Should dogs be kept exclusively indoors?

When should a dog stay indoors?

While dogs need and enjoy outdoor play and exercise, there are some circumstances when their outdoor time should be limited, or when they should stay indoors altogether.

"With certain surgeries," Dr. Sewell said, "dogs should be kept only in a crate. For other surgeries, they should only go out on a leash." Keeping a dog quiet and calm after surgery helps prevent further injury and allows him to concentrate energy on healing, rather than expending it on outdoor play.

Temperature extremes can also limit time outdoors. When the weather is blazing hot or below freezing, keep your pet's play and exercise sessions short but frequent. Dogs with thick coats can overheat in hot summer weather, and those with short coats may have trouble staying warm in cold weather. If you're uncomfortable outside, chances are good that your pup is, too. And just like you, dogs can get sunburned.

There are some environmental dangers that necessitate keeping your dog inside, at least temporarily. These include the presence of:

  • Coyotes or other predators
  • Environmental chemicals, like herbicides and lawn treatments
  • Fireworks or other loud, frightening events
  • Hazardous weather, including heavy rain and lightning storms
  • Disaster conditions, such as flooding, tornadoes or rioting

Heavy traffic around your home is another concern, although this danger is lessened by keeping your dog in a fenced-in area or on a leash. "Dogs in very urban environments or high-rise apartments should only go outside on a leash," Dr. Sewell said. Small breeds, he also noted, should never be outside alone.

While certain conditions warrant keeping your pet indoors, that's not his natural habitat; dogs benefit physically and mentally from exercising, playing and generally being outdoors.

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More Great Links


  • Kil, D.Y. and K.S. Swanson. "Companion Animals Symposium: Role of microbes in canine and feline health." Journal of Animal Science. Vol. 89, no. 5. Page 1498-1505. May 2011.
  • Life Tips. "Are Puppy Vaccines Necessary for Indoor Dogs?" (Aug. 10, 2011)
  • Life Tips. "Is Heartworm Prevention Necessary?" (Aug. 10, 2011)
  • National Institutes of Health. "Can Pets Keep You Healthy?" February 2009. (Aug. 15, 2011)
  • Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Environmental Enrichment." The Indoor Pet Initiative. 2008. (Aug. 10, 2011)
  • Paige, Colleen. "A Leg Up On Canine Exercise." Total Health. October/November 2003.
  • Pup Life. "Summer Fun: Keeping Your Dog Healthy in the Spring & Summer Months." 2011. (Aug. 9, 2011)
  • Sewell, David, D.V.M. Co-owner, Crestview Animal Hospital, Cumming, GA. Telephone interview, Aug. 15, 2011.
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  • Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Cold Weather Pet Tips." July 22, 2009. (Aug. 10, 2011)