Lives of Streeties – A Study on Free Ranging Dogs

Jan 20, 2016 | Animal Behavior

This Christmas I gave myself a gift. I finally permitted myself to publish my study on street dogs in Bangalore, India. I have been working at it for a year and I am thrilled to present it finally.

The idea for the study was sparked when my colleagues and I were mulling over the question of how much exercise dogs need. We decided that we needed to do a study. The premise was simple – animals inherently know how much exercise they need. Animals in the wild don’t need to be told how many calories they need to burn. But studying dogs in the wild is not relevant because wild dogs are not the same species as our domestic dogs. Our street dogs, however, are, in effect, free ranging dogs and would be perfect for this study. Thus was born my study – Lives of Streeties.

For this study, I walked for 45 minutes route each day, capturing videos of all the dogs I met along the way. Each day I picked a different hour to ensure I had recorded information about dogs throughout the day. I did this in the wee hours of the morning, the blistering noon and at night too. My husband graciously accompanied me during the night shifts. Working thus, I gathered more than 400 videos.

Here is a sample of one of them.

But even with 400 videos, patterns emerged. The first big takeaway for me was that these street dogs love one activity more than any other. In fact, it’s just one activity that occupies 40 per cent of their activity profile. And there are close to 15 different activities that I identified they are engaged in. But just one takes the biggest amount of their time – sleeping. Dogs love to snooze. So don’t worry if your dog spends large parts of his day sleeping. He is designed to do just that. Even when dogs are awake, often they don’t do much. To understand this, I looked at the number of dogs that were actually on their feet and the inactive dogs that were not. Sixty per cent of the activity profile belongs to inactive dogs. They are either sleeping or just watching the world go by. Only 40 per cent of the dogs were on their feet, but not necessarily moving. And just about 25 per cent of the dogs were actually moving. That included walking, trotting, foraging, defecating, urinating, soliciting for food, etc.

Total pictographs

I then wanted to see if this behavior changed throughout the day. And as expected, it did. We all know this anecdotally but, in this case, I was able to assign numbers to it. The dogs do get more active after nightfall and the early hours of the morning. It’s not that all the dogs were active at night. It’s not even that some dogs are active for all of the night. But overall, there is a slight, but distinctive increase in activity during night. Now that could have to do with the fact that it’s the night, or due to lower temperature or lower vehicular and people traffic. I have not been able to establish the real reason and I suspect that it’s a combination of all three.

The study was very revealing to me. But this is just the start. I still need to triple the data to get to the logical conclusion of this study. And I hope it leads to more such studies.

To read full study, click here

First published in Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Dec 29, 2015, 04.00 AM IST