Stray Dogs, Community Dogs, Feral Dogs, Vs. House Dogs
As a resident and dog trainer in Los Angeles CA, my home sharply contrasts with most other parts of the world. On a recent trip studying canine behavior in South America, I couldn’t help but notice the stark differences between the dogs in Los Angeles and the United States vs. dogs in South America. Through this exploration, it became evident that stray dogs and community dogs do not necessarily mean without a “home.” By home, I don’t mean to insinuate they are indoor pets, as we see in the United States; conversely, they live outdoors, are supported, fed and cared for (to a certain degree) by one or many people. They may be referred to by locals as outdoor dogs, community dogs, homeless dogs, village dogs, stray dogs or feral dogs. Although unhealthy, disheveled and malnourished, community dogs seemed to behave in an organized way.
One striking observation is that community dogs within their modus operandi, seem to get along well in the absence of leashes, human supervision and are naturally free within the community. The equanimity and harmony that exists within groups of street dogs are very intriguing to study. The order and lack of chaos is staggering and they acted in a visceral manner. Street dog’s survival is more dependent upon Darwinism than in the United States. One of the most glaringly obvious observations is that there were no small “designer” specialty breed dogs, nor dogs that require human intervention to propagate. The small dog breeds that are so common here in the states (Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Chihuahua and all the varieties that exist) were nowhere to be found. For whatever reason, about 90% of the dogs observed were larger mutts. The social fabric and culture that make up the dog populations were certainly different than the states. There wasn’t a person in sight that toted around their designer dog in their handbag as an accessory or any people flourishing fancy pet products or dog toys or equipment that flood the market in their northern brethren. The zeitgeist is quite different in other countries where their reality is very different than ours. The dog’s health and care were acutely compromised but does that mean that these dogs are not well behaved, or don’t live in peace and harmony within their communities? It didn’t look like this was the case.
Are Stray Dogs Dangerous?
Many of the stray dogs in question were very friendly and there was palpability in observing how Canis lupus familiaris domesticated. Their cunning, charismatic personalities were a thrill to watch. It is not an axiom that social unrest, bites and zoonotic disease were a fait accompli. We got a firsthand look at this every step we took as we toured around several countries and witnessed homeostatic community dogs that weren’t the least bit recalcitrant. Community dogs would follow us up volcanoes when we were on treks or merely coming out from a restaurant. They were gregarious and wonderful dogs looking for food and attention as all gregarious social beings need to survive. As you can imagine, many of the dogs were intact. This is arguably perplexing because many intact dogs in the developed world or in the United States have aggression problems, urine marking issues, are targets for other dogs, exhibit more dog dominant and territorial behavior. But not in South America, and from what I hear not in Europe where dogs are more often than not, unaltered.
The homeostatic nature left me in awe and yearning to stay and study stray dogs more. It was an incredible and mystical trip that left more questions than answers but it was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.