Understanding stray dogs
Stray dogs are also not a recent phenomenon. The ancient Indian text The Vedas advises giving leftovers to scavengers, including stray dogs, as part of being a good householder.
While they lead tougher lives than those of house pets, strays have nonetheless adapted to us, “through the Industrial Revolution to highways, everything,” Bhadra says. (Learn how dogs know the meaning of a human smile.)
Such adaptability and resilience, as well as psychological sophistication, means free-roaming canines are not much different than any other dog, adds Hare—”and that they deserve our respect.”
In another sixteen percent of the observations, the dogs were simply walking, either in a group or individually. They spent less than six percent of their time in “maintenance” activities (“groom,” “scratch,” “defecate,” “drink,” “sniff garbage,” etc.) and only around ten percent interacting with other animals (other dogs, humans, cats, or, on two occasions, calves). Of thirty-two interactions with humans recorded, none were aggressive. Instead, they included things like tail-wagging and begging for food.
The observers recorded 1,941 dog sightings. They found that there were no significant differences between the activities of the dogs in different locations, of different ages, or different sexes.
Many people in India dislike street dogs, perceiving them as dangerous or annoying. They sometimes fight over food and may carry rabies, a serious health concern in India, where two in every 100,000 people are affected by the virus each year. But the researchers found little sign of aggression. In fact, the dogs spent most of their time relaxing. In fifty-three percent of the sightings, the dogs were inactive (coded as “sleep,” “laze,” or “sit”).
“Our analysis reveals that dogs are generally lazy and friendly animals,” the researchers conclude, “And their rare interactions with humans are typically submissive.”
Can Street Dogs Become Good Pets?
|Photo: Yanaskaya / Shutterstock.com
10 Important Guide About Rescuing A Stray Dog/Amazing Dogs
I’ve had several opportunities to observe unowned “street dogs” in different habitats, from Indian reservations to beaches to foreign countries. Years ago I went on a school-organized trip with my son’s middle-school class to Italy; watching the famed stray dogs who live in the ruins of Pompeii was the highlight of my trip!
Almost everywhere there is a persistently high population of street dogs, “reservation dogs,” or “sato dogs,” there are organizations devoted to helping them, ranging from capture/vaccination/spay/neuter programs to adoption programs. And this is great, because the threats to the lives of stray dogs are many:
On the other hand, I sometimes consider that some of these free-roaming dogs may be happier than some owned dogs who have regular health care, food, and warmth. There are a great many owned dogs who suffer from the helplessness of being locked up in a tiny cage or crate, dependent on a human’s schedule to eliminate when they need to, or for meeting other basic needs. Many dogs are subjected to lives of relative emotional and mental poverty, spending huge chunks of each day in social isolation and deprivation.
“Street dogs” can satisfy their curiosity about anything that catches their eyes or ears, investigating at will. They can exercise when they want, as much as they want. They usually develop relationships with other dogs, staying in a loose “family” group with other dogs they trust.
But it’s undeniable that their lives tend to be short, much shorter than owned dogs. There are just so many hazards.
In recent years, a great many groups have begun to import street dogs from other countries into the U.S., in hopes of finding adopters here. While this undoubtedly saves lives, I can’t tell you how many reports I’ve heard from trainers who have been called upon to help the families who have adopted former street dogs from Puerto Rico or Russia, or brought home by soft-hearted soldiers in the Middle East. Sometimes these dogs have a really rough time adapting to the typical lifestyle of an owned dog in America: being walked on leash everywhere, having no freedom to roam, perhaps being an only dog, and spending a lot of time alone.
There is no way to know what’s best for any individual. But I must say, when a stray adolescent dog on an Indian reservation recently approached me, all of the above went through my mind. If I had been closer to home or had any room in my car, I would have been seriously tempted to “rescue” him – but what if he already had a loving family, and was merely given the freedom to wander?