Golden Retrievers: Inside or Outside Dogs? (And Why)


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Golden Retrievers love to be outside, which is not surprising, as they were bred to be outdoor dogs. Golden Retrievers love to swim, run, play fetch, and make great companions for outdoor enthusiasts.

However, considering they are so well suited to the outdoors, some pet owners wonder whether Golden Retrievers are better suited to be inside or outside dogs. 

In general, Golden Retrievers should not live or sleep outside or be left outdoors for long periods without supervision. Golden Retrievers are family dogs that do best indoors with plenty of human interaction. Behavioral issues, bad weather, theft, escape, and outdoor hazards are potential issues when left outside.

Before going any further, let’s define what is meant by “outside.” 

Yes, Golden Retrievers can be outside with you, and yes, they can be left alone for shorter periods. Your dog can accompany you on hikes or runs or swims or camping – it should.

Or it can be left outside in the backyard to go potty or play for a short time. That’s all good. 

Now that’s not to say that a Golden Retriever cannot live outside or be outside for lengthy periods under the proper conditions. However, there’s a difference between can it and what is best for it. They are not the same thing. 

Nor can this article cover every scenario. For example, a Golden Retriever on a farm may live in a warm shelter or barn with other dogs during the night. It spends its days running and playing with the other dogs and interacting with family members. Not at all a bad situation. 

The context of this article is focused on lengthy periods outside. For example, those considering leaving their dogs outside unattended for hours while at work or the dog living outside in a backyard permanently. 

Outdoors For Extended Periods Is Not Ideal 

Golden Retrievers are people dogs. In addition, the breed is affectionate and forms strong bonds with its owners. Separation anxiety is not uncommon with the breed because they like to be with their owners at all times.

The Golden’s affectionate temperament and friendly nature towards people and other pets make them popular family dogs. 

Couple that with a high level of energy, playfulness, and exceptional smarts, and you have a dog that needs a lot of activity, mental stimulation, and companionship. Needs that are not typically met by leaving the dog alone for hours outside.

Can they survive outside? Yes. But surviving is not the same as thriving. 

Throwing a dog outside for hours is not sufficient exercise for the dog nor provides proper mental stimulation. If the dog is left alone, lack of companionship is a significant concern. Safety is also a concern (more on this later), and tethering should never be an option and is known to cause behavioral issues. 

Of course, much of the same can be said for the indoors if left alone, with one significant distinction, safety. A dog left indoors is typically much safer than one left outdoors. This is because many more factors are easier controlled indoors (e.g., weather) versus a dog being outside unattended for hours.

Moreover, a dog inside tends to have more companionship than one that lives or spends most of its time outdoors. 

If you’re concerned about how well adapted a Golden Retriever is to being a house dog, then I wrote a detailed article on that very topic. You can find the article here: Golden Retrievers: Do They Make Good House Dogs?

A Golden Retriever left outside is also more prone to developing behavioral issues. Boredom, loneliness, and the lack of play and socialization are often at the core of undesirable or “bad” behaviors. 

As dog trainer Ian Stone says, “bad behavior is terminal in dogs.” 

Consider your living situation and whether you are ready for a Golden Retriever. Always choose a dog based on its fit to your lifestyle. Having a dog is a big responsibility.

If your lifestyle is not conducive to getting a dog, wait until you are prepared to give it the life it deserves. Or choose a dog better suited to your current situation. 

Never put your Golden Retriever in outdoor conditions where there is a risk to its health and safety. When the dog is outside always supervise your dog and look for signs of discomfort like panting, shivering, lethargy, or anxiety. 

Why Can’t I Leave My Golden Retriever Outside?

Again, letting your Golden Retriever outside to play for 30 minutes or go potty while you are at home is not an issue. But leaving your Golden Retriever out for extended periods has potential concerns – many of them are safety issues. 

Some potential issues include: 

It Might Be Against the Law

Yes, check with your state and municipal laws. Many well-meaning municipalities now have laws that forbid how long (or if) a dog can be tethered outside. Many also have legislated how long you can leave your dog outside alone. 

According to this article by the AKC, currently, 23 states regulate how long a dog can be tethered outside. In addition, many municipalities have laws dictating the amount of outdoor shelter your dog needs and size requirements. 

It Is Unsupervised

Unless your dog is confined in a safe space protected from the elements and hazards, monitoring a dog is critical. Why?

Because life happens, and dogs can get into things or be susceptible to dangers, as discussed in the following sections below. And it can happen quickly. 

Monitoring your dog is no different than supervising a child. It’s done to ensure that they are safe and protected and not getting into things they shouldn’t. 

For example, even when letting our Golden Retriever Bailey out to play or do his business, we monitor and check on him. We recently had our gate blown over by a strong wind, leaving a two-foot gap.

I noticed he was out of sight, so I checked on him and found him poking his head through the space. Had I not monitored Bailey, he might have gotten through that space and escaped.

There is Potential for Escape 

Even if your Golden Retriever is let outside for short periods, it’s a good idea to invest in a fence. A fence will go a long way to keep him safely confined and unable to escape. 

Fences also help protect your dog from wild animals wandering into your yard, which is a potential for attack. A dog tethered to a post is ill-equipped to defend itself or flee. 

Fences or other barriers can also be helpful to keep your dog out of places like your gardens or backyard pools. Yes, they can swim, but if their collars get snagged on something and can’t free themselves, they can drown. 

But even with a fence around the yard, it is possible your dog can escape, as discussed in the previous section. For example, a strong wind toppling a fence, a gate left ajar, or a bored dog digging under the fence or jumping it to chase a cat.

All have the potential for escape when a dog is left outside unattended for hours.  

Golden Retrievers need companionship, play, exercise, and mental stimulation. A dog with the IQ of a Golden Retriever will put those idle paws to work trying to occupy its mind.

Yes, idle paws are the devil’s workshop and a recipe for escape.

Not only can your dog escape and get lost, but it could get hit by a car or attacked by other animals such as stray dogs or coyotes. 

Having a Golden Retriever get lost or escape from your home is a frightening experience. So I wrote a detailed article on what to do in those instances to give you the best chance of getting your dog back quickly. Check it out here: A Lost Golden Retriever: Don’t Panic (Here’s What to Do).

There are Potential Outdoor Hazards

Many plants can be hazardous or even deadly to your dog. Even certain vegetables in a garden can be potential issues for a dog. In addition, fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals are poisonous to your Golden Retriever.

Hold up. I wrote an article on the best and worst vegetables for your Golden Retrievers. Spoiler alert: some vegetables can cause serious health issues if eaten. Check it out here: Golden Retrievers: Can They Eat Vegetables?

Ponds and pools are potential drowning hazards. 

Yes, indoors has its share of issues, but those are more easily managed and controlled. For example, consider putting your dog into a playpen or a small room. Those are much easier managed and dog-proofed than being outside in a large area unsupervised for hours on end. 

Neighbors

Golden Retrievers are not incessant barkers and typically bark for a reason. But the outdoors often has more barking reasons than indoors, such as other dogs barking, cats, squirrels, cars, or people passing by, are a few examples.

Add to the mix a dog that is bored from being alone for hours, and you might have a barker on your hands.

Now add neighbors to the mix who work shift work, work from home, or are stay-at-home dads or moms with toddlers, and you have a recipe for a noise complaint. If your dog is outside all night and barking occurs, it’s even worse. 

Or consider neighborhood kids who decide to tease your dog while you are gone. Now you have a dog that can develop behavioral problems or worse. 

It Can Cause Behavioral Problems

Incessant barking may be a behavioral problem that arises from a dog left outside. Lack of exercise, boredom, and loneliness might cause a poorly socialized dog that does not listen and is suspicious of people and other dogs.

If the dog is teased or yelled at, it could be aggressive. Additionally, a bored and lonely dog may chew fences, dig holes, bark non-stop, howl, and whine. Or it may become sad and depressed. 

Are you curious if a Golden Retriever can become aggressive or even dangerous (as in biting people)? Then consider taking a few minutes to read this article: Dangerous Dogs: Are Golden Retrievers One of Them?

Weather

Weather is a big one. 

A Golden Retriever can get overheated and suffer heatstroke when the temperature soars during the summer months. High temperatures become even more problematic if the humidity rises. 

Golden Retrievers only sweat through their paw and pant to regulate their heat. Unfortunately, keeping their body temperature regulated becomes problematic even in the shade when temperature and humidity soar.

Without shade to cool themselves, it can be deadly. Age and weight also affect a dog’s ability to tolerate heat. 

Want to know what temperatures are too hot? Then check out this article I wrote, Golden Retrievers In Hot Weather: Keeping Them Cool. In the article, I provide a chart for temperature ranges with corresponding risk factors on a scale from 1-10. I also discuss heatstroke and how to keep a Golden Retriever cool in the summer. 

Winter can be equally taxing. Windchill can affect cold temperatures much the same as humidity does hot temperatures. It amplifies the effect. Age, weight, and health status are also significant factors. 

Frostbite and hypothermia are the byproducts of being in cold temperatures for too long. Paws and the nose are especially at risk. Check out the dangers of cold weather in this article: Winter Safety for Golden Retrievers: What’s Too Cold?

Generally, your Golden Retriever should not be left outside in the winter. However, being left outside for extended periods is not the same as walking a dog for 30 minutes when it’s 0 F. When the walk is done, the dog is back indoors, safe and warm.

You’re not around to adapt quickly if the weather changes for the worst when left outside. And, the weather can change fast. For example, a wind picks up, or a cold front comes through, and your 15 F now feels like -15 F or colder. 

Risk is also a function of time. For example, a dog left outside at minus 15 Fahrenheit with no wind chill for 30 minutes will have no issues, but being left out for hours with a wind blowing might be deadly. 

But cold and heat are not the only weather issues—wind storms, hail, thunderstorms, tornadoes, etc. So not only is there potential for harm, but it can be distressing and frightening to a dog, especially one left outside in a full-on thunderstorm or inclement weather.

Remember that behavioral problem issue we discussed earlier. Add weather to the list as well. 

Not Enough Water

Consider this. You leave your Golden Retriever outside in the summer, and it’s hot out. You left the water dish full, but the dog knocked over the container while chasing a bird. The weather is hot, the water is empty, you are gone for hours, and no one monitors the dog – not a good situation for the dog.

Or it’s sweltering and humid that day, and your Golden drinks all its water to help regulate its heat. Unfortunately, there is no opportunity for the dish to be refilled, and dehydration is possible with no one around. 

They Get Lonely 

Golden Retrievers are people dogs. The breed is the quinquennial family dog for a reason. They form strong bonds, and Goldens typically treat everyone they know (and those they don’t) as their best friends. 

Their strong bond to family means they can suffer from separation anxiety. Just like a Golden Retriever should be checked on when indoors, the same would apply to outdoors. 

A lonely dog is an undersocialized dog and is more likely to develop behavioral issues. If opting to leave the dog outside, consider a puppy daycare where they can run out, have companionship, and be fed and supervised. 

If there is none in your area, or it is too costly, put your Golden indoors for the reasons discussed and have someone check on it. 

They’re Targets for Thieves 

It happens all the time. You are on Facebook or hear on the news about a dog being stolen. And why wouldn’t they? Consider that a purebred Golden Retriever that is not papered or registered can still cost upwards of $2000. 

With the pandemic and more and more people being at home, the price of Golden Retrievers has risen considerably.

For example, a guy I worked with was a dog breeder. Before the pandemic, he charged $900 for a purebred but unregistered Golden Retriever. One year into the pandemic, that price went up to $2300 due to demand. 

A dog left alone that is bored and lonely can be easily enticed by a stranger offering some companionship or a tasty treat. Especially the loving and stranger receptive Golden. And, how will you know?

A Golden Retriever that is unsupervised and left alone – day or night- is a perfect opportunity for a dog thief.  Dogs can fetch a lot of money and are often prime targets for thieves.

A Golden Retriever is a big responsibility and a significant investment. How big of investment? In my article Golden Retriever Cost Guide (Plus Money Saving Tip), I discuss the total cost of owning a Golden Retriever. 

Keep Your Golden Retriever Inside

Golden Retrievers are considered family dogs and like to spend time inside with their owners. As such, it’s best to keep them indoors.

Yes, Golden Retrievers are great outdoor companions for hiking, camping, swimming, and more. Yes, they have a double coat and can tolerate cold better than dogs with single coats.

But, while it is OK to take them outside to run around to play and exercise, you still need to be cautious about how long the dog is kept out. Supervision is always critical, especially when temperatures are very hot or cold.

The best rule of thumb is to allow your Golden Retriever to spend the evening and daytime inside when you are gone and monitor them when you’re home. It’s the ideal way to keep them safe and healthy.

Hold Up. Do you need a dog training program for your Golden Retriever? I bought and compared some of the most popular online dog training programs to determine the best ones. You can read my review and recommendations here: Online Dog Training Programs: These Are The Ones To Buy

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