Do you know there are around 200 million pet dogs around the world?
And did you know there are five times more dogs who are the masters of their own world?
Which one would you think represents how a dog is really like? The dogs that we breed to fit into a desired appearance, personality or trait? Or the dogs that roam free and survive in their own terms?
There is a very interesting book that tries to bring light upon the subject. It is called “What is a Dog?” and it was written by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger -two behavioral biologists who have been working with dogs for decades and studying their behavior. They state that the “village dogs” are the closest animals to the dogs that first emerged thousands of years ago and that they should be studied with detail if we want to understand the true nature of dogs.
Dogs have been the basis of their academic research and teaching. They have work with herding dogs, sheep-guarding dogs and sled dogs -which they also trained; doing research on the origin and evolution of dogs. They have traveled around the world to observe dogs in different environments with the goal of drawing attention to the world’s vast majority of dogs hidden in plain sight.
They claim these dogs –the stray dogs, village dogs, street dogs, free-breeding dogs– are highly adapted scavengers who have evolved in the vicinity of humans. In a very polemic statement that contradicts the common view of dogs being domesticated by humans, they say that dogs actually domesticated themselves in order to become such efficient scavengers of human refuse. And even if many scientists disagree with their point of view, they agree there is a real field of study in those “unleashed dogs”.
They may not depend on humans for their daily walks and exercise or for toys and winter clothing, but these dogs do depend on humans for their survival, even if it’s indirectly. Some live entirely on their own near the dumpsters, some live in the neighborhoods and get food from the people that live there, some spend only nights inside people’s houses; either way, they have learned to adapt to human communities.
READ MORE: KEEPING YOUR DOG SAFE THIS WINTER SEASON
They not always make it, especially the puppies which become independent after 10 weeks and have to survive on their own. In many countries this is a daily reality. Dogs are part of their communities and roam free without rescuing groups extracting them from their environment and placing them in lock up as pets. They die when they die and even though they do get help from people, they are basically on their own.
Now, this doesn’t mean the dog you have at home is not a real dog but these other dogs are definitely something to think about. We all understand dogs according to our context. If you come from United States, Canada or many European countries, you may not be used to dogs roaming around free in the streets without any owner. Otherwise we wouldn’t need to write articles for you on “What to do if you encounter an unleash dog”.
But if you come from a Latin American, Indian, Asian or African country, you may not find it strange to encounter unleash dogs every day; and even though you are careful when you walk your dog, you generally know the strays are just minding their own business. You may accept reality as it is without tons of campaigns to change it, but without being indifferent because many of these dogs are cared for.
So what is our role in all this and what are we supposed to understand? Humans have been breeding dogs for a really long time, at first to serve exclusively functional purposes (working dogs) but now it’s also been done out of aesthetics. It has gotten to the point where some dogs are developing such health problems that they cannot act like a “natural” dog would. We have created dogs that don’t move much to fit them into small apartments. And we may love our dogs but we may be missing the bigger picture.
There is a whole world out there of dogs, five times more than the ones that act as pets and they can teach us a lot about our own dogs and what limit we shouldn’t cross to give them the chance to be as dogs as they can be.