‘Call Them Community Dogs, Not Strays’  - Vibes Of India

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‘Call Them Community Dogs, Not Strays’ 

| Updated: April 6, 2024 05:15

Follow dos and don’ts as humans when you are on a walk in an area populated by street dogs

When we are on a morning walk, or out to do some errands, many of us are scared and anxious about being attacked by street dogs. This is a valid fear as there have been  countless cases of dog bites in our city. 

The street dog population is estimated to be around two lakhs in Ahmedabad. Clearly, in spite of sterilisation programmes, there is still a substantial number of street dogs around. It is against the law to remove street dogs from the places they inhabit. In this context, we spoke to experts to find out what can be done to coexist in a healthy manner with street dogs.  Incidentally, April 4 was ‘World Stray Animal Day’.

Dr Chirag Dave, who has practised as a veterinarian in Ahmedabad for the last 30 years, has a different perspective on aggression in street dogs. “First, I would not like to refer to them as “strays” but as “community dogs” as they are a part of my community. Humans believe that dogs are aggressive. Dogs, I am sure, feel the same about human beings. The feeling is mutual. Till we respect dogs it will be difficult for them to respect us,” he says vehemently. 

If a dog barks, humans perceive it as aggression. It might just be a way of communicating something. Again, the very presence of a dog in front of us is interpreted as a threat. So often, we add a suffix about community dogs, the word ‘menace’. That is unfortunate, says Dr Dave. 

Causes for aggression

Nidhi Sanghrajka Mehta is Gujarat’s first female canine behaviourist, dog trainer and aggression expert. In the field for 10 years, she runs an organisation called Dogspective. She mentions the following reasons why a street dog may become aggressive:

  • Aggression could be because a dog has faced human abuse as a puppy by being hit by sticks or pelted with stones.
  • In rare cases, aggression could be genetic as fear is passed on from parents.
  • Female dogs when they have just given birth to puppies are aggressive. That is the protective maternal instinct at work.
  • Extreme hunger could cause frustration and make a dog snap.
  • If a dog is removed from a spot/area he is taking shelter in, a dog can react aggressively.
  • Territorial feelings can also make a dog aggressive.

Dos and don’ts for humans

How can humans ensure they do not provoke a street dog or make it defensive and, as a result, aggressive?    

“If you are going for a walk in an area populated by many community dogs, I would suggest some dos and don’ts. Don’t make direct eye contact. Don’t shout out loud or make sudden movements. Tell children not to pet community dogs. This is because raising the arm to pet the dog may give a wrong signal to the dog. The dog may think he or she will be hit,” explains Dr Dave.

Nidhi gives a few other suggestions. “First, if you are chased by a dog, stop running. You cannot outrun a dog. Once you stop running and stay still with hands folded, the dog will lose interest in you. Don’t kick the dog, throw things or be hurtful in any way. But if you have an umbrella or bag in your hand, you can block the dog, but do so without hurting or scaring the dog,” she says.

If you are going for a walk in an area with many street dogs take a stick and make a sound on the ground. That usually works as dogs are conditioned to see security personnel carrying a stick and making that noise. Never use the stick on the dog, she emphasises.

If you see dogs on the staircase of a commercial complex ask help from shopkeepers around. Do not try to move the dog on your own. Take help of locals when in unknown territory, advises Nidhi.

No teasing or abuse  

“It is vital to teach kids not to tease or abuse street dogs. That will make them wary of children. This practice is rampant in building societies. Also, don’t feed street dogs in an area which is populated by people, especially children. For instance, don’t place feeding bowls near gates or in the children’s play area. This will make the dogs get territorial and bark and chase people in that area. Take videos if you see people harming dogs for proof and file police complaints,” says Nidhi.

How can humans coexist peacefully with street dogs? “Only, if we feel that community dogs are here to stay, can we find a solution. Trying to eradicate community dogs is neither advisable nor possible. I would like to mention here that we talk about lion, tiger and elephant conservation and protecting the species from getting extinct. At the same time, we talk about trying to find a solution to get rid of community dogs. Why is this?,” asks Dr Dave. 

“As a vet, I would vaccinate the community dogs in my neighbourhood against rabies. And, get them neutered (males) and spayed (females) to curb their population. I think it is essential to feed community dogs. Adopting a community dog is a wonderful idea. My dog Cookie adopted me,” he says.

Also Read: The Lifeline For Abandoned Animals: Social Media Apps

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