Pit Bull Informational Pages
by Diane Jessup 


Kennels and Dog Houses
Collars and Leashes

Tethering is almost as misunderstood as the pit bull breed itself! Just as those who are not familiar with the breed make statements like "their jaws lock", so too people unfamiliar with proper tethering techniques will state that "tether is cruel" and "chaining a dog makes it mean" - both statements being demonstratively false.

For instance, it is often quoted that "the majority of fatal dog attacks are chained dogs". In reality, 75% of 431 fatal dog attacks studied by dog attack expert Karen Delise were caused by untethered dogs. Obviously, untethered dogs present a far greater threat to people than tethered dogs.

All the friendly, well adjusted tethered dogs in the world, like Erin Fay at left, prove that appropriate tethering does not "cause" a sound dog to become aggressive. In reality, this myth is easily traced to the fact that most aggressive dogs are tethered to protect people.

An appropriate tether is not heavy on the dog. This set up is strong enough to hold any dog, but is not heavy or cumbersome.


This bitch has a 20' chain, a two room, fully insulated dog house (with window!) some raw deer bones with meat, and a neighborhood to keep track of! Certainly more interesting (and far more humane) than sitting in a crate.


Cables can be as strong as chains if properly built. However, when security is the prime concern, a chain offers the more secure option.


Inappropriate tethering at its worst! A chain which is too short and a metal dog house - totally unacceptable. This kind of treatment should be prosecuted.


There is a new fad sweeping the animal welfare world - the idea that tethering dogs should be condemned out of hand and made illegal where possible. Concerns about tethering are based, no doubt, on real concerns for neglected dogs which are tethered 24/7 and given no human interaction or exercise. The anti-tethering fad, however, makes no distinction between appropriate tethering practices and practices which are not appropriate. As is so often the case, those with the least practical knowledge of animal care (humane workers and politicians) are the ones making these ordinances. Sadly, anti-dog forces, such as PETA, support anti-tethering laws as another step (along with breed specific legislation) in severing the ages old man/dog bond. They know that most serious working breeds such as racing huskies, hunting dogs and bulldogs are often tethered.

Appropriate tethering may be defined as that which offers the dog at least: a 20' circumference (resulting in over 1200 square feet of room) to move about without danger of entanglement; the tethering material is strong but as light as possible considering the size and strength of the dog; the animal is wearing a "flat" buckle collar, or flat collar with choke chain combo (no harness or choke chain alone); the tethering area offers the dog access to sun and shade (at all times); is paired with an appropriate dog house for the climate; offers a secure and clean source of water; the dog has access to dry ground; the area is fenced to keep stray dogs and people out. These steps require little monetary investment and are within reach of every owner.

Further, appropriate tethering must be paired with concern for the dog's mental well being. Dogs are highly social, and to keep a dog away from the family activity at all times is cruelty and rather begs the question - "why did you get a dog?" Tethering provides an owner with an appropriate option about where to house the pet while they are away from the home. "Crating" (keeping the dog in a shipping crate) can be appropriate only for very short periods of time - running to the store for example). Obviously using a shipping crate as "primary housing" is not appropriate for the hours that family members are away at school or work.

"Primary housing" can be an outside kennel, a tether or, for well trained, mature and iron--bladdered dogs, inside the house. Young, active dogs, and those unable to hold their urine or bowls for 9 to 12 hours at a time (try it yourself some day) will be much more comfortable being kenneled or tethered then kept in a shipping crate.

Tethering dogs during the work day and then spending time with them the rest of the time is certainly appropriate. Anti-tethering laws would take away this option. See article below on anti-tethering laws.

Examples of inappropriate tethering would be: dogs tied with heavy chain; dogs tied out on harnesses, choke or prong collars; dogs tied out without their water source being secured; dogs on tethers shorter than 12 feet in length; dogs tethered without access to shade (or sun in cold climates); dogs tied out without appropriate dog houses; dogs tied in areas where they can be teased by children or other dogs; dogs tied out without a protective perimeter fence around their area; dogs tied in muddy, wet or otherwise unsuitable ground.

If you use a snap, use a bull snaps attached to the chain with a quick-link. These links screw open and shut. Use "Loke-Tite" to glue it shut. If that is not done, the movement of the dog will cause the screw to open. Eight year old Yeller, SchH I, IPO I, APA Weight Pull I, Article Search I, who, sadly, spent the first seven years of his life in a shipping crate, says "Finally! Some one understands!" Even at eight years of age, he runs his chain for hours at a time; can you imagine how horrible it was as a young dog to be confined to a shipping crate day after day?


This is an airplane tie-down. In my opinion, the ONLY tie-down worth using. I will not risk my dog's safety on some petstore tie-down.


This is the swivel that will hook onto the airplane tie-down. It can be large and strong, as the dog will not be "carrying" this when moving.


An easier way (just as good) of securing the tether to the tie-down. Just use a large bull snap. IMPORTANT: After attaching the bull snap, the tie-down is screwed BELOW GROUND LEVEL to keep the dog from tangling on it. I duct tape the bull-snap clip for extra security.



Notice the solid fence in the background? NEVER EVER tether a dog without a secure fence around it to protect if from people and other animals. Here the airplane tie-down is about to be screwed into the ground.


This is NOT a tether yard! The tree, even the deck would present tangle opportunities. This is an example of an "outer" dog house that can provide shade while trees are growing. This large 4x4x8' structure houses a small, snug dog house inside. In hot climates, more open area would be appropriate. In the pacific NW, rain is the main concern.



Simple And Safe Tether Set-Up

Humanely tethering a dog is not rocket science... at the same time it does take some common sense, some vigilance and some empathy.

Dogs can die from being tethered in an inappropriate way. Dogs can also suffer if sufficient forethought and compassion is not used when setting up your tether. However, after 20+ years as an animal control officer, I can easily say that I have seen more suffering from dogs kept in inappropriate kennels or - worse - shipping crates as their primary housing. When unthinking people set a kennel up on the South side of their home, with little or no shade, it is not uncommon for dogs to die of heat stroke in a "legal" and "approved" kennel set up.

A tether set-up must provide a dog two things:

  • Absolute security
  • Protection from elements

It is up to you, as the dog's owner, to provide these two things:

  • Structure, training, love and purpose
  • Time spent off the tether being a family member.

Step 1: Figure out where you will set up your tether. There must be NO objects upon which the dog can tangle itself. That means no deck pillars, no roots, no satellite dishes, no kids toys, no picnic tables, no cars, NOTHING. In extreme cold or heat, a tangled dog is a dead dog. If necessary, spend the time to clear an area.

Step 2: Figure out where the center of your cleared area is, and measure out to the edge of the area. This will be the length of your tether.

Step 3: Go to the hardware store (and I mean a REAL hardware store, not HomeDepot) and purchase:

  • An aircraft tie down
  • chain which is appropriate to your dog's size
  • 2 bull snaps (and/or swivel as shown at left)
  • 2 quick links
  • strong 1" - 1.5" nylon collar
  • 2" diameter metal ring
  • small tube LokTite

Note: Make sure that your quick link fit through the diameter of your chain. Why not cable? I like cable, for pups or old dogs, but it is just not as secure as chain.

Step 4: Build your tether.

  1. Hook bull snap to quick link
  2. Hook same quick link to one end of chain
  3. Use Lok-Tite to secure quick link [IMPORTANT!]
  4. Take other end of chain and hook quick link to it
  5. Hook quick link to either swivel or other bull snap
  6. Set your tie-down into the ground, leaving 2" above ground
  7. Attach swivel or bull snap to tie-down
  8. Use Lok-Tite on quick link - let dry
  9. Finish screwing tie-down into the ground; must be BELOW ground level

It is an important part of responsible dog ownership to check your tether parts monthly. Also, it makes sense to replace wear parts before they break, eh? I replace all bull snaps and swivels every six months - needed or not. I check quick links often and when cleaning up a tether area, move the dirt or rocks and check where the tether hooks into the tie-down. These little steps keep dogs safe.

Again, I can't stress too much that no dog of any breed should be tethered without a protective fence around their area. Kids, stupid or criminal adults, other animals - all can torment or harm (or steal) your dog. A fence need not be expensive - you can put up a field fence around 300 feet for less than $100. If you can't afford that you can't afford a dog.

SHADE: A dog house is NOT sufficient shade. To be comfortable in a warm climate, the dog must have strong shade. A plywood house standing in the middle of a bare yard in 100 degree heat can result in a dead dog. That same dog house, under a tree, can be comfortable.

Several years back, I planted trees on my treeless property where I knew dogs would be housed. In a few short years these maples, oaks and especially London planes (sycamores) are magnificent shade trees. I suggest you plant maples, willows (they drop stuff all the time though) or some other fast growing trees on the south and west side of your dog's yard (Western hemisphere). In the mean time, you can build a shade area with solid walls that won't tangle the dog. To left is an example of my 4x4x8' outer dog houses I built while the trees were growing. They were painted with white, reflective paint. They have held up well for over eight years now. The dog's have a snug dog house inside, but during the day, they like to lounge in the larger, open, protected area. (It rains here a lot, so this offers them a larger, dry area to chew their bones, or whatever).

Here's the other thing about shade... it moves. This catches a lot of people by surprise. It not only changes all day, it changes year round. So an area (or kennel) which is shaded in the spring may have NO shade at 4 PM midsummer. Keep an eye on your shade, like I said, it isn't rocket science, but you can't be stupid, either.

GROUND: What is the best footing? Well, just plain dirt is fine, unless the area is wet. Sandy soil is wonderful, as it drains quickly. The nice thing about dirt is, if a dog gets hot, they can always dig into the dirt and cool off. Can't do that in a cement kennel.

Pea-gravel can be put down if an area is wet, but pea-gravel doesn't stay put, and it also will be pounded into the ground after a time. Larger gravel isn't comfortable for the dog.

I've tried everything. I've done chips, dirt, gravel, you name it. I prefer dirt, however, in my particular area, I have very, very fine silt, and those dogs which run their chain can inhale this fine powder. This can lead in extreme cases to a condition similar to "miner's lung". With dogs that run the tether during hot, dry times when dust is up, I either move the dogs around, keeping them on vegetated areas, or keep a sprinkler on the area. Again, each climate offers unique challenges.

Another neglected tethered dog? Yeller is tethered here at Boldog Kennel. He has earned schutzhund titles (tracking, obedience and protection work) weight pull and the "Evidence Search I" titles. A strong bond is up to the dog's owner - no matter how the dog is housed. Yeller much prefers being tethered to kenneled or crated.

Anti-Tethering Laws: Cruel or Humane?

By: Diane Jessup
This article may be reprinted in its entirety with credit to www.WorkingPitBull.com

One thing most experienced and reputable dog people agree upon is this: a dog is not safe left at large unattended, even in a fenced yard. No matter how secure the fence, when an owner is not home it is possible that a dog can dig out or climb over. A sudden storm can blow down a section or even one board, facilitating an escape. In some parts of the country earthquakes can damage a fence, as can sudden strong winds. “Freak” accidents are not really so “freak”; the author had a visitor’s brakes go out and they arrived with a bang—right through the front gate! Luckily I was home.

Another very serious threat to dogs—particularly pit bulls—is being killed by frightened police officers who enter the yard in pursuit of “bad guys”. Even friendly dogs are killed with alarming regularity by trespassing police.

When an unattended dog is not secured within a yard, it is much more likely to be lost or stolen if meter readers, delivery people or children open a gate. Animal control officers can tell you—opened gates are a leading cause of lost dogs.

When an owner is not home and the dog is either too young (not housebroken), too old (incontinent), or simply too active to be left alone in the house, the animal is best secured within a yard by being tethered or by being kenneled.

In order to be secure, a kennel has to be under wired or have some kind of solid bottom as well as a solid, tip-in or hotwired top. The space needs to be large enough to allow the animal to get away from its feces and to provide shade in hot weather. Such a kennel represents a substantial outlay of money. If a dog is going to be spending several hours a day in the kennel, the size should be no smaller than six feet by twelve feet.

Another satisfactory way of confining a dog while owners are not at home is to tether the dog. Tethering is less expensive then kenneling, but requires a bit of though in order to set up a safe, humane situation. Contrary to popular misconception, tethering can be the safest method of controlling a hard to contain animal.

All dog breeds contain those canine “Houdinis” that can escape from anything. They can chew through 9 gauge chain link, they can push up heavy kennel lids—they can break out windows and even open doors. They destroy wire and plastic shipping crates in seconds. These dogs can only be contained securely (and humanely) with a well thought out tether system.

Tethering Cruel?
It is a sad fact that well intentioned but inexperienced and/or misled people are behind most “humane” laws these days. The current trend toward “anti-tethering” laws is a classic example.

The most obvious example of this is the reasoning that tethering is “cruel” due to “lack of space”. “Tied up on a short chain” is a common cry of those who would have you believe tethering is de facto cruel. In reality, tethering (even on a short tether) allows a dog more room than the standard kennel and far more room than the space inside even a large shipping crate.

California has introduced an anti-tethering bill which will effectively deny dog owners the right to securely confine their dogs in their own yards. This ordinance exposes not only the dog, but the dog’s owner to risks. Prohibiting dog owners from securely tethering their dog in their own yard will result in increased escapes by dogs, as well as an increase in the cruel practice of making shipping crates a dog’s “primary enclosure” for hours each day while owners are at work.

If an owner cannot afford expensive kennel setups, and the dog is not trustworthy in the house (or they have multiple dogs which should never be left together unattended) and they cannot tether, owners have little choice but to make a shipping crate the dog’s primary enclosure.

California’s Proposed Ordinance

Bill SB 1578 Dogs: Tethering Prohibition was introduced by Senator Lowenthal and Assembly Member Koretz in February of 2006.

Wording from the bill states: This bill, with specified exceptions, would prohibit a person from tethering, fastening, chaining, tying, or restraining a dog to a dog house, tree, fence, or other stationary object. By making a violation of its provisions a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The body of the law reads, in part:

SECTION 1. Chapter 13.2 (commencing with Section 25975) is added to Division 20 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:

(a) For purposes of this chapter, the following terms shall have the following definitions "Reasonable period" means a period of time not to exceed three hours in a 24-hour period, or a time that is otherwise approved by animal control.

(b) No person shall tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog, or cause a dog to be tethered, fastened, chained, tied, or restrained, to a dog house, tree, fence, or any other stationary object.

(c) Notwithstanding subdivision (b), a person may do any of the following:

(1) Attach a dog to a running line, pulley, or trolley system approved by animal control. A dog shall not be tethered to the running line, pulley, or trolley system by means of a choke collar or pinch collar.

(d) A person who violates this chapter is guilty of an infraction or a misdemeanor, at the discretion of the prosecutor.

(1) An infraction under this chapter is punishable upon conviction by a fine of up to two hundred fifty dollars ($250) as to each dog with respect to which a violation occurs.

(2) A misdemeanor under this chapter is punishable upon conviction by a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) as to each dog with respect to which a violation occurs, and imprisonment in a county jail for not more than six months.

So, according to this bill, if you tethered your dog outside to let it enjoy the warm spring sunshine (with shade available, of course) for four hours (say, while you are flea bombing the house) you face conviction for animal cruelty as a misdemeanor, and up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail.

The California bill does not prohibit runners, which interesting, as runners are problematic at best. Runners can provide a satisfactory tethering situation, but because of their complexity, provide many more opportunities for breakage, snags and tangles.

The California bill is poorly written and far too inclusive. And it is not unique. Fifty four United States communities prohibit or restrict tethering dogs. However, there are a few jurisdictions which have addressed the cruelties of inappropriate tethering without negatively impacting responsible and humane owners. These laws are outstanding examples of cutting to the heart of the problem which is neglectful ownership practices, not tethering.

One example is Raytown, Missouri, which passed a 1997 law which offers wide protection to all kinds of animals and fowl:

Sec. 4-17. Cruelty to animals and fowl.
No persons shall tether, confine or restrain any animal in such a way as to permit said animal to become frequently entangled in such tether, or to render said animal incapable of consuming food or water provided for it or prevent said animal from moving to adequate shelter.

Those simple words provide all the power a humane officer needs to keep someone from tethering an animal inappropriately. The point is, after all, that no one wants to see a neglected dog tangled on a runner, with no access to shelter or water. Interestingly, Tucson, Arizona Code Sec. 4-3(2) describes appropriate tethering:

a tieout, consisting of a chain, leash, wire cable or similar restraint attached to a swivel or pulley. A tieout shall be so located as to keep the animal exclusively on the secured premises. Tieouts shall be so located that they cannot become entangled with other objects. Collars used to attach an animal to a tieout shall not be of a choke type. No tieout shall employ a restraint which is less than ten (10) feet in length.

Yet the Tucson law goes on to prohibit all tethering! The above description describes tethering that can only be used for 30 days after a person is “busted” for tethering—even appropriately. After 30 days, the dog must be kenneled, crated or allowed to run loose.

In Dekalb County, Georgia, whom ever wrote up their anti-tethering ordinance obviously has very little experience with securing dogs safely. The ordinance requires that a tether be a trolley system required to be:

The running cable line or trolley system must be at least ten (10) feet in length and mounted at least four (4) feet and no more than seven (7) feet above ground level; (9) Be attached to a properly fitted harness or collar not used for the display of a current rabies tag and other identification; and with enough room between the collar and the dog's throat through which two (2) fingers may fit. Choke collars and pinch collars are prohibited for the purpose of tethering an animal to a running cable line or trolley system;

Those familiar with trolley systems know that a four foot high line invites all kinds of tangles and problems, the most common being the dog getting the line under its elbows and causing rub wounds. As well, tying out a dog on a harness will result in a loose dog very quickly. Dogs can simply reach down and chew the harness on the chest area to get out; others can easily back out. A harness is the least secure way to keep a dog on a tether.

As well, to specify that “two fingers” can be slipped under the collar is senseless. Two fingers on edge, or two fingers lying flat? A tiny Asian woman’s fingers or a large, overweight man’s? For a government agency to insist they know how tight a specific dog’s collar must be to confine it securely is dangerously negligent. Who is liable if an aggressive dog slips a too loose collar and escapes to do harm? The owner who was not allowed to use a proper fitting collar—or the government which insisted on an archaic method of measurement?

Tethering laws such as the proposed California law showcase the government’s attempt to micromanage. It is, as well, to the observant follower of pet ownership trends, still another move away from the keeping of performance or working bred animals.

Currently we see the trend toward turning small dogs into purse accessories and large breeds into inane, bandana-wearing, dog-park visiting urban caricatures of “real” dogs. This modern “urban chic” trend desires Old Yeller to spend his days in a shipping crate (accessorized to fit the living room furnishings) in a high-rise or lying about on a couch in a Brownstone, waiting for his “guardians” to arrive home from work and the club. Country ramblings have been replaced by hurried morning and evening walks (in a coat, of course) sniffing exhaust and oil and the pee markings of other leashed canines.

Crating versus tethering
Humane societies generally state they are against “long term” crating, however they consistently give no practical advice on just where to keep a young, energetic and more-likely-than-not destructive dog. Those who live in apartments, condos and townhouses are encouraged to adopt a dog (especially by members of the “no-kill” movement who are desperate to move their wares) and are encouraged to “crate train” but given no further advice about what to do with a bored, under exercised, hyperactive companion animal. The results are predictable and backed by hard evidence; the average age of a dog being returned or dumped at a shelter is 7 to 11 months of age—and the majority of today’s “urban” dogs have shipping crates as “primary enclosures”.

What’s interesting about this almost unanimous support by “humane” personnel for shipping crates as “primary enclosures” is that using the average shipping crate (300, 400 or 500 size) as the average pit bull’s primary enclosure does not even meet the (very) minimal standards set forth for housing of dogs used in medical research facilities.

According to USDA Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Chapter 1, Subchapter A—Animal Welfare– Part 3, Standards, the amount of space needed for a “primary enclosure” for a canine is calculated thusly: measurement of animal nose to tail, plus 6 inches, X measurement of animal nose to tail, plus 6 inches = the required floor space in square inches. To determine the required floor space in square feet, divide the square inches by 144.

Using this equation, an average sized pit bull (considering they range from 35 pounds to 65 pounds according to the UKC standard) weighing 60 pounds will require 12 square feet of space in its primary living area. The typical “large” or “400” sized crate measures 32” long by 20” wide of usable, inside space. This equates to 4.4 square feet of space—one third the amount mandated for those poor souls in research laboratories. Even the larger “500” or “extra-large” crates fail to meet USDA requirements.

So it is difficult to understand why appropriate tethering deserves so much attention from “humane” organizations, but the practice of “crating” is ignored. In fact, if the California law passes, an owner can be jailed for giving their dog hundreds of square feet of space in an appropriate tethering situation, but can legally “crate” their dog for 23 hours a day.

The trend toward crating is disturbing on a variety of levels. Those who “crate” as primary housing—and their numbers are legion—have somehow fallen off the “humane” radar. When “collectors” are “busted” by law enforcement, audiences are horrified to see dogs forced to live in small cages. And yet how many breeders and rescue organizations keep animals under just these conditions?

The numbers of “reputable” breeders and rescues which use shipping crates as “primary housing” for their animals numbers in the thousands. “Crating” has gained acceptance due to its very ease—the dog is out of sight and out of mind. A dog living 23 hours a day in a crate attracts no unwanted attention by neighbors; produces no barking complaints.

Poorly written anti-tethering laws, like the proposed California law, take aim at the wrong problem. The act of tethering a dog is not cruel. What is cruel is getting a dog and treating it like a toy or a piece of sports equipment; an accessory that when not in use can be shut away and ignored be it on a tether or in a kennel or in a shipping crate. Neglect is the real problem here, and as such, should be addressed.


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