you can do today to improve a dog's life!

Guard Dog, from Mutts comic strip. Used with permission.

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