Dog talk with Uncle Matty: The benefits of home alone

By From page A16 | January 17, 2013


Recently, while I was out training a client’s dog, I became involved in an incident with another dog. It was as preventable as the deaths by car I covered in my last column. I don’t say that to place blame. I say it to inform, to hopefully prevent it from happening again.

While I was working with my client’s dog, I saw a woman get out of her car with her puppy, who was on a slip leash. Not two minutes later, that same woman was running down the street screaming bloody murder.

She had fastened her pup’s leash to a chair outside of a juice bar. She stepped inside to get a juice. Moments later, a motorcycle drove by. The sound of the loud motor scared the dog, who flipped the chair, slipped out of the leash and was gone in seconds.


I helped the woman look for her dog, a 4-month-old puppy, but we had no luck. I’ve since talked to her by phone, and the pup still has not turned up. In addition to her own despair, she had to explain what happened to her three young children.

It’s not like this woman is the first person to tie her dog up for a minute while they run inside for something — a coffee, a gallon of milk, to mail a letter or even for a quick lunch. People do this all the time. But its being common practice doesn’t make it smart.

Any number of things can happen when you leave your dog unattended on a public street. For one, he can vanish. That’s right — dognappings. Most passersby aren’t paying attention to who tied which dog to which post. It’s so easy for someone to simply untie a dog and walk away, in hopes that the neighborhood will soon be plastered with “Lost Dog — Reward” signs.

Need more reasons? Being tied up and left in a strange place is taxing to the nervous system of many dogs. Tethered dogs are more likely to bite strangers, especially children who don’t know how to approach dogs. Tethered dogs are more vulnerable to the whims of other canines in passing. But if your dog somehow gets loose, his biggest problem is nearby traffic.

Leaving him in the car is not necessarily the answer, either. If you leave your dog in the car with the windows all the way down, he could just as easily be gone when you get back. Someone could snatch him, or he could jump out. I know of a tragic accident in which a dog was left in the car with his leash attached and the window down. He hung himself.

So what to do?

The thing is, it isn’t always necessary to bring your dog with you when you leave the house. In fact, sometimes it’s much better to leave him at home. Next time you want to bring your dog with you to run a few errands, ask yourself if he might be better off right where he is.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is the co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and the host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at, and visit him at Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at PO Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.

Matthew Margolis

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