Choosing a Breed

Should I Choose an Indoor or an Outdoor Dog?

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Should I choose an indoor or an outdoor dog?  This basic question is informatively answered by the Maryland SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), one of the nation’s oldest animal welfare organizations with a founding date of 1869.  They believe that dogs of all sizes do better indoors with people a majority of the time. In other words, ideally there are only indoor dogs who spend some time outdoors.  What is their reasoning, you ask?

Should I choose an indoor or outdoor dog?

Indoor or Outdoor Dog

Some dog owners believe that dogs, especially large ones, should be “outdoor only” pets. At The Maryland SPCA, we believe that dogs of all sizes are happier, healthier and safer when they can be indoors with their people the majority of the time. Dogs have a need to be social just like we do.


Some people believe that dogs need to be outside so they can get plenty of exercise. The truth is that most dogs don’t exercise when they’re in a yard by themselves; they spend most of their time lying by the back door, waiting for “their people” to either let them in or come out and play with them. However, dogs do need exercise every day, so we recommend walking your dog or engaging him in a regular game of fetch!


Dogs need to spend time with “their people” in order to learn their rules and how to get along with them. Dogs that spend most of their time alone or only in the company of other dogs may demonstrate fearful, aggressive or overactive behavior toward family members or strangers because they’ve never learned how to act around people.


Dogs that spend most of their time outdoors are at risk for a variety of reasons. They could escape from the yard and become lost; a disgruntled neighbor could throw poison over the fence or spray the dog with mace or pepper spray; or the dog could be stolen and possibly sold to a research facility or dog-fighting ring…


Dogs that spend time with their owners and feel attached to them are more likely to be protective of “their family.” Dogs that spend most of their time outdoors may be friendly to any stranger who pets or feeds them.  Alternatively, some yard dogs may become overly territorial and feel the need to protect their territory even from family and friends. If a dog is hardly ever allowed to come indoors, it will be difficult for him to distinguish between family, friends and uninvited “guests.”


People who are away from home for eight to ten hours a day may be inclined to leave their new puppy in the yard because he can’t control his bowels and bladder for that length of time. Although it’s true that puppies need to eliminate more frequently than adult dogs, it’s also very important for puppies to receive adequate people time at this formative stage of their lives. If dogs aren’t adequately socialized when they’re young, they’re likely to become fearful or aggressive toward people, and possibly other animals. Puppies are also more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions than adult dogs. If you must be away from home for more than four or five hours at a time every day, this may not be the right time for you to adopt a puppy…

No Alternative

If you must leave your dog outdoors, unsupervised for extended periods of time, please provide him with the following:

  • An insulated shelter with a wind-proof opening…
  • Shade in the summertime…
  • Fresh food and water every day. In winter, you’ll need a heated water bowl to keep the water from freezing.  In summer, you’ll need a tip-proof bowl so your dog won’t tip the bowl over in an effort to get cool.
  • Interactive playtime daily.
  • A daily walk.
  • An escape-proof fence with a locked gate.
  • “Busy” toys (see our handout: Dog Toys and How to Use Them).

Most dogs do enjoy spending time outdoors, but the time dogs spend alone outdoors must be balanced with quality time with “their people.” With a little time and training, dogs can learn to be well behaved around people and can come to respect the house rules. They can then be left inside alone without cause for worry and be trusted companions and members of the family.

So again we pose the question, should I choose an indoor or outdoor dog?  Now we know our pet will be happier, healthier, and safer inside, there is really only one answer.  If you aren’t in a position to train and care for an indoor dog, perhaps, you will want to delay owning a dog until you can.  Click here to read the complete Maryland SPCA commentary on this topic.  Let us know how you feel about providing a home for your indoor or outdoor dog.

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