Skip to Main Content

What It’s Like to Be a Chained Dog in Winter

Picture this: You wake up, look out the window, and see the most awesome sight: fresh-fallen SNOW! You run to get all your winter clothes on and dash out the door. You make snow angels, build a snowman, and throw a few handfuls of the white stuff up in the air. Now you’re cold, so you want to go inside, but the door is locked. What if you had to stay out there forever?

My name is Rocky, and I’m a chained “backyard dog.” When my family brought me home, I got to live indoors for a while. It was wonderful. I played with the kids, and I’d curl up by a warm air vent to sleep. When I was hungry, I’d nudge my food dish and my family would remember that they needed to feed me. I felt very safe.

One day, no one was around to let me outside for a long time, and I had no choice but to go to the bathroom in the house. The humans came back and got very mad at me. They took me outside and put a chain on my collar that kept me from being able to walk very far.

I haven’t been allowed to go inside the house since.

I was put outside when the leaves on the trees were starting to fall, but now something else is falling: snow. It’s very cold. I have a water dish out here, but the water freezes, so I can’t drink it. I don’t get fed every day, which makes me feel even colder. (Eating enough food helps keep your body temperature up.) There’s a plastic doghouse in the yard, but it’s cold and hard and makes me miss curling up next to my family inside the warm house.

My paws have ice between the foot pads. If I get sick, no one will take me to the vet. If they leave me out here like this, I could die from being too cold, too hungry, or too thirsty or even from being attacked by another animal. The only brief, happy moments I have are when someone from the house remembers to bring me some food. My tail wags so fast, and I jump up and down, even though my joints hurt from the bitter cold. I always hope they’ll pet me or let me off this chain so that I can chase a tennis ball. Most of all, I hope they’ll let me back inside. I don’t know which is worse: feeling so cold or feeling so alone.

I know that dogs aren’t supposed to live outside. I see the dogs from next door and across the street who get to go on walks around the block with their families. Their humans clean their paws off with a towel afterward so that ice doesn’t get stuck in their toes. Then they get to go inside with them. I see other dogs through windows sitting on warm rugs while the family watches TV. They eat from their bowls when the humans eat at the tables, and they even have their own chew toys. They get treated like a member of the family, instead of like a lawn ornament. They’re not forgotten, like I am.

If you have dogs, please keep them indoors. We want to be part of the family. Most people say that having a dog makes their lives better, so make everyone happier by letting us live inside with you. Life on a chain is no life at all.

I don’t want any dog to have to live outside in the cold. Here are ways you can help dogs like me:

1. Find out if it’s against the law to keep dogs chained outside where you live. Depending on your state or city laws, you may be able to call the police or animal control to come help. Even if chaining is permitted, dogs still must be given the things they need in order to survive:

  • Shelter (like a doghouse)
  • Enough food
  • Clean water
  • Veterinary care if they’re sick or injured

If you notice that a dog is in danger—for example, if the animal is very thin, is ill or injured, has severely matted fur, has no shelter, or is left outside in extremely cold temperatures—notify animal control or the police immediately. If they don’t respond quickly, call PETA—anytime, day or night—at 757-622-7382.

2. If the dog isn’t in an emergency situation, your best chance to help may be to become friendly with the people who live in the house. With a parent or an adult, ask the people for their permission to help care for the dog.

3. You can take the dog treats or toys (with the owner’s approval).

4. If the dog isn’t mean and is good with children, you can ask to play with and pet the pup. You may even be able to take her or him on walks. The dog will be so grateful for the love and affection!

5. You can put straw (available at feed stores) inside the doghouse or other shelter. This will help keep the dog warm and dry.

6. Make sure that the dog has clean water and fresh food. He or she will need more food in the winter to keep warm.

Remember to have a parent or an adult visit the dog with you! Never go alone, and continue to get permission from the owners before you visit or give the dog anything.