What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

Anxious DogWhen it comes to feeling the stress and anxiety of dogs that I pass by on the street, one of the biggest contributors might surprise you. It’s pretty common and, depending on your neighbourhood, you probably see it at least once a day. I’ll give you a hint. What do coffee shops, grocery stores and anywhere else you might want to pop in for 5 to 20 minutes have in common? Dogs tied up outside.

Most people who do this have their hearts in the right place. They might be trying to spend more time with their pooch while multi-tasking and, hey, outside is better than in, right? They might be thinking that it’s better than being at home alone, or that the benefit of the walk outweighs any temporary stress. And if their dog already struggles with anxiety, especially separation anxiety, even more reason to bring them along, right?

Oh, how I wish that were true. They’re all good thoughts, but the truth is that most dogs get really, really, anxious when tied up outside of stores…even for 2 minutes. It’s actually pretty hard for me to walk by them because the amount of stress I pick up can feel pretty overwhelming. To complicate matters, most people are completely unaware. They see their happy pup jumping excitedly upon their return and think, “See? No biggie.”

I’m convinced that if people could feel what their dogs feel while they’re waiting for them, they’d be shocked, horrified and wouldn’t do it again. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it really is that big a problem. Although not all dogs feel this way, I can only think of 2 that I’ve encountered over the last several years that were comfortable. And although not all of them make their stress obvious, most do: pinned back ears, stress panting, hunched bodies, worried eyes, furrowed brows, pacing, shivering, tight mouths (if not panting or yawning), hyper-vigilance, exaggerated yawning, licking their lips and nose, and barking. And then there are those that *look* relaxed, but are really coping by checking out mentally.

What I often pick up from dogs waiting for their people is that they feel afraid, unsafe, and incredibly vulnerable. In addition to all the noise, they know they can’t defend themselves or run away from danger if they need to. They’re not just emotionally vulnerable, but physically too. They’re at the mercy of reactive dogs passing by, not to mention people’s unwanted – and often inappropriate – attention (you’d be amazed at how many dog lovers have no idea how to approach a dog in a non-threatening way). Much worse, they’re at the mercy of whoever comes by with unkind intentions. Too many are hurt this way, and what’s even scarier is that you will have no idea that it happened. Sadly, ‘just 5 minutes’ in a busy area is more than enough time for someone to cause unnoticed harm.

Know what else they’re vulnerable to? Theft. Ever see those ads on Craigslist with dogs for sale? Some are stolen and the thieves are counting on you tethering your dog. All they need is a minute.

But let’s say that in a perfect world, no one ever physically harms your loved one (either intentionally or unintentionally). Would it then be okay to risk leaving them for a couple of minutes outside of your favourite coffee shop? No, and I’ll tell you why. All it takes is one too many well-meaning people to approach them the wrong way, or pet them a little too excitedly, or invade their personal space unintentionally (I can relate as I practically mauled every dog I ever met in childhood) to have a ripple effect that can negatively impact their sense of safety and happiness.

Here’s a common scenario: you have no idea what happened, but suddenly your once calm, well-behaved, four-legged girl is becoming progressively more reactive. Out of the blue, she starts growling at people, resource guarding or licking excessively. She’s suddenly shy when your friends come over and barks at dogs when she’s out for walks. You know she’s changed and you can’t figure out why. You’ve changed her diet, given her plenty of exercise, had her checked out at the vet, cooed sweet nothings in her ear, and nothing seems to be helping.

Of course, tethering is not always part of the problem (there are many things that could contribute to this scenario), but you’d be amazed at how often it’s a factor. Fear, stress and anxiety can change dogs the same way they can change us. When they don’t feel safe, they often ‘act out’ and adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms.

So what’s the alternative to tying them up on your daily coffee run?

There are lots of things you can do. Planning ahead is best, but life isn’t always that simple, I know. If you’ve been taking them with you because you don’t have time to take them for a long walk and get that delicious latte, try opting for a shorter walk and then leaving them at home while you’re out and about. If you want to go full gusto, skip the latte, take your pooch for a long walk and then treat yourself to something delicious when you get home.

Now your turn. What’s your alternative to tethering when life gets busy? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.


  1. What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

    Hi Kimberley ~ I really appreciate the way you articulated this. Such excellent information that I hope everyone on the planet gets to read and take to heart. It’s a scenario that has often given me pause… Personally, I have never and would never tether Otis outside and unattended – even for a microsecond. Just can’t do it – to him or to me! And when I see this happening, “vulnerable” is exactly the word that comes to mind. Out of respect for their personal space, I don’t usually approach unattended pets as a rule (although I secretly want to scoop them all up and ensure them everything is ok!). I send the tethered pup an energetic hug of support and hope their human returns quickly. I’ve even lurked a bit in protective mode on occasion :). Great insight, Kimberley! Thanks for the scoop!

    • Kimberley Book

      What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

      Thank you so much, Paula. Otis is a lucky guy. I too avoid approaching unless I’m 100% positive that the dog would like me to (this is rarely the case). Like you, I’ve also been known to hang out nearby to make sure they’re okay. So glad to know that there are more of us doing that (at a respectful distance, of course). Thank you so much for sharing, Paula! Please give Otis my best.

  2. What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

    I think the solution is to have more dog-friendly establishments. I say this because I travel all over for work and have been in both dog-friendly places, as well as places where no dogs are welcome. I was recently in Ashland OR, and my dog could come into any store with me, the only ban was in restaurants, but most places has outside tables so I could sit with her and not leave her alone while I ate. The only alternative to tying her up outside for brief periods of time is to leave her home alone – which feels worse, because then she is excluded from EVERYTHING. Some places just aren’t dog-friendly. And that’s a shame, because you can bet that if I can have a latte with my dog at my side you’d better believe I’d go back to that place over and over.

    • Kimberley Book

      What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

      I so agree, Ali. I wish more places were dog friendly. Lattes and pooches – what’s better? Here’s hoping that catches on. Thank you so much for your comment!

      • What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

        Lattes and Pooches sounds like a GREAT name for a cool new coffeehouse! Sign me up!

  3. What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

    I love this. Working in a hair salon I can’t tell you how many people come in for a “quick” blow dry and leave their dogs tied up outside and I hear the dog barking non stop. I’m the first to say, “bring him/her in”. We’re dog friendly. And sure enough, as soon as they do, the dog comes in, calms down and lies on the floor. I worked at another place where a lady use to bring in her beautiful black Lab and he’d lay on the floor by the Stylist and thump his tail on the floor every time someone walked by. So cute. Everyone loved it. If I owned a place, that’s what I’d put on my web site. Welcome to our house of hair, Furry friends, Children and Seniors welcome! LOLLL

    • Kimberley Book

      What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

      Heartbreaking to hear the barking, isn’t it? So grateful for people like you, Patricia! Love that your space allows them in.

  4. What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

    We don’t have a dog but some friends do & it always breaks my heart to see dogs tied up outside the shops especially in winter or rain. Some people just don’t think about it.

    • Kimberley Book

      What They Wish We Knew About Tethering – Mini-Series, Part 2

      Hi Hazel. Breaks my heart too.

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