Where dogs need to be confined outdoors, the best way to do this is in a suitable yard or enclosure. Where these options are not available, some people choose to tether their dogs. This practice is particularly common for working farm and sled dogs. Not to be confused with short-term tying up, tethering involves tying an animal to an anchor point for a prolonged period as a means of confinement. Due to the risks of tethering, it should be avoided as a means of long-term confinement.
Animal welfare risks
Tethering does not provide an environment that meets dogs’ mental and physical needs. Tethered animals are at risk of overly restricted movement, frustration, stress, distress, severe behavioural issues, painful injuries, choking, entanglement, exposure to the elements and potential predation, and inhibition of the animal’s ability to avoid threats, express natural behaviours, and experience positive welfare.
Key considerations if a decision is made to tether a dog
Note that in some jurisdictions there is specific legislation relating to the tethering of dogs (which must be complied with), including, for example, exercise requirements and whether it is prohibited to tether specific groups of animals (some animals are more vulnerable such as young or pregnant animals).
Table 1: Australian legislation specifically relating to tethering dogs and exercise requirements*
|State/territory||Is there legislation specifically relating to tethering?||Name of relevant act/special conditions and requirements|
|ACT||Yes||The Animal Welfare (Welfare of Dogs in the ACT) Code of Practice 2010 specifies that tethering should only be a last resort, and outlines requirements including the type of tether, exercise, and conditions for puppies.
The Animal Welfare Act 1992 outlines offences in relation to animal confinement including tethering.
|NSW||Yes||The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 makes it an offence for a person to tether an animal for an unreasonable length of time, or by means of an unreasonably heavy or unreasonably short tether. The Tethering Animals Policy 2017 outlines further details.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 also requires that a confined animal must be provided with adequate exercise.
|NT||Yes||The Animal Protection Act 2018 outlines offences in relation to animal confinement including tethering.|
|QLD||Yes||The Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 outlines offences in relation to animal confinement including tethering.|
|SA||Yes||The Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 (SA) describes what is considered to be effectively securing a dog (including by tethering).
The Standards and Guidelines for Breeding and Trading Companion Animals 2017 specifies that tethers must not cause distress, injury or discomfort.
|TAS||Yes||Animal Welfare (Dogs) Regulations 2016 outline tethering requirements including duration, exercise, and dog age and reproductive status.|
|VIC||Yes||Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019 outline tethering requirements including access to water, exercise, method of tethering, monitoring, shelter, duration.
The Code of Practice for the Tethering of Animals and Code of Practice for the Private Keeping of Dogs outline advice for tethering including site selection, method of tethering, exercise, and dog age and reproductive status.
|WA||Yes||The Standards and Guidelines for the Health and Welfare of Dogs outline tethering requirements including duration, exercise, site selection, and dog age and reproductive status.|
*Information current as of 19 December 2022.
All tethered dogs must be provided with a comfortable resting area, adequate food, water and shelter (protection from heat, cold, sun, wind, rain etc), and opportunities for mental stimulation (such as safe food or puzzle toys).
When dogs are tethered for longer periods (more than a few hours), they must be provided with regular and adequate exercise off the tether.
Tethering of dogs may increase the public safety risks of dog bites and attacks. Long term tethering with no exercise has been shown to increase frustration and aggressive behaviour towards people and other dogs (White et al., 2006).
To minimise the animal welfare risks of tethering, the length of time a dog is tethered should always be minimised.
A dog must be trained to accept tethering before being left alone on a tether.
Tethering of dogs must comply with any relevant state/territory and local laws, regulations, standards, and codes of practice.
Tethered animals require adequate supervision. They must be inspected regularly and even more frequently in extreme weather.
If dogs are to be tethered, swivel tethers on fixed runners reduce the risk of entanglement and injury. Metal tethers (of the appropriate weight) provide greater security compared to rope and other materials which may fray, break or tangle.
A tethering site should be reasonably flat, dry, sheltered, and be clear of hazards, obstacles and obstructions. Dogs can choke if the tether becomes tangled or be hung if they jump over or off obstacles while tethered.
Dogs have died when left tethered during natural disasters, and on hot days without adequate shade and water. Climate change will increase the risk of tethering as extreme weather becomes more widespread and frequent.
White, J., McBride, E., & Redhead, E. (2006). Comparison of tethering and group-pen housing for sled dogs. Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) Conference, London, UK.