Labrador laying outside looking sad with title, Are Labs Inside or Outside Dogs

Are Labradors Inside or Outside Dogs?

It’s time to head for work, do you put your Labrador outside or find a place to leave him in the house?  I remember when I was young a lot of people left their dogs outside practically all of the time but that seems to have changed as we have become more aware of how that affects our dogs.


Labradors should be primarily inside dogs. Labs are social animals that thrive when around people, and should not be left alone outside for long periods of time.


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What happens if you can’t keep your Labrador inside all of the time?  Can he be left outside for relatively long periods during the day? In this article we will tackle several questions:


  • Why should the Labrador be an inside dog?
  • Can a Labrador ever be an outside dog?
  • What are the cons for keeping a Labrador outside?
  • What are the options for leaving a Labrador inside?


Why Should a Labrador Be an Inside Dog?

Labradors are extremely social animals.  They need a lot of social interaction. What your Lab wants the most is to be around you. We touch on this in our article, Can a Black Lab Live in an Apartment.  If you own a lab then you know he will follow his family members around the house, and when everyone is settled he will find someone and stake out a spot near them to lay down.  Your dog is most at rest when he knows his family is nearby and safe.


Labradors also need a lot of interaction because they are intelligent and need someone to interact with them.  Your Lab can get quite bored if there is no one around, which can lead to destructive behavior.


Also, keep in mind, dogs are pack animals.  They are used to living with other dogs. Labs thrive on interaction both socially and mentally.


Can a Labrador Ever Be an Outside Dog?

What can you do if you work all day and don’t have a good place to keep your Lab other than outdoors? Can he then be an outside dog? Labradors can be outside dogs if you take certain precautions.


Firstly, you will need a good outside space for him.  Most importantly, he will need to be confined to a fenced area so he can’t get loose. Make sure the fence is at least 5 feet high so that he can’t get over it. The base of the fence should also be buried about 1 foot into the ground so that he can’t dig under it.


You will also need a kennel that is the right size for your dog.  The kennel should be spacious enough for him to move around in and be able to completely stand up in without stooping. But it should not be so big that he doesn’t feel secure inside it. You will also need to ensure that the kennel is kept in a place that remains clean and dry in all types of weather.


Your Lab will need plenty of available fresh water and regular access to food. Since the food and water bowls will be outside you will need to clean them often.


If you are planning on leaving your Labrador outside for long periods of time it would be a good idea to have a companion for him.  As already stated, Labradors are very social and he will do better if he has another dog to interact with.


You also need to make sure that you make time to play and interact with your Labrador every day.  He needs regular exercise and lots of physical and mental stimulation. This needs to be more than just a few minutes every day. He will also need to be groomed more frequently as he will get dirtier than he would if he was kept inside.


Labradors are resilient and do well with different temperatures. However, you still need to take precautions for cold and hot weather.


When it is hot outside make sure that your dog has a shaded area to retreat to.  Again, provide plenty of water. It is a good idea to dig a hole for his water dish so that he won’t be able to tip it over.  Fill the bowl with ice and water, that way the ice will keep the water cold as it melts throughout the day. Make sure he has a comfortable area to lay other than the concrete as it can get quite hot if exposed to direct sun.


When it is cold outside, make sure he has an insulated dog house with a waterproof roof.  In these conditions, it is also a good idea to have a heated bed or pad that he can lay on.  If it gets really cold where you live then you should consider purchasing a dog house heater.


You should only leave him outside if you have nowhere else to leave him and I would highly recommend that you don’t leave him out all night.  He will dislike being away from his family and is likely to howl and bark.


What Are the Cons of Keeping a Labrador Outside?

There are several reasons why it isn’t a good idea to make your Labrador an outside dog.  First, there are lots of dangers out there for him outside. There can be poisonous plants, chemicals, snakes, coyotes and other wildlife. Also, if he barks or howls then you will probably have neighbors who will be rather upset.


Labradors are smart and very crafty.  If he wants to be around people he will try to find a way out.  Make sure that you don’t have anything near the fence that he can get up on to help him scale it.  You also need to make sure there are no loose boards he can get through or areas where he can dig under.  As I have stated, Labradors are extremely social and will do whatever they can to be around people.


If he gets bored, your Lab can become destructive.  He may chew up things in the yard or dig up plants. He can become distressed and even get aggressive.


Some Labs develop skin problems and rashes from being outside too much. They also have more of a chance of having flea and tick issues or picking up a parasite. I discuss the issue of treating your dog for parasites in-depth in my article, How Do Dogs Get Worms.


The biggest danger to your Labrador when he is outside is the weather. Even though Labs can do well in several types of weather, extreme temperatures can still cause them harm.  In hot weather, you need to watch for signs of heat stroke. If you Lab is panting excessively, drooling, or his gums have turned a deep red, then you need to get him inside and cooled down.  When it is cold outside you need to watch for signs of hypothermia. If your Lab is shivering, lethargic, or seems to lack coordination, get him inside and warmed up right away. Both heat stroke and hypothermia can lead to a coma or even death if your dog isn’t cared for immediately.


What Are Options for Leaving Labradors Inside?

If you have to be gone for long periods every day (and let’s face it, most of us have to work, right?), there are other options for where to keep your Labrador.


One option is crating your dog while you are out.  Some people don’t agree with this method but if you aren’t opposed to it, then a crate can be a great solution.  As with a kennel, you will need a crate that is large enough for your Lab to stand up and turn around in but not much bigger than that.  Your Lab actually prefers cozy, safe spots. These make him feel secure. It’s best to train him for the crate slowly, over time. Start by introducing him to the crate for short periods at first. Then gradually increase the amount of time he’s confined.  Make sure there is a bed or pad for him to lay on to keep him comfortable. It’s also a good idea to give him a treat when he goes in so he associates the crate with reward rather than punishment. A Labrador can handle being crated for several hours at a time but never leave him longer than 8 hours.  If he is crated often during the day then you shouldn’t crate him at night as well. He really prefers sleeping near his family anyway.


If you don’t like the idea of a crate, then maybe you have a small room you can dog proof for him.  You don’t want to lock him in too big of a room as he won’t feel secure. A small bathroom or laundry room would work well.  Make sure he has a comfortable spot to rest and that he won’t be able to reach anything that he could damage or that could harm him (such as chemical products, cosmetics, etc).  You should train him to this space slowly, over time as well. Start out leaving him in the room for short periods of time and then gradually make increase the duration of his stay.  One thing to be aware of is that he may try to claw his way through the door. My husband and I once babysat a friend’s Labrador that tore almost completely through a bedroom door when he was left home alone.


Final Thoughts

Labradors are sweet, loving, social animals who prefer being with their families more than anything else.  We all have to leave the house sometime and need some viable options for where we can leave our dog. Inside is always best for a Labrador.  If you have to leave him outside, please do it correctly and safely. Don’t let outside become your go-to place for your Labrador. He may become lonely, bored, and possibly aggressive.  If you can’t spend the necessary time to interact with and exercise your Labrador, he’s probably not the best breed for your lifestyle.


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