If you are reading this, then you are concerned about a chained-up 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! Dogs get bored and lonely sitting on the same patch of dirt day after day, year after year. Dogs want to be inside the house with their “pack”: you! Read tips on housetraining and behavior modification to help your dog be a good “inside” dog. Did you know that inside dogs make the best guard dogs?

2. Get to know the dog’s guardian if you are concerned about someone else’s chained dog. See tips on talking to a stranger about helping their chained dog.

3. Call your local animal control office, humane society, or sheriff’s department if you see a dog who is:

  • Consistently without food, water or shelter
  • Sick or infested with parasites
  • Too skinny

A city/county official or humane society investigator is required to investigate the situation if the dog guardian 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 a section that addresses animal cruelty. 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 the 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.

4. Offer to buy the chained dog from the owner. Just say something like, “I saw your dog and have always wanted a red chow. Would you sell him to me for $50?” You can then place the dog into a good home. Although some chained dogs are aggressive and difficult to approach, many are very friendly and adoptable. Don’t offer to buy the dog if you think that the owner will just go right back out and get another dog.

5. 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. Chain link is easy to install, too. Visit our Building Fences page for more information. Workers 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.

6. Put up a trolley if you can’t put up a fence. A trolley system is cheap and will give the dog more freedom than a chain. See pictures and an instruction sheet.

7. 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”).

8. Buy a lightweight tie-out if a fence or trolley aren’t possible. Attach the tie-out to a strong stake that screws into the ground. Put the stake in a central location so the dog can move around all sides. You can order these materials from PetsMart.

Note: The Duckbill Anchor kit is a very strong stake. Using a stake and long tie-out is only a last resort to help a dog who is chained to a short chain. A fence is always the best option and allows the most freedom.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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. 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.

12. 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 and keep out rain. Flat concrete blocks are an easy way to raise a doghouse.
  • Dogs enjoy having towels and blankets to curl up on. Remember to wash every few weeks so they don’t get stiff with dirt.

13. 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!

14. 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. If your dog is very strong or large, use a prong collar or harness to make walking easier. Ask pet store workers to fit your dog for a collar or harness. If the dog belongs to someone else, offer to walk the dog yourself.

15. Go to school! Obedience classes can help your dog learn to be a good “inside” dog. Most pet stores offer inexpensive dog training classes.

16. 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.

17. 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 are better because they are less likely to rot and don’t contain mites.) You can get cedar shavings and hay at farm supply, hardware, discount, and home improvement stories. If you use hay and it gets wet and soggy, 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.
  • 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.

18. 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!

Change the law in your community to ban chaining!

19. 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.