There’s no getting around it: everyone loves an underdog. Disney’s made plenty of movies about street dogs (think Lady and the Tramp), and there are countless videos on Tik Tok about dogs who live alongside soldiers. Everyone, at one point or another, has had fantasies about having a dog follow them home from work or school.
Here is some good news: street dogs make good pets. However, just like with getting a dog from an award-winning breeder, getting a dog takes time and patience. What’s more, there are some nuances that come with welcoming these four-legged pals home. In the long run, however, owners’ diligence and love can pay off.
Street Dogs Make Great Pets–and There’s a Lot of Them
First thing first: what defines a street dog? Many sources, like the Street Dog Coalition, define them as free-ranging dogs that live in urban areas. While these dogs can exist anywhere, they primarily live in the developing world, like India and some parts of the Middle East.
Here are some fast facts about these homeless hounds:
- National Public Radio (NPR) reports that there could be 200 million street dogs worldwide.
- About 500,000 of those dogs live in Puerto Rico alone. They’re colloquially known as “Sato,” which is Spanish for “wise.” There are another 500,000 in Bali.
- While many street dogs are harmless, some uncontrolled populations have contributed to the spread of rabies in places like Asia and Africa.
There are many rescues that make it their mission to rehabilitate and rehome stray dogs. One of those organizations is SFT Animal Sanctuary, which hopes to address the street dog problem in Morocco. As of November 2021, there were an estimated three million.
The Many Benefits of Adopting a Street Dog
Purebred dogs are not any better than street dogs. In fact, rescuing one of these hounds comes with many positives. Consider the following:
These Canines Are Extremely Intelligent
On the streets, it really is a dog-eat-dog world. Only the smartest, strongest dogs survive. Take the stray dogs in Moscow, for instance. These dogs are so intelligent that they’ve memorized subway routes, allowing them to travel to different parts of the city in search of food. Some even befriend commuters on their routes, looking for snacks and maybe some pets.
With very little practice, these dogs can learn to:
- Open doors
- Retrieve certain items, like pill bottles
- Know the names of their toys
- Walk without a leash
- Do tricks
Street Dogs Are Very Loyal
The pack mentality in street dogs is strong. After all, they must stick together to survive. This makes them dedicated members of the family. Dog parents might find themselves constantly being followed from room to room. It might be time to get a bigger bed, too.
A Thousand Good Traits in One
Some dog breeds have inherently positive traits. For instance, Great Danes are renowned for being gentle giants. Border Collies are known for their intelligence. When dog breeds with positive traits have offspring, the puppies can get “the best of both worlds,” so to speak.
What’s more, street dogs generally benefit from a wider gene pool, making them more resistant to certain ailments as they age.
Challenges That May Come with Raising an Undomesticated Dog
Many people think that purchasing an expensive dog from a breeder guarantees an easy upbringing. That’s not true. Every dog, whether they were born at home or in the street, requires love, patience, and understanding. Yet, some street dogs need special attention. For instance, a street dog that was hit by a car may require physical therapy and ongoing veterinary care.
Housebreaking Can Take a Few Weeks
The American Kennel Club (AKC) notes that housebreaking a new dog can take a few weeks. However, housebreaking a street dog may pose unique challenges because:
- They’re used to relieving themselves outdoors.
- They may want to mark their territory.
- They might not be used to “holding it” for extended periods.
- They’re not used to eating on a schedule.
Here’s a pro tip: setting regular schedules, frequent walks, and patience are key to housebreaking any dog. One shouldn’t rely on punishments when housebreaking a dog. As the saying goes, when it comes to housebreaking a dog: “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.”
Street Dogs May Have Pre-Existing Health Conditions, Like Worms
Some street dogs go their entire lives without visiting a veterinarian. That’s why, on average, they only live about five years. They need regular vaccinations to fight against ailments like:
If one wants to take a street dog home, one should take it to the vet first. A professional can diagnose any underlying conditions and render preventative care.
Street Dogs May Have Issues with Anxiety and Aggression
From a very early age, dogs learn to socialize with others. This generally happens in a safe environment where a dog has reliable access to food and water. When that doesn’t happen, a dog may develop aggression toward others––usually based out of food insecurity.
This shouldn’t dissuade someone from adopting a street dog, however. It just means they might have to go the extra mile when training them. They may consider hiring a professional trainer to iron out any difficulties. They may also consider slowly introducing the dog to new friends rather than rushing them into anything.
Resources for Adopting a Street Dog
Interested in adopting a street dog? There are many rescues out there that have dedicated themselves to the practice. For example, the Big Dog Ranch Rescue has undertaken a mission to rehome dogs found at the Texas-Mexico border. The Sato Project also works with rescues to rescue street dogs in Puerto Rico.
In short, street dogs make great pets. And like with any other pet, they need love and patience.