Chaining & Tethering Dogs: Unchain A Dog Month

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Chaining & Tethering Dogs: Unchain A Dog Month

Every January is Unchain a Dog Month which helps bring awareness to the issue of chaining dogs in yards. For many of us, it is not something we would even consider, but sadly – many do.

Dogs should not be chained out in the yard like lawn ornaments – they are living, breathing and feeling creatures who need contact and love.

Chaining a dog to a tree or dog house for excessive periods is only doing damage to their mental and physical health and is almost a form of torture. Even in a good weather climate it is a bad idea, but then add in severe heat, cold or snow and it becomes a miserable existence.

That is why Unchain A Dog Month was created – to help build awareness about this practice and to encourage dog owners to bring their dogs inside to be loved and to allow them to give love.

Is there a difference between tethering and chaining?

While they are pretty similar there is a small difference.

When we call a dog being “chained” in the yard, it is usually because there is a large heavy chain around their necks. The chain can usually be found wrapped around a tree to keep the dog in place.

A dog with a lighter restraint like a rope or pulley is considered “tethering”.

Is it always bad to tether or chain a dog in the yard?

Absolutely not! In small doses, being outside in the fresh air on a tether can be good mental stimulation for a dog. As long as they have some room to roam and the tether is a light rope or chain and not a big heavy chain – you may find your pooch loves being out there for a bit.

It is also a great option if you want to work in the yard, or play with the kids and still have your dog with you outside but not have to worry about them getting under foot or running away.

But, this should done for a MINIMAL amount of time!

Common reasons pet owners chain their dogs.

There are a lot of reasons I have seen people say they need to tether their dog. Some are good – some not so much. But if you are curious about why anyone would do this, here are some of the reasons!

  • Guard dog – this is a popular one but never made sense to me. If the dog is chained, how can it guard?
  • Behavioral issues – maybe the dog has been showing aggression suddenly or is just out of control in the house and the owner does not know what to do.
  • Landlord issues – maybe a new landlord is making the dog be an outdoor dog.
  • No fenced yard – this is a reason that I think is acceptable in short spurts. Many people may not have fenced yards and want to be able to allow their dogs to be outside for short periods of time.
  • Lack of awareness – some people just do not realize that dogs live indoors in many parts of the country! Yes, I know sounds weird, but there are many parts of our country that really do not know any differently and these people may just need to be educated!

Issues from chaining a dog too long.

Dogs are beings that need love and attention – and lots of it. The human dog bond is a strong one and that relationship keeps them mentally and emotionally happy.

When you chain a dog outdoors for long lengths of time, away from the family environment you can be doing great damage to their emotional and mental stability. There is also the physical issues that chained dogs often get when they are kept outdoors all year round in various climates and weather changes.

Many dogs have been known to become aggressive from being kept chained for long periods of time. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association have put out warnings noting that dog bites are 3 times more likely to happen when dogs are chained.

There are also physical risks like chains catching on items and dogs being strangled, attacks from other animals and of course issues from the weather. Sadly, I have seen stories – and images of dogs frozen to death on their chain. This is not OK and why we need to educate more people!

How you can make a difference!

If you are someone who already believes that chaining dogs is a bad idea, there are a few things you can do to make the situation better.

  • If you know someone who does chain their dog more often than they should, maybe you can ask about caring for the dog. Walk the dog, take them to the park or let them have a snooze on your couch! Of course your safety comes first, so be sure you understand the circumstances for the dog being chained. Some people may not welcome offers of help!
  • Offer to adopt a dog you see being chained! Maybe you walk past one on your way to the store – or you saw a post in your social media feed of a chained dog the community is trying to help. Your adoption offer can make all the difference.
  • Check your local laws on keeping dogs on chains. Some states, cities and counties do have ordinances that protect dogs. If you find your town or city has a law about chaining dogs, you can reach out to the police for assistance.


We need to judge less and educate more. Not everyone knows that chaining dogs is a bad idea – some have just “always done it that way”. If we take the time to educate people about all of the reasons leaving a dog chained is a bad idea – we can make a difference.

Less judging + more educating = change.

Fences For Fido

One resource I fell in love with is called Fences For Fido! I did my research into this nonprofit organization and all I can say is WOW! They do amazing work and their Facebook page really shows the love. They started back in 2009 in Oregon and were inspired by another group called Beyond Fences from NC. They have since began a program called Unchained Planet which helps mentor new unchaining groups around the country!

They focus on giving dogs better lives by getting them off the chains! They help build fenced areas and provide insulated houses free of charge for families who may not otherwise be able to afford it. They also help as needed with vet care.

I love how they talk about “not all situations being what they seem”. They take the don’t judge – just educate route and it works really well for them. They do not just build a fence – they become allies for the families and often find the dogs really are loved.

Here is what this amazing team does! The first image is how this dog was living before Fences For Fido did their magic – the second image is after the magic happened. I can only imagine the joy that dog feels.

Please go visit Fences For Fido and make a donation so they can continue doing these amazing things for chained dogs!

dog chained to tree
image credit: Fences For Fido/Facebook
fences for fido work for dog
image credit: Fences For Fido/Facebook

Is it illegal to chain a dog?

Unfortunately, not all states have laws about tethering or chaining dogs. There are currently about 23 states that have some type of anti-chaining or tethering laws in place.

These laws vary greatly from state to state with many allowing dogs to be tethered for short periods of time. Some states consider more than a short amount of time on a restraint as neglect, so it is important you understand the laws for your state if you do tether your dog. You can find the dog tethering laws here.

Final thoughts

You can also check out for more information and resources to help make change!

I also just want to add, while it is very easy to judge people who chain their dogs – I hope you have learned that there are people who do love their dogs, and just do not know any different.

If you can take the opportunity to teach someone why chaining their pet may not be the best thing for them, you just might be surprised at their response! You may also walk away with one of the best feelings you have ever had!

Jill Caren CharityPaws

Jill Caren

Jill is an avid animal lover who spends her time helping animal rescues by photographing homeless pets and through her work on CharityPaws.

She is currently owned by Cleo, an American Pit Bull Terrier and Snoopy Cat. Her inspiration comes from her girls Ginger and Riley (RIP) – pit mix sisters who were loved family members for almost 15 years.

You can find her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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