It wasn’t that long ago that most dogs lived outdoors. Only small Toy dogs were kept as companions and lived in the house, and hunting dogs, herding dogs, working dogs, and just about all other dogs could expect to live out their lives outdoors. Just fifty or so years ago it was still common for these larger dogs to live outside. Today many of these breeds often live at least part of their lives indoors. Deciding which dogs are “indoor” and which dogs are “outdoor” breeds can get a little fuzzy.
Historically speaking, there have been toy breeds and other small dogs such as the Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu, and some other commonly known breeds for a couple of thousand years. These dogs have always been kept as companions in the home. These breeds are usually too small and delicate to be able to live outdoors.
Herding dogs and livestock guarding dogs, for example, usually needed to live outdoors so they could be close to their flocks of sheep, goats, and other animals. Their work required them to live outside. They had thick coats that could withstand the weather. Dogs such as Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Border Collies, and others, have long, dense coats that can protect them from the weather. Livestock guarding dogs, such as the Komondor, have dense, corded coats so predators can’t reach their skin in case of attacks especially when the dogs are defending their flocks.
Many working dogs, such as the Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, and other sled dogs, had to be outdoor dogs because they pulled sleds in cold climates. They had the right coats to protect them from the cold. These dogs generally prefer to stay outside in cold weather and can be uncomfortable if you make them stay in a house that’s too warm. Dogs like the Saint Bernard and the Bernese Mountain Dog also have heavy coats to protect them in the Alps. The Newfoundland has a thick, water-resistant coat so he can swim in icy water. All of these dogs and many others can be quite comfortable staying outdoors when necessary.
Sporting dogs, by contrast, sometimes have long coats to protect them from brush and briars in the field but they don’t have the kind of thick, dense coats that dogs from harsh, cold climates have. They can stay outside, if necessary, but they weren’t bred for hard weather. Most sporting dogs originated in the British Isles or southern Europe where the climate is more temperate. Prized sporting dogs were often kept as indoor dogs in times past.
Historically, many of the hound breeds have often been kept as outdoor dogs. This is particularly true of the scent hounds which have been kept in packs such as the Beagle, the Harrier, and the Foxhounds (American and English). Other hound breeds are well-equipped to stay outdoors if necessary such as the Norwegian Elkhound with his dense Nordic coat. The Afghan Hound, a sighthound and one of the oldest of all breeds, carries a heavy, dense coat which can protect him from the cold in his native mountainous region. The Saluki, by contrast, is a desert breed. These sighthounds were highly esteemed by their bedouin masters and they were the only dogs allowed to sleep inside the tent.
Today many dog owners prefer to allow their dogs to spend at least part of their time inside the house. However, large dogs still need to have time outdoors, whether they have their own yard or you take them out for runs. Exercise is essential for herding dogs, working dogs, sporting dogs, and hounds. These are typically very active dogs and if they don’t get enough exercise they can develop behavioral problems. Allowing your large breed dog to spend time indoors is fine but mentally and physically your dog still needs to have its time outdoors. Even toy breeds need some sort of regular exercise, even if it’s only a walk. Exercise is an essential way to keep your dog healthy and happy.