Standards of care for dogs kept outdoors
Learn how to meet the updated standards of care under the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, to ensure the safety and well-being of dogs kept outdoors.
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A dog that is kept outdoors is defined as being outdoors for 60 or more continuous minutes without its owner or custodian being physically present.
The Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, 2019 (PAWS Act) requires that owners of dogs that are kept outdoors or tethered outdoors provide a certain standard of care, including:
- shelter and access to shade
- access to food and water
- health and grooming
- appropriate use of tethers and housing pens
Updated standards came into effect on July 1, 2022. These standards replace the previous standards under the PAWS Act that applied to dogs that live outdoors.
This webpage is not legal advice. The standards outlined on this page provide a summary of the requirements to ensure the health and well-being of dogs kept outdoors. Read the full regulation for all requirements.
We developed a detailed guidance document to help you meet the updated standards of care for dogs kept outdoors.
Shade and shelter
You must provide a dog kept outdoors with:
- enough protection from the elements to prevent heat or cold-related distress
- access to shade, as required by the weather, to protect from direct sunlight
You must ensure a dog kept outdoors always has a dog shelter available that:
- is waterproof and provides protection from the elements
- is structurally sound and does not cause injury
- has an insulated roof and a level, elevated dry floor
- is ventilated
- has a doorway free from obstructions
- has bedding at least three inches thick, changed as needed to stay clean, dry, comfortable and unsoiled
- is a size that allows all dogs that use the shelter to turn around, lie down with their legs extended and stand with their heads held at normal height
You do not need to provide a dog shelter to livestock guardian dogs, and dogs with access to a structurally sound building that is, at the same time, housing livestock, such as a barn.
Food and water
You must provide a dog kept outdoors with food that:
- meets daily caloric requirements
- is fit for consumption
- is not spoiled
- does not contain dirt, feces, urine or toxic substances
You must ensure a dog kept outdoors has water available at all times that:
- is not frozen
- does not contain dirt, feces, urine or toxic substances
- is replaced at least once every 24 hours
You must provide a dog kept outdoors with food and water containers that are accessible and built to avoid injury.
Health and grooming
You must check a dog kept outdoors daily to assess its health and welfare. If a dog is at risk of, or suffering from, a contagious disease, you must isolate it from other healthy dogs (refer to s. 4.1(10) to (12) of the regulation for exceptions).
Your dog must not be kept outdoors if it has an injury or illness that affects its ability to regulate temperature or restricts mobility (refer to the regulation for exceptions).
You must groom the dog as needed, including cutting nails, to avoid matting of fur, or accumulation of ice or mud on its coat or under its paws.
Tethers and housing pens
A tether is a rope, chain or similar device used to restrain a dog. You attach one end of the tether to the dog, and the other end to a fixed object. This does not include a leash or similar device that you hold.
If you use a tether to contain your dog kept outdoors, you must use tethers that:
- allow a minimum of three metres of horizontal movement
- allow the dog to move safely
- are a size, type and weight that won’t cause discomfort or injury to the dog
- have a swivel that can turn 360° at both ends
- are in good condition and well-attached to prevent escape
A tether must not cause undue risk of distress because of the age, health or reproductive status of the dog. You must not tether dogs kept outdoors that are:
- under six months old
- in heat
Any dog that is tethered outdoors for 23 hours in a 24-hour period, whether the 23 hours are consecutive or not, must be taken off the tether for at least 60 continuous minutes to allow for exercise and enrichment such as play or opportunities to socialize with other pets and people (refer to the regulation for exceptions).
Collars and harnesses
Collars and harnesses that you use with a tether on a dog kept outdoors must be a size, type, design and fit that won’t injure the dog or cause discomfort. When tethering a dog kept outdoors, you must not use these collars:
- head halter
A housing pen is an area that contains a dog that does not provide enough space for it to run at its top speed, such as:
- an enclosed yard
- a caged area
- a kennel
- other outdoor enclosed area
You must ensure that housing pens for dogs kept outdoors:
- are constructed to prevent escape
- provide reasonable protection from predators
- are a minimum size that is scaled based on the height of the dog
- do not cause the dog undue risk of distress
Housing pen size chart
Use this chart to determine the required minimum size of a housing pen for a dog kept outdoors:
|Height of the dog — measured at its shoulder (cm)||Housing pen area (m2)|
|70 cm or greater||15 m2|
|Greater than or equal to 40 cm and less than 70 cm||10 m2|
|Greater than or equal to 20 cm and less than 40 cm||6 m2|
|Less than 20 cm||4 m2|
Multiple dogs or aggressive dogs
If you have more than one dog kept outdoors in a housing pen, the pen must provide the minimum space required for the tallest dog in the pen (based on the chart above), plus 1.5 additional square metres of space for every additional dog kept in the pen.
Do not house aggressive dogs kept outdoors together. Do not house dogs kept outdoors that are in heat, or coming into heat, with male dogs (refer to the regulation for exceptions).
Space and maintenance of housing pen or tether area
The housing pen or tether area must provide enough space so dogs kept outdoors can:
- behave naturally
- eat and drink in a distinct area from where the dog defecates and urinates
- stand, sit or lie in spaces that are free of feces, urine, mud or water
You must ensure the area is cleaned as needed to:
- prevent accumulation of waste
- keep the space sanitary
- minimize parasites