Skip to main content

Q&A: Should I Keep My Dogs Outside in a Kennel All the Time?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Suddenly transitioning indoor dogs to full-time outdoor dogs living in a kennel can cause stress and health issues and may ultimately lead to aggression.

Suddenly transitioning indoor dogs to full-time outdoor dogs living in a kennel can cause stress and health issues and may ultimately lead to aggression.

Is It Okay to Make My Inside Dogs Stay Outside in a Kennel All the Time?

"I have a male pit bull and a male Rottweiler that are around 3 years old. They have been with me since they were 6 weeks old, and it has been just me and the dogs for most of their lives. They are inside dogs and haven't even ever stayed outside overnight, I don't think.

They have free roam of the house, but I do leave the back door cracked at all times so that they can go in and out. My dilemma is that my son and his girlfriend just had baby number 2 and want me to move in with them to help them out. They are in their early 20s. But if I choose to do so, then my dogs will have to go outside and stay in a kennel at all times—no letting them inside at night or throughout the day, just strictly in the kennel.

I am totally against any dog just being put outside and especially inside a kennel at all times. Why have a pet if they are just going to be put in a kennel and left there? And I've gotten so close to these dogs that it's absolutely breaking my heart just to think of making them go outside and in a kennel when being inside dogs is all they have known.

My son says that they will be fine, but I do not agree. Please help! I know that they think I'm choosing the dogs over helping them, but to me, it's not that. I don't agree with that living situation for any dog, not just mine. So do I have a right to feel this way or am I being dramatic? —Jessica

Constant Kenneling Is Not Okay

No, you are not being dramatic. In my opinion, it is not okay to keep a dog kenneled all day. That is my opinion, though.

Many breeders, greyhound keepers, sled dog racers, and others keep their dogs kenneled all day, and those dogs do fine. They were also raised that way, of course, so they've had a lot more time to adapt to the situation than your Rottie and pit bull.

Dogs like yours, that have been inside but are suddenly shut into a kennel, demonstrate increased levels of cortisol, a hormone that indicates they are in a state of stress. (1) Dogs that are in a state of stress from kenneling also have depressed immune systems so are more likely to become sick. (2) I cannot predict if there are going to be any health problems, of course, but it is a possibility.

Kennel vs. Crate

If you do decide to kennel your dogs, the ASPCA recommends a kennel at least 15 feet long and 5 feet wide. I have no idea how large your son's backyard is or what he is planning on building back there, but if it is smaller than this, it is not appropriate for two dogs. They will also need an area for water, shade, and housing to get out of the rain and heat.

I hope you are talking about an outdoor kennel, as locking the dogs in a crate all day is animal abuse. Crates can be used for housetraining, but your dogs do not need this. Dogs are social animals and if they are locked up in a box all day, they are not able to communicate with each other.

A Difficult Choice

I guess you have to ask yourself if it is more important to support your human son or the dogs. I have no way to predict whether the dogs will become aggressive secondary to the kenneling, but would much prefer that they remain indoor dogs. Personally, I would have a hard time not coming to the aid of one of my children, but if I was forced to make this choice it would not be an easy one.

Sources

(1) Polgár Z, Blackwell EJ, Rooney NJ. Assessing the welfare of kennelled dogs-A review of animal-based measures. Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2019 Apr;213:1-13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7126575/

(2) Protopopova A. Effects of sheltering on physiology, immune function, behavior, and the welfare of dogs. Physiol Behav. 2016 May 15;159:95-103. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26996275/

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM