Oct 29, 2009

The Ecology of Stray Dogs

by Alan Beck

This brief little scientific book gives the results of a study done on free-roaming dogs in Baltimore. The author simply followed dogs about the city, observing their behavior and interactions with people. The study distinguishes between pet dogs that have simply got loose for a period and stray dogs that have no owners. It looks at how stray dogs have adapted to living in the city environment, and provides all kinds of general information such as how far they roam, where and how they find food, how densely they are distributed, their daily activities, what threats they pose to people- in the form of causing injury or spreading disease, how they can become a nuisance (noise and dog poo) what threats the dogs face from humans (animal control) and recommendations on what to do about controlling their numbers.

Aside from The Hidden Life of Dogs I've never read a book quite like this. The Ecology of Stray Dogs is far more focused and scientific, and draws some interesting conclusions- for example, it shows how stray dogs can blend in and avoid notice by behaving like pet dogs, even when they're actually very wary of humans. It demonstrates that despite the fear of dog bites, stray dogs actually pose little to no threat to people (most bites are from pet dogs). It sounds dry and boring but I was fascinated. There are so many books out there about studies of wild canines, or the antics of people's pets, or even fictional accounts of stray dogs' lives- I've read half a dozen- but this is the only scientific study on stray dogs I've ever come across. This little book is well worth the read, if you're interested in that kind of thing.

I read this book on interlibrary loan in San Francisco several years ago. I think I'd like to read it again, having since lived in Baltimore, it would now be easy to picture the places described. But it's hard to find.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 98 pages, 1973

7 comments:

Jenny said...

Neat! The thing I loved best about Paul Gallico's The Abandoned was the depiction of how stray cats lived and got food on the streets - I wonder if my library has this...

bermudaonion said...

I never knew most bites are from pet dogs! I bet this book is fascinating.

Eva said...

I lived in Russia, where there are packs of feral dogs (v. scary and saddening all at once), so this sounds fascinating.

Um, I don't think I've stopped by your blog in awhile (vs. reading it in Google Reader), but I LOVE your header!

Serena said...

That's an interesting book..thanks for the review.

Jeane said...

Jenny- I've so been meaning to read that Gallico book. Another hard-to-find one!

Bermudaonion- yes, it is. Actual strays usually don't let people get close enough to suffer a bite- they simply run. Whereas pet dogs can easily feel they're backed into a corner, or are tied up, or not as afraid of people, and thus people get bitten.

Eva- Hi! Thanks- that header's pretty new. I've never seen a pack of feral dogs- that does sound kinda scary.

carolsnotebook said...

Sounds interesting. I'm not surprised most bites are from pets, really.

Care said...

very odd book - I'm glad you liked it. (odd in a good way!) It reminds me of something I saw or read abt dogs that ride the subway out to the 'burbs and go back into the city at night. Not US but I can't remember which country.