The Street Dogs of India
Have you ever wondered how dogs lived 15 thousands years ago? Well if you have ever traveled to India, you would have a really good idea. I have manufactured most of the Dog Gone Smart pet products here for the last 7 years and have had the amazing opportunity to study the “street dogs” of India. I travel to India about 3-4 times a year and on every trip I grab my camera and set off to observe and record how these dogs interact with each other and within the society. It gives me tremendous insight to how dogs have naturally lived for thousands of years.
People here refer to these dogs as “street dogs”, but not all of them are living in the cities and on the streets. They tend to congregate where people are living and working. You will see them everywhere as you travel through India. Most look like they could be their own breed. They come in a variety of colors with the most common colorations being a light brown or black with some having white mixed in. They have a short to medium length coat and weigh about 40-60 lbs. Their ears stand up and are mostly a prick ear. They have an elongated snout like a shepherd. The tails are of medium length and many have a curl to them. Many of these canines can be seen almost as leery and are usually within an arms distance of humans, rarely seeking out real human physical contact. Many people see them as pests and tend to not want to touch them because they have a reputation of carrying rabies (However I have never seen a rabid one). There have been cases where they have attacked people and even eaten small children, though this is rare. They are almost regarded as we might treat a squirrel or feral cat in Central Park (they are around us, but they don’t generally want to be touched.) There is a difference though—they are dogs and mostly depend on man’s companionship and his “left overs”. They generally don’t hunt wild prey as their ancestral wolves do. They eat out of dumpsters and garbage left on the street. They will congregate around humans during mealtime waiting for a left over scrap. It is common for them to sleep under the street venders’ carts or under a parked bus. I have often seen them sleeping in holes they have dug for themselves in the dirt or sand on the beach. No dog beds here!
Many live in social groups (or families as many canine behaviorists now call them). In these groups I have seen a definite hierarchy and order. There are usually a couple of dogs that you can see as the decision makers for the rest of the group. Today I had a great opportunity to see a group dogs following the lead dog over a stonewall. As I approached the group, she came close to me trying to check out this strange man with a camera. She stood her ground at about a 20-foot distance, while many of the others retreated and barked at me. Then, as if to say “enough of this man”, she ran across the street and jumped over a stonewall and into a field with the rest of the group following.
Even though they are living outside, they do find their territories. They might claim a certain area of a farm, a village, store, restaurant or even become a permanent fixture (almost a mascot) at a factory.
Villagers that I have talked to often say they alarm them of a stranger about. Often the villagers might come across some young puppies and they will pick one and raise it as their pet. People will claim these dogs by putting a collar on them to differentiate them from the rest of the street dogs.
As we see in the USA and in other parts of the world, rescue organizations are now being set up in many cities in India trying to take these dogs off the streets and give them homes. However I would ask, rescue from what? These dogs are generally not under fed and are not locked up in back yards and cages waiting for their humans to come home. They have what looks to me as a pretty terrific life. They play with other canine friends, sleep as they please, get lots of exercise and are truly free—living a “dogs life” in nature’s playground. What’s wrong with that?