The Not-so-great Outdoors

I am faced with having to find a new home for my Border Collie or have her spend the majority of time outside. We have about half an acre of fenced yard for her to be in and can build a nice comfortable house/den for her. She would get a bath and come inside the house on weekends. We can spend time with her in the morning before work and in the evenings afterwards, etc. Is it OK to have her live outside?

Well... there are two ways to answer this ("yes" and "no" - go figure:-). To answer you factually, the answer is yes. Border Collies, like any other breed of dog, can live an outside existence and do well enough. There are countless number of dogs living this existence at this very moment on this planet and there will always be dogs living outside in yards, barns, fields, under houses, and in dog houses. Many live out there entire lives in the confines of a yard with the shelter of a dog house and a bowl of food and water. This is the stereotypical life of a dog that we all grew up with. I know lots of people that love their dogs dearly and yet never allow them to step foot inside their house. The dogs seem happy and they are certainly healthy (if treated and cared for properly) so I guess I can't really fault them for treating their dogs in this fashion.

However, in my personal opinion (and this is purely my opinion, nothing else), I don't believe a dog, and particularly a Border Collie, should be relegated to a life outside, away from its true family. We have substituted our own families for the social pack of a dog and in exchange for this, I think it is our duty to welcome them into our families as minimally a respected member of our household, with the duties and rights associated with such membership. This means access (and it can be limited) to our homes and a place in close association with other pack members. Border Collies have been bred over the years to form a close and intense bond with a single individual. If they are subsequently prevented from associating with that person for extended periods of time, the bond becomes more of a contractual agreement ("I'll listen to you if you feed me") than a true partnership of sorts. Yes, I know that working Border Collies have been placed in kennels and barns for many decades and have successfully worked in these circumstances (being pulled out to work and then being put back) but I don't think that this is how it should be. Treated this way, the dog becomes little more than a farm implement, like the tractor, to be taken out when a job needs to be done and stored when not in use. This is fine for the hay baler but I don't think it's appropriate for a living, breathing working partner. They say a good working dog can replace the help of over a dozen men - I just think they deserve to be treated with the same respect as a single man.

I guess the biggest problem I have with leaving the dog outside, in the backyard, is that they are soon forgotten and become neglected like last year's lawn furniture. "Out of sight, out of mind." So true for the majority of dogs living out their lives in the backyard. If you can keep the promise to yourself and your dog that your level of care or concern for your dog won't diminish if they are outside, then I wouldn't hold it against you if you decided to keep the dog outside. But this, of course, is entirely a matter of personal belief (and preference).

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Page last updated August 1, 1997. All material Copyright 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
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