Aug 5, 2013

When Dogs Run Wild

by Christine Gentry

This is one of those little-known books so specific in subject that I suspect it will only appeal to a limited audience. It's a report on a study done in the eighties on the behavior of stray dogs in a certain town. The author spent quite a lot of time following dogs around and observing exactly what they do when on their own. She noted which dogs were strictly strays- having no home to speak of- and which had homes but were often running loose. It seemed to be a common habit in her town that at night dogs were simply put outside and left to their own devices. If I remember correctly (it's been a few years since I read this one, and can't locate a copy to borrow for reminders) most of the book looked at the possibility of dogs spreading disease, how they interacted with each other (pack behavior), and specifically how they found food sources. The actual stray dogs varied between accepting handouts and scavenging food; the pet dogs let loose at night chased livestock for amusement and then went home to eat. One of the main aims of the study was to see how roaming dogs were affecting wildlife. The conclusion was not quite what I expected; contrary to popular belief, the author surmised that damage to livestock attributed to coyotes is more likely caused by the roaming pets, who of course aren't going to eat what they kill (or just injure the animals and don't follow through with a kill), since supper is provided at home. It was an interesting book. I wonder if any subsequent studies have been done along a similar vein...

Rating: 3/5 ........ 195 pages, 1983

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