Where Should Sleeping Dogs Lie?
by Linda Green
I highly recommend that your dog sleep inside the house at night. No matter what your reasons for wanting your dog outside at night, I believe there are many more good reasons for keeping him inside with you.
The usual logic cited for keeping a dog outside is security. Dogs are considered to be useful as an early warning system by barking and thereby announcing that thieves are attempting to trespass on your property. In Guatemala, most neighborhoods have a lot of noise at night. Unfortunately, your dog has no idea that you only want him to bark at intruders, and lacking a common language, you will find it quite difficult to explain this to him. Thus, your dog will bark at pretty much any sound or movement at night. This includes cats or rodents on a roof or wall (or on a neighbor’s roof or wall), fireworks, a siren, any passing person, car, bicycle, dog, bird, bat, clouds drifting over the moon, wind rustling tree branches—you get the idea.
This random barking generally achieves several things. Usually, the barking dog sets off a chain reaction, and the whole area is subjected to a bunch of dogs barking at other dogs barking. Over time, you learn to ignore the barking. So if an intruder actually does come over the wall, you are most likely not to pay attention to your dog’s warning. Few people can really sleep soundly when a dog is barking outside their window (and the dog, obviously, is not sleeping much either), so you end up tired and sleep deprived. If you don’t respond by coming out to see what the ruckus is about, your dog may escalate the barking in pure frustration; he is trying to warn you about something he perceives is dangerous, and you are not listening to him! The barking is probably keeping your neighbors up, too.
An even more persuasive reason to keep your dog inside with you is that an intruder can silence your dog in the yard very quickly by tossing poisoned bait to it. Don’t kid yourself that you can poison-proof your dog to ignore food tossed into the yard. You can’t. You could end up with a dead dog and a break-in.
If you are really interested in security, keep the dog inside with you at night, preferably in the same room you sleep in. If the dog is inside the house, he can’t be poisoned. Your dog’s hearing is incredibly sensitive. He will hear the sound of a break in and begin barking. The intruder will be left with the doubt as to where the barker is and how big it is. He will also know that he has lost any element of surprise. This is a much bigger deterrent than a dog loose in a yard.
Another benefit is that although your dog hears so much more than you do, when he is inside the house he is much less likely to hear or see the cat on the fence and bark at it. Dogs also watch our body language and take cues from us. If they see that we are not interested in or alarmed by the bell on the bicycle passing outside, they quickly learn to ignore the sound and not bark. So you will both sleep better, and if your dog does bark and wake you, it is probably worth getting up and checking.
Finally, from the dog’s point of view, being inside with you only strengthens his bond to you and your family and increases his feeling of belonging and his desire to protect you. Dogs are not solitary animals. They gravitate to other dogs and to people. Especially if you only have one dog, sleeping alone outside and away from you is very hard for him. Some of the best time I spend with my dogs is with them curled up at my feet while I watch TV, read a book, or work on the computer. Knowing that my dog is near my bed at night makes me feel secure, and being close to me makes my dog feel secure, too.
Given his own free choice, your dog would choose to sleep on a mat or pad near you—why not try it? I bet you will never put your dog outside for the night again.