The free-roaming world is not all rainbows and butterflies. No big deal.

This is the long version of my video description to go with today’s Free Roamer video. Subscribe to the channel here to not miss videos I don’t share on my blog. I also love comments, and am happy to discuss, clarify, and go into detail on Youtube.

Stand-offs with free-roamers

What you are going to see is two dogs in a stand-off. They don’t know each other. This is Game’s home range, but we don’t go here often. I don’t know if the other dog is in their home range or core area. First, Game is ready to curve politely. The other dog approaches frontally instead. As a result, the meeting itself starts off tensely: the free-roamer is tense, and Game responds with tenseness herself. They are in a stand-off: both stiff. Neither one giving an inch. I know it’s going to erupt.

I happen to have someone who’s taking video for me (thank you, Rodrigo!), which is rare – that’s the reason I do not interfere or manage when I see the other dog is tense rather than loose-bodied. I want you to see what happens in a situation like this: not a whole lot.

Free-roaming dogs are usually excellent communicators. That is to say, they may have attitudes and opinions; they may even be snarky and barky, feisty and mean. But they do not harm each other. Fights are loud, and then everyone walks away, shakes off, and continues with their day. Think Lucha Libre or Capoeira (it’s ritualized like a dance; it may be about winning, but it’s not meant to harm the opponent), not Krav Maga (few or no rules, and the aim is to knock out, eliminate or even kill your opponent quickly and efficiently).

Let’s define “usually” …

Let’s define “usually excellent communicators”: I have lived in free-roaming worlds (Thailand, Guatemala, Mexico) with my dog(s) for the last five years. In these five years, we’ve met multiple ree-roaming dogs every single day. Let’s say on average, I will meet 5 a day (that is a conservative estaimate). Only twice have we met a free-roaming dog who did not have great communication skills – it happens so rarely that I remember. So “usually,” in the sense I’m using it here, means close to 100% of the free-roaming dogs Game and I meet.)

Game is an excellent communicator as well. She is usually friendly, but can be a jerk, like any living being. Even when she’s being a jerk, she will not draw blood. This is why I am not worried even though I know the situation is going to erupt in this situation.

What if I didn’t want the situation to erupt? I’d manage or interfere the moment I saw a stiff-bodied free-roamer.

What options do I have to manage/interfere?

1. Space permitting, I could curve my leashed dog around the other dog in a wide half-circle, giving that dog space. I can’t cross the street here because there’s a fence separating the two lanes; if I could, I would just cross the road

2. I could do a u-turn with my dog. (I don’t usually do this because Game is a very stable dog, so it’s not necessary. I would do it with a puppy, a dog-aggressive dog, or a fear-reactive dog.)

3. I could tell my dog to stay next to/behind me and throw treats at the other dog.

4. I could tell my dog to stay next to/behind me, and threaten the other dog (free-roamers mostly respect humans and keep their distance).
Levels of threat I can use:
I Facing them frontally.
II Direct evil stare into their eyes.
III Throwing invisible stones.
IV Walking towards/into them while doing I and II.
V Kicking the dog if none of the above do the trick, while still having my own dog stand back. (Game knows if I am taking charge of a situation or if I am letting her take charge.)

5. I could tell my dog to come into “middle” position (see this video), and, if necessary, keep the other dog at bay with any of the methods mentioned in points 3 and 4.

When do I know it’ll erupt?

The moment I am sure it is going to erupt is when their stand-off starts. At this point, I know that the situation can only be resolved by an eruption – but who will give in and who will go forward is not yet clear.

It’s like arm-wrestling: while they are both stiff and staring at each other, it’s like both wrestlers are equally strong; their arms are vertical. They are holding this position for several seconds, and then one of the wrestlers will start losing ground.

The same happens between two dogs in a stand-off like this. One of them will give in. In this case, it’s the other dog. In an arm-wrestling match, this will most of the time result in the winner smashing their opponent’s arm down.

Things were standing still or moving in slow motion until that moment. Because the other dog gives in by retreating a step, Game goes forward (smashes the other one’s arm onto the table).

Loose leash

Notice that I’ve made sure to keep my leash loose the entire time. I can’t tell my leashed dog that she gets to handle a situation, and then keep her from freely communicating by tightening the leash. It would not be fair Tight leashes are only an option if I am going to handle the situation myself, and my dog is not expected to do anything.

However, I’m not going to let her tie herself and the other dog up in the leash, so I just stay where I’m standing. Situation over; you won, Game. She’s already defeated the opponent; it’s over as soon as Game reaches the end of her leash and the other one gets out of dodge (out of Game’s leash radius). And we continue on. All is well.

What if there was no leash?

You may ask yourself what would have happened if Game was off leash. Would she have ended up in the same stand-off? Yes, if I hadn’t managed or interfered, she’d probably have ended up in the exact same stand-off.

What would have happened if I had chosen to not interfere? I would have continued walking because I am a magnet for my dog. I don’t want to increase her power by staying close, but pull her with me by keeping moving. I would have walked past them, and then watched from a distance. Game would have had to finish her stand-off before catching up with me (otherwise, she would have become the one taking a step back, and the other dog would win and smash her metaphorical arm on the table).

Things would likely have ended in the same way: the other one would have given in, and Game would have responded by going forwards (smashing their arm onto the table). Because in this situation, there is no leash stopping her, the “fight” (remember: Lucha Libre or Capoeira, not Krav Maga: sparring for show, not to do harm) would have lasted a little longer. Maybe 30 seconds. Then, everyone would have moved on with their day; no blood, no harm – except maybe for that other dog’s ego.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because people tend to be afraid that when dogs get into fights, blood is going to flow. This is really rare among dogs who grow up free-roaming. It is not so rare among pet or sports or working dogs. If you live in a world mostly populated by the latter, it makes perfect sense that dogs getting into fights is something you are worried about. Free-roaming dogs are different in that their social skills are on a different level.

Why is Game good at this stuff?

Game has been hurt (bitten to the point of blood being drawn) by my own previous dog (who was severely dog aggressive), and she has been hurt by a pet dog who was with their owner. She has never drawn blood herself, even though she has been a jerk on occasion. Why is that? Take a minute and think about your answer before you scroll down and keep reading!

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No, it’s not because I’m the world’s greatest dog trainer and turned a blank-slate puppy into the best version of a Malinois. It’s because Game is genetically an extremely stable dog. I would not blame her if she had developed aggression after living with my previous dog. But Game did not develop aggression. She has two personality traits that keep her from it: high confidence, and high sociability. The combination of these two allows her to assume that other dogs she meets are not going to be psychopaths despite her own bad experiences. She acts like a dog who has never had a bad experience, and is simply confident (will not submit if challenged) and sociable (will usually be friendly). So do most free-roamers we meet. Not bad at all, this part of the world, is it?

Reflections on my conversation with Marc Bekoff

I just got to have Marc Bekoff on my podcast! We talked about Jessica Pierce’s and Marc’s latest book: A Dog’s World – Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World Without Humans.

I translated this book to German, and it recently got released by Kynos Publishing. Since I usually stay in touch with “my” authors in the translation process, I grabbed the opportunity to invite Marc on a Zoom chat.

In this episode, I acknowledge the relevance of A Dog’s World to pet dog owners today, and I challenge Marc on the conclusion drawn in the book: that the species dog would survive (or turn into a new species) if all humans disappeared. It’s the latter part that I want to talk about some more after further thinking about the book and our conversation.

Survival in a posthuman world

What I’m still grappling with is the idea that dogs would survive without us. My openion (and yes, this is VERY MUCH an opinion because we can’t test this scenario in a meaningful way) is that dogs would go extinct in a world without humans.

Jessica and Marc believe that many dogs would not only survive, but thrive in a world without us.

Suspension bridge on a trail in Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, Morelos

Where we come from

Only in the course of this conversation did I realize how different the points of origin of our respective arguments are, and how our respective conclusions followed, perhaps quite naturally, from exactly these anchor points we already had long before this conversation.

Marc’s longest field research project, I believe, was on the lives and behavior of coyotes in Yellowstone National Park. As an ethologist, Marc observes behavior and writes ethograms (a list of observable behaviors and their contexts) about different species in their natural environment. In Marc’s case, these species were primarily wild canids.

Marc is a dog lover who has also spent many days at dog parks, observing the interactions of Boulder’s dog park dogs through an ethological lens. Marc has researched, by reading everything that is available in terms of observational studies, the lives of free-roaming domestic dogs around the world, and observed feral dogs arund Boulder. On the podcast, Marc points out that the ethograms of domestic dogs and wild canids is nearly indistinguishable.

Marc has also lived with dogs: companion dogs who were off leash when Marc was out with them around Boulder, CO. Marc observed the behaviors these dogs would engage in in their off-leash lives. (They were only out and about off leash when Marc was with them – so probably living degrees of freedom similar to my own dog, who is not a free-roamer.)

Taking the similarity of the ethograms, the independence of Marc’s own dogs and a group of feral dogs who would make occasional trips to the dumpster but also hunt outside of Boulder, Marc and Jessica Pierce conclude that there would absolutely be individual dogs – enough to form new wild populations – surviving the demise of the human species.

Suspension bridge on a trail in Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, Morelos

The anchor point of my ship train of thought is different. I am a dog trainer. The dogs in my life are usually sports or working dogs, or very active companion dogs of high-maintenance breeds, or not so active dogs living with highly sophisticated dog folks who are most definitely not average pet dog homes. I have never had a pure pet dog myself, and neither do most of the folks I work and interact with today. My personal interest and the areas into which I am trying to stretch are behavior analysis, psychology, neurology, and behavioral medicine. I have no degree in any of these fields, but I try and learn as much as I can about them. I also live in a part of the world where many (most?) dogs are homed free-roamers. I love observing them; I consider their life quality high, and I have dedicated a Youtube Channel to them.

When I think “domestic dog,” what comes to mind is not the general pet dog population: I think of dogs who live with geeky trainers on the one hand, and free-ranging dogs on the other hand. I sometimes forget that there are also pet dogs.

When Jessica and Marc think “of “domestic dogs,” I suspect they think of pet dogs on leashes and in dog parks on the one hand and wild canids on the other hand.

What I agree on with Jessica and Marc

I fully agree with Jessica’s and Marc’s conclusions about how the lives of pet and companion dogs could be improved, and how we can draw these conclusions by looking at the behavior of free-ranging dogs today.

The sociability and ability to form groups and packs is something I see a lot in free-roamers, so we’re on the same page there as well. I don’t doubt that dogs will be (variable degrees of) sociable and able to form packs. Free-roaming dogs already do.

Alloparenting also occurs in domestic dogs that are kept in groups when breeding as well as in free-roaming dogs. Again – I have no doubt posthuman dogs could alloparent (and some would do so if they survived).

I don’t doubt that they will hunt solitarily either – I know plenty of dogs who will do so when given the opportunity (these are not free-roamers, but sports and working dogs). What I wanted to be convinced of, however, was the cooperative hunting part – something I’ve never seen and find hard to imagine.

The food resource thing …

I have never – NEVER – seen free-roaming dogs who did not depend on anthropogenic food resources. Even the feral dogs around Boulder that Marc mentions visit the dumpster. That makes me suspicious of whether they could survive if they had to rely on hunting. When Marc’s student saw them hunt cooperatively – did these dogs actually take down prey, or were they just chasing, like many dogs would, without actually killing/consuming? I am not clear about this. Even if they killed, but did not consume – I don’t think we could call that cooperative hunting. For hunting to be hunting, doesn’t it need to end in eating the prey? (I don’t know; I’m sure there is a definition though.)

What even is a feral dog?

A feral dog is a domestic dog who isn’t tame. A dog like this will have a bigger flight distance than other free-roamers. I have seen very few feral dogs in my life, and they usually look as if they were starving because they are too scared to visit the dumpster on a regular basis.

How do feral dogs happen? I suspect a truly feral dog has missed out on any and all human contact during the sensitive socialization period, as a very young puppy. This can happen if a free-roaming dog has puppies away from their home – say in a forest where humans rarely go -, and the dog’s humans don’t look for or don’t find the puppies.

Why are there so few of them? Because most of them will die! Your chances of survival are much higher if you are not feral and can access human handouts and the waste we generate.

Wouldn’t there already be feral dogs everywhere today if it was easy to be one?

I also suspect that if dogs without humans were a realistical scenario, we’d already see successful secondarily wild dogs who have no contact with humans whatsoever, and who hunt cooperatively. As far as I know (and I may be totally wrong – please comment with resources if I am!) these dogs do not exist today. (It has been argued that Dingoes are not feral dogs, but true wild canids. That said, I have read that there are secondarily wild dogs on the Galapagos Islands. I haven’t had time to look into them yet. If these dogs were truly feral and descended from the domestic dog, and were not dependent on any anthropogenic food resources – this would be a convincing argument for me that under specific and rarely occurring circumstances, the species dog might be able to survive in certain locations in a post-human world.)

The posthuman dog future I imagine, based on my anchor point

From my current point of view, given the dogs I see, I think most pet dogs, if left loose in a world WITH humans, would make decent free-roamers and enjoy the trash we leave behind as well as our handouts. They’d have social relationships etc. Working dogs like mine would also enjoy killing all the livestock around town (which would result in them getting poisoned or shot).

If I imagine the fate of dogs in a world without humans, these same dogs would eat all the trash we left behind, and then feast on the livestock (easy prey) as well as urban rats and pigeons (also easy prey). And then, they’d die, mostly in the transition dog generation (the generation of dogs who still had human contact).

I have a hard time imagining dogs learning to hunt cooperatively in the little time they have after all the livestock and trash are gone. Most of them will die, and the few that survive … Will they be neutered? In that case, they’re in a genetic dead-end street. Will enough of them be both intact and able to hunt cooperatively? I really doubt it because the free-roaming dogs today – remember that’s about 80% of the world’s dog population! – have been selected (naturally, if you will, by humans killing dogs who kill livestock) to NOT hunt. I’m not sure if “average pet dogs” will be able to hunt. Working dogs certainly would (solitarily at least), but there are so few, and they are so far apart, that they may never meet each other. And if you’re a working dog (other than a terrier), you may be too big to sustain yourself on the kind of prey you may be able to catch by yourself once the livestock is gone. And the livestock will be gone because it will either die without us or be killed by transition dogs.

A thought experiment

I just googled, and according to a dubious source (but that’ll do for my thought experiment), a 100g jack rabbit contains 173 calories. Now let’s see how many calories an adult dog needs. Say Game’s RER is 650, and if she had to stustain herself by means of hunting, her caloric needs would be 650 x 2-5, which, if I’m calculating this correctly (and I may not), makes 1295 caloiries. That’s a lot more than a single rabbit. If Game had to sustain herself on jack rabbits she’d have to catch 1295 divided by 173 makes 7.5 jackrabbits every day. That is A LOT of rabbits. I cannot imagine a world in which my dog would successfully catch this many rabbits on a daily basis.

We’d also have to look at the energy spent on hunting a rabbit. Since this calculation is based on the caloric needs of an active working dog, let’s say if all of Game’s hunts were successful, she would meet her caloric needs every day with 7.5 rabbits. But she is unlikely to succeed every time. So how many calories would she loose with each rabbit that got away? How many calories does it cost to hunt one rabbit? (I do not know.)

In any case, if two rabbits, after a high-energy chase, got to safety, Game would be losing rather than gaining calories. Consequently, that very same day, 7.5 jack rabbits would not be enough anymore – she’d have to successfully hunt, kill and consume, say, 9 to make up for the energy spent on the ones who got away. This is even less likely because every hunt is tiring, and hunts #8 and #9 have a smaller chance of success because of it.

Dogs don’t need to eat every day. So Game could go a while without eating 7.5 rabbits a day and still do okay. She’d gain experience hunting with every attempt – but she’d also spend energy on every attempt, successful and unsuccessful. After several days of not eating, there may be peak performance due to peak motivation, but then that performance will go down unless Game was highly successful at peak motivation. So by the sheer amount of rabbit hunting required, I don’t think it is realistic for a dog of Game’s size to survive as a solitary hunter. Most solitary hunting canids are smaller than she is. (There are solitary coyotes or foxes, for example, and they get by hunting bunnies and rodents (and, given the contents of the scat I’ve seen around Guanajuato, lots of cactus fruit). Game is heavier than they are.)

So Game would likely have to go after larger prey, and large prey can often only be overwhelmed by means of cooperative hunting. Will dogs really figure that out in time? I have my doubts. The largest prey animal I know fairly well are (Austrian) deer, and they are fast and flighty. It’s certainly possible to hunt them cooperatively, but I imagine it would require a lot of practice. And transition dogs may not have that time. Especially because, being dogs, they would not gather to brainstorm for a future of hunting while there still were anthropogenic food resources. Instead, they would – evolutionarily myopically, if you will – focus only on these easily accessible resources until they ran out of them. (Just like we humans and our fossil fuels, really. We’ll only implement meaningful changes once we’re past that climate change tipping point, and at that point, our changes will make little or no difference for many folks around the world, because the places they live today will have become uninhabitable for our species. This is an opinion, not a fact, and I would love for it to be wrong.)

Suspension bridge on a trail in Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, Morelos

There may be dogs (smaller than Game) who can sustain themselves on bunnies and the like. But will they happen to be close enough to another transition dog to breed? Maybe in rare cases. Will their puppies survive? Few will, I assume, because the survival rate of wild canids and free-ranging dogs is very low.

The anthropogenic world as the dog’s niche

After thinking about all of this some more, my opinion still is that dogs won’t survive without us – even though during the conversation itself, I was trying to be open to the possibility that they would.

I would not say that the ecological niche of the domestic dog is the human household (80% of the world’s dog population is free-roaming), but I would say that their niche is the anthropogenic world. And this niche will disappear with us. I’m not optimistic they’d adapt to a new niche fast enough … even if they all happened to be free and outdoors when we humans disappeared from the planet. I think of their niche as the anthropogenic world in the same sense I think of this being the niche of urban rats and pidgeons. In my opinion, all three of the above would die after eating all the resources we left behind when disappearing. I suspect this will be the fate of everyone who is considered a Kulturfolger animal in German.

I also realize that this very much is an opinion based on my background, my work and my interests. I can absolutely see how a different background, like Marc and Jessica have it, will lead to completely different conclusions!

Why does everything have to be so annoyingly relative?

Coming at a topic from different angles can lead to misunderstandings or talking past each other – I think this, too, happened to us. And it just goes to show how difficult it is for folks from different fields, who have different jargons they take for granted, to understand each other! For example in my conversation with Marc, this happened when Marc used the word “engram.” This term also appears in A Dog’s World (once). I had never come across it before, and researched a little when translating the book. Conveniently, the German equivalent is “Engramm.” It’s basically the same word with the same Greek root. In the book, Marc writes:

“We’ve provided a range of ideas about what the evolutionary trajectories of posthuman dogs might look like. A recurring theme has been trying to understand and appreciate the ancient impulses and memory traces that still lurk in dogs’ brains—the indelible engrams that still influence what they do and how they feel and which will shape how they do without us.”

(Page 157 in my copy of the publisher’s PDF)

I looked up the meaning of the term when I was translating, but I can’t say I feel like I understood it. The way Marc uses the term, it seems to refer to a kind of collective memory of generations long past. Something that isn’t “active” – basically something that isn’t “online,” but could theoretically be brought online again by life circumstances. From digging into the topic a bit, it seems to still be controversal whether engrams actually exist.

On the podcast, Marc used the term engram again, and I asked whether this would work like a modal action pattern. (“Model action pattern” is in my active vocabulary; I know its definition: it is a behavior chain that is released by a certain stimulus and usually displayed through to the end (it is difficult to interrupt). It hardly varies from one occasion to the next or between individuals. Modal action patterns are more like a highly complex reflex you don’t consciously control than advanced and varied social communication. Modal action patterns are NOT offline, but very much online, and they are innate. An example is the hunting sequence of the wolf: search – eye-stalk – chase – grab-bite – kill-bite – consume. Another example is the herding behavior of the Border Collie, which is a modified hunting sequence: it goes from search to eye-stalk to chase, and ends there.

Anyways, so I asked Marc whether an engram was like a modal action pattern, only that it would be brought online by necessity rather than already being online and simply being displayed when a certain stimulus was present.

Marc ended up basically giving me the definition of a modal action pattern. But whatever an engram is, it can’t really be a modal action pattern – unless there is a field (psychology? ethology?) that uses “engram” in the way behavior analysts use “model action pattern,” and the terms actually mean the same.

But cooperative hunting – not hunting, but the cooperative part – can, by its very nature, not be a modal action pattern. Modal action patterns are rigid and hard to change, and cooperation is flexible and adaptive. So Marc didn’t answer my question, and I don’t think that was on purpose, but either because Marc isn’t familiar with the way “modal action pattern” is used by dog trainers or because I didn’t manage to formulate my question clearly! Argh! Or maybe I’m using an outdated definition of modal action pattern!

Cooperative hunting is by its very nature varied because different individuals have different roles. In a word: I still don’t understand what exactly an engram is. In both a German article and the English Wikipedia article, it seems to be about memories of something that happens in your lifetime, and (maybe) the physical location where these memories are stored in the brain. But this is not the way Marc uses the term, as far as I can tell: cooperative hunting can’t be an experience being remembered by an individual dog who has never had the experience of hunting cooperatively.

I don’t think it has been shown that it is possible to “remember” the social behavior of our very distant ancestors. Sure, we are influenced – both through social learning and genetics and in-utero/in-petri-dish experiences by biological relatives and the folks around us. But these are not distant ancestors! So I am still confused about the engram explanation of cooperative hunting, and this is frustrating to me. We were discussing a topic we were both passionate about (dogs), and we didn’t speak the same jargon. I’m used to talking to behavior folks and dog trainers, and we have a shared vocabulary! Marc is probably used to talking to ethologists or pet folks. With the former, there is a shared jargon (which I do not speak), and the latter probably don’t ask the kinds of questions I ask. Anyways, if someone reading this can explain the meaning of “engram” to me, please leave me a comment!

Communication is fucking hard!

In the end, this is probaly the take-away from the conversation I find most fascinating: it is difficult to understand each other if you don’t have a shared vocabulary! And it is really the anchor point of our experience our our field that informs our opinion! When you start with wild canids and compare their ethograms with domestic dogs, you’ll conclude that because they are very similar, they will also be able to hunt cooperatively. (At least if you are Jessica Pierce or Marc Bekoff.)

When you start with working dogs (and know little about wild canids) and observe free-roaming dogs who depend on anthropogenic food resources, you don’t think they will master cooperative hunting. (At least if you are me.)

Suspension bridge on a trail in Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl – and Game’s tail!

And really, this is a metaphor for so many things in life! Depending on where we’re coming from, we’ll find strong arguments to support our respective opinions. (Yay, confirmation bias! Yay, anchoring effect!) We may be fully convinced of them. And yet: some of them are opinions, not facts. It’s both hard and worth striving for to hold both these truths at the same time: on the one hand, our convictions themselves on the basis of which we are who we are in this world. And on the other hand, the fact that some of these convictions will always be opinions we can’t currently fact-check. And that’s fine. Complicated – but fine. Doesn’t make them less valid. But sure makes everything a whole lot more complex.

There are facts, of course. I am not a relativist. I see facts, and will fight for them, especially if they are facts I care about on a deep and personal level. But whether or not dogs would survive in a world without us? That’s not something we will ever be able to know.

Body language in free-roaming dogs, or: meet the dog in front of you!

This is the full version of the description that goes with today’s Youtube video on the Free Ranging Dogs channel. If you’ve read the first part of the description already, pick back up under the heading “Dog #4”! If you haven’t – here’s the video description from the beginning:

Game is happy to be allowed to run off leash again (nothing to worry about – the surgery I mention in the video was minor and all is well, but she’s only been out on leash for the last 2 weeks).

This video shows how, in just 3 minutes, Game meets 5 different owned free-roamers. Just like pet dogs differ, so do the personalities, looks and behaviors of these dogs.

All 5 free-roamers in this video are owned dogs. That is to say, they live in the respective yards they come out of. Their gates are always open. This street is part of Game’s home range and part of the other dogs’ core area. Only dog #4, the Doberman/Lab (this is not a Doberman; I’m just picking look-alike breeds for you to distinguish them) is not inside their own yard – the person working on the car is probably their human, and the dog is out here with them.

Dog #1: the Husky

Game sees the Husky before I do. At 00:29, she greets them with a friendly wag and moves on. What you see at 00:29 is a behavior that lets me know there is a dog to her right.

00:36 The Husky comes out – hackles up at first, but Game has already moved on, so the Husky doesn’t care. Instead, they show curiosity/interest in me, and their hackles come down all the way.

Dog #2: the big black-and-white pup

00:54 This one looks pretty young to me – but I can’t say for sure; he may just look that way because of a recent hair cut. He, too, comes out of his territory. Unlike the Husky, the pup is interested in Game: friendly, waggy and playful.

01:02 Game responds to the friendly interest the pup is showing. She may be in the mood to run together. That’s because she’s been deprived of exercise for the last 2 weeks, and I’ve also mostly kept her away from from other dogs. When that happens, she tends to act more playfully until she’s back to baseline in terms of exercise and intraspecific social interaction. It usually takes her a few days to get back to baseline.

01:16 Game would have pooped here, but because the pup is still there and being playful/friendly, she forgets about pooping and reciprocates the playfulness.

01:19 Btw, the ear position you see here in Game – ears up and turned back – is what she’ll usually show when we’re out and about. This is not a sign of insecurity, submission or fear. (Game can do a whole bunch of things with her ears; this is just one of her many expressions.) She’ll usually have her ears up and back like this when she’s ahead of me. She watches what’s up ahead, and keeps an ear on me at the same time.

Here, she’s running towards me, and her ears are up and back to keep an ear on the pup who she’s allowing to chase her. Ears up and back are a sign of split attention in Game: eyes in one direction, ears in the other one.

01:24 … and running back the other way, in exactly the kind of speed that is right for the pup (who seems to have a hurt paw/leg and is not super fast). Game enjoys both being the chaser and being the chasee.

01:25 And yes, I say in this video that she’s been on limited activity for a long time. For me (and for Game, but really, mostly for me), 2 weeks are a fucking long time! Walking is my thing. And without a dog, it isn’t fun.

Dog #3: the Chihuahua

01:42 The Chihuahua has just come out of their yard, and wants to see what’s going on out here! Since the 5 dogs (the free-roamers) are all neighbors, the Chihuahua isn’t interested in the pup, but in Game.

01:45-01:48 The Chihuahua displays their interest by sniffing. They are confident and curious, and the fact that Game ignores them (“Too small; whatever; also I’m done playing”) likely raises the Chihuahua’s confidence to the bouncy, chasey level you see here.

The Chihuahua and Game aren’t playing – the Chihuahua is sniffing while chasing Game, who ignores them because she’s already on her way.

Game is aware of size differences and is much more likely to ignore a small dog than a large dog. The Chihuahua isn’t unfriendly, but not exactly friendly either.

01:49 Game may just have left the little one’s core area, making her less interesting and me (I am still in the core area) more interesting. The Chihuahua folds the ears back and wags at me in a friendly-submissive greeting gesture.

Dog #4: the Doberman/Lab

01:52 To your right, where the cars are parked, you’re about to see the Doberman/Lab. This dog is insecure and barky. They are in their core area (this is one of the neighborhood dogs here), but not in their own yard. They are likely out here with their human.

You’ll see the insecurity in the retreat and the continued barking:

02:01 Retreat.

02:04 Now that Game has passed, the dog is coming forward again: when one dog turns their back on another one, the other one will feel safer. Game just passed and ignored the Doberman/Lab.

02:06 … which is why the Doberman/Lab can now come forwards again and bark – this time at me.

02:12 The response to me is barky, but not fearful. There was only a fear response when Game was walking towards and past the parking lot – so this dog’s insecurity is dog-specific.

02:14 It’s hard to say whether the Doberman/Lab is in their territory or in their core area. In any case, the person at the car is probably their person.

It is entirely possible that the dog’s response to Game and I would be different if there was no other human present. Being with their human generally gives dogs greater confidence/perceived strength.

Dog #5: the second fluffy big one

02:19 This dog was probably alerted to Game’s presence by the barking of the Doberman/Lab. Like the Chihuahua, he wants to see what’s going on! He is not interested in me and runs out of his territory (yard) and right past me to check out Game. The barking you keep hearing in the background is still the Doberman/Lab, not dog #5.

02:28 Game is done socializing for this outing, which is why she isn’t giving dog #5 any attention. Dog #5 is just curious about her – no strong feelings in any direction. Having caught up with her, he sniffs where she sniffed, and later, he’ll pee on the corner of the wall.

This dog is confident, has no ill intentions, and is an adult. Among confident adults with good social skills, if dog A ignores dog B, dog B will also politely leave dog A alone. (There are exceptions. Sometimes two adult dogs – just like humans – dislike each other at first sight. But that would be an exception for socially confident good communicaters. Politeness is the rule: live and let live.)

02:39 You can see dog #5 pee and look around (for example at me) with loose body language. He has gotten a good look at Game, had the chance to sniff where she sniffed and where she stood to collect information – that’s all he needs.

02:46 Dog #5 is done; ready to head back home. He has learned all he needed/wanted to learn about Game.

02:56 Even when Game is back outside the forest, dog #5 is still good: he has satisfied his curiosity and is ready to return to whatever he was doing. (Probably snoozing outside his house.)

A glimpse into the life of village puppies: long version, and a detour on different types of selection

There’s a litter of four puppies in a 1000-habitant village in the State of Mexico. The day I made this video, I met two of the four. Only over the last couple of days had they started coming out and exploring: they had reached an age where they dared venture further and further from their birthplace.

It’s interesting to observe how many of the experiences Western breeders and puppy owners recreate happen naturally for a puppy like this – and they happen on the right time scale since it is the puppies themselves who decide when they are ready to explore, and how far they are ready to go on any given day.

You can also see differences within a litter: the two black puppies are bolder than the blonde one who is not with them, but who I saw the day after I took this video1, still in the safe space of the restaurant. The second blonde puppy must have also been a bold one – maybe the boldest one, or just a bold one with bad luck – because the person I am talking to in this video tells me that puppy got hit by a car earlier that same day.

The fact that within this litter, there are both bold and shy individuals shows an interesting tendency in evolution: evolutionarily speaking, both bold and shy individuals get selected for. We see this in humans, too. If a trait gets selected for, it has to have an advantage – and indeed, it does! It may seem counterintuitive, but in fact, both extremes of the spectrum of boldness and shyness can be advantageous. This is, I’d venture, particularly true for species that live in a vast variety of different environments – such as humans, canines and felines! Since the environments vary greatly, what is an advantage in one environment can be a disadvantage in another one. Or what is an advantage in one part of the year can be a disadvanrage in another part of the year. Or depending on what circumstances you happen to be born under – depending on random factors! – it may be advantageous to be either bold or shy.

A thought experiment: the shy puppy in the litter – the blonde one who I haven’t seen out in the street – is the least likely to get run over. From this point of view, being shy is adaptive – it increases the chances of survival, because cars (as illustrated by the death of the fourth puppy) are a HUGE danger to puppies. On the other hand, the two black puppies in this video show a lot of exploratory behavior, and they find food – both in the street and in the entrance of the store they then get shooed out of. From this point of view, being bold (showing a lot of exploratory behavior) is adaptive – it increases the chances of survival because you find more food. Due to studies done on puppy mortality, we know that most of these puppies are not going to survive. If one of them does survive – will it be a bold or a shy puppy? It could be either, because it depends on many factors: are the puppies still getting fed within the safe space of the restaurant? If so, being shy may be more advantageous because there is no lack of food resources. Are they not getting fed anymore now that they are a little bigger? If so, being bold might be an advantage because you need to learn to find enough food to make up for the calories you spend growing and existing! Being bold likely also increases a puppy’s chances of becoming an owned village dog, and owned village dogs get fed. If you are bold while you are still young and cute, you’ve got a killer combination setting you up for success in this respect … unless, of course, you get run over by a car first.

So there is no straightforward answer, but one thing is clear: depending on when, where, to whom and under what circumstances a puppy is born, boldness, shyness, or both may be advantageous. The same goes for humans. If it were not the case – if you were most likely to succeed by being a middle-of-the-road animal – the extremes of the spectrum of boldness and shyness would already have disappeared (for canines as well as humans). We would have what is called stabilizing selection: selection around a stable phenotype around a mean (a certain degree of not-too-bold-and-not-too-shyness). What we actually see is disruptive selection: selection at both ends of the normal curve: on the one hand, we get very bold individuals, and on the other hand, very shy ones. We see it in puppies, even within litters. And we certainly see it in humans, too! Even in very young toddlers, the differences are striking. By the way, a shout out to Marc Bekoff: I’ve learned the terms stabilitzing selection, disruptive selection and directive selection (selection for more or less of a given phenotype, e.g. if over time, puppies would tend to get bolder and bolder) from his book A Dog’s World, which I’ve had the honor of translating into German.

After this little detour into different kinds of selection, let’s get back to the experiences that breeders and puppy owners recreate, but that happen quite naturally for free-roaming puppies:

1. Introduction of different surfaces:

in the space of the restaurant, the puppies would have encountered artificial turf and real grass. Venturing out, they get to move up and down the stairs to the restaurant entrance, and they will walk on concrete and asphalt. In this video, one of the black puppies walks over an iron grid covering a drain – something else a breeder or owner might carefully introduce to their puppies that happens naturally in this environment.

2. Introduction to different sounds:

Currently, the 9 days leading up to a catholic holiday are being celebrated in this village – and like most Mexican celebrations, they are celebrated quite loudly, with lots of cohetes (firecrackers). Similarly, there are cars going by – this is the busiest part of town – and the puppies will get used to the sounds of cars, busses, motorcycles and lots of different human voices: adults talking and yelling, children laughing and playing …

3. People:

I’ve seen kids interact with the puppies (hold them, pet them, pick them up), and the puppies will also see people of all ages once they start venturing out of the restaurant space. People are quite naturally being paired with food, so a positive classical association is made to them when a puppy is born in the town center. They will also interact with people in that they get a basic village dog education: being cute and begging politely is going to get reinforced with food, and being obnoxious or entering forbidden spaces is going to be punished (at 09:18, the owner of the store across the street shoos the puppies back outside).

4. Dogs:

In this video alone, you’ll see three adult dogs: the fluffy dark dog, the pitbull, and the black lab mix. Throughout the day, the puppies will interact with A LOT of village dogs: everyone who roams freely, whether they are community dogs or owned free-roamers, will meet these puppies and interact with them. Some will be big, some small, some male, some female, most intact and some spayed. It is unlikely that a puppy born to a breeder would meet this many dogs at this age.

5. Other animals:

Sometimes, horseback riders come through; sometimes, they’ll see a cat, and once they are bold enough to venture just a little further up the street the store is in, they’ll see sheep and chickens.

6. Objects:

The restaurant is closed, but there are still chairs and tables in there. And once the puppies venture out, they’ll see cars, busses, and everything sold at the little stores around the area: brooms and food and buckets … At some point in this video, you’ll see one of the puppies approach a broom that’s for sale.

Further remarks:

+ I met the third blonde puppy the day after recording this video – so there must have been 4 originally, but 1 got run over, leaving three.

+ At some point in this video, I say that my AirBnB “tenant” also owns the restaurant – I meant to say host. I do not own a building in this town.

+ It’s interesting that I get asked whether I want to take the two puppies (they are community puppies, so unlike the puppies of owned village dogs, they are up for grabs). I assume the reason the person I’m talking to suggests I take them is that I’ve shown an unusual level of interest in the puppies – I’m following them around, filming and talking about them.


(1) One of the puppies is still alive for sure 2 months after I took this video, as I am writing this post – and it’s the blonde puppy (the shy one). I don’t know about the two black ones. They must either have died, or been taken in and have become owned village dogs. Statistically speaking (given the percentage of puppies that survive), they are more likely to not be around anymore – but we don’t know if this is the case for this particular litter. It’s a littler born under relatively advantageous circumstances, and in a good spot. (No highway; plenty of people; close to a food source.)

Long version of village dog dinner time: population size discussion

By my definition, a community dog is a dog who is not attached to one particular owner, but part of the (human) community they share a space with. In some scientific papers, community dogs are referred to as unowned free-roaming dogs. The dogs in this video are community dogs in a village of approximately 1000 people.

A village dog, by my definition, is a free-roaming dog who lives in a village. Village dogs can be both owned or unowned, and owned and unowned free-roaming village dogs rub shoulders during the day. At night, the owned free-roamers will be home with their human family while the community dogs will wait for their dinner, and then find their own places to sleep. (In this particular village, lots of food stands are empty and covered at night, and they are easily accessible, and provide shelter from the elements. This is likely where at least some of them sleep.)

Interesting side note: I have not seen community dogs in cities. In my experience, urban free-roamers are usually owned.


Community dog population size

The community dog population is likely stable over time. That is to say, there is likely a certain number of dogs the niche the community is able to support, and it is fairly consistent. Let’s say (just picking a random number here) the community dog population is 10 dogs. Why would it be 10? Because there is enough food for 10 dogs. These dogs are intact, so they are having puppies (mixing their genes with owned village dogs), but this does not make the community dog population grow.

Throughout the day, they scavenge at food stands and find the chips and other food dropped by kids on their way home from school, and at night, they get fed by one or two people like Veronica in this video. Neither Veronica nor the kids are going to produce more left-overs or drop more food when there is a new litter of puppies on the ground. They share a space and share resources, and this is what it’s always been like. Nobody sees it as their obligation to support an ever-growing number of dogs (this would be as strange as supporting an ever-growing number of rats).

How does the population size stay consistent despite the fact that everyone is having puppies? Well, over 60% of free-roaming puppies die before they reach reproductive age themselves. This isn’t a shocking number; it’s similar for wild canids such as wolves. So only about 40% of all puppies even get to a point where they have the chance to permanently join the community dog population.

The community dog population sometimes opens up a spot: this happens when someone in town loses a dog, or maybe their kid really wants a dog, and they have the time, space, and resources to get one. So they’ll take one of the community dogs out of the population, and this dog will now become an owned village dog who eats at home and may or may not be free-roaming (most are, but unless they live very close to Veronica’s quesadilla stand, they are unlikely to keep coming back there once they get food at their house).

Let’s say someone just took a dog out of the community dog population. Now, there are only 9, which leaves one spot open – for example for a puppy to fill, like the white puppy in this video (*). A spot will also open up anytime one of the community dogs dies. How do they die? For example of age-related issues (the life expectancy of community dogs is lower than the life expectancy of pet dogs, just like the life expectancy of wild animals is significantly lower in the wild than in a zoo), because they get run over by a car, or are injured by a car in such a way that they can’t recover without veterinary care. Or if they happen to have or develop an illness that will kill them without veterinary care (cancer, diabetes, heart worm desease etc.). What happens to the rest of the new puppies? Well, puppies are cute. So some community puppies will immediately become owned village dogs because the humans know that the puppies are community puppies and can be claimed.

This particular village doesn’t generally have tourists, so it is unlikely that anyone gets stolen. The puppies who don’t become owned village dogs or find an open spot in the community population may make it to the next community over, and find an open spot there. Or they may get run over. Puppies don’t know what they are doing yet, and they are small. Even though drivers in this town generally look out for the dogs, the tinier you are, the harder you are to see, and if you don’t know that you shouldn’t fall asleep under a bus about to drive off … well. I’d venture this is the most common cause of death for puppies (but I do not have data on this).

Spay/neuter clinics

Let’s say you, an outsider, come into this town, learn about the stable community dog population and consider the fact that most puppies don’t make it a tragedy. You decide that there is a problem, and you are going to solve it. Your own background culture preaches spay and neuter, so you start a fundraiser and get a spay-and-neuter-clinic to come to this town, say, the first and third weekend of January. It’ll be in the churchyard, it’ll be free, and you start putting up posters to advertise it in November. The posters say to bring your dog to get them spayed/neutered.

What’s going to happen the first and third weekend of January? People are indeed going to come and get their dogs spayed and neutered for free. Some of the dogs who’ll end up spayed/neutered will be pet dogs (dogs who would not have contributed their genes to the community dog population in any case because they are not allowed to roam free). Most of them will be owned free-roaming village dogs, simply because most village dogs are owned free-roamers. So their genes were part of the village dog gene pool in the past, but won’t be in the future. Will there be a community dog at your spay/neuter clinic? Unlikely, unless you go out of your way to catch one and bring them to the clinic yourself. In any case, the vets you fund-raised for will have spayed and neutered a whole bunch of village dogs by the end of the second weekend, and you will feel good about yourself.

Does the population shrink?

Here’s the thing though: this is not going to make a dent in the size of the community dog population. The niche can still support 10 community dogs, and that means that there will always be 10 community dogs. Why? Because there is no way you’ll spay/neuter every single dog in the village. So you have decreased the gene pool by spaying/neutering owned free-roamers, but you are not decreasing the size of the population because there are still dogs having puppies left and right.

Even if – and this is not a realistic scenario – you managed to spay/neuter every single dog in this village, you would not decrease the size of the community dog population. The community dog population will stay at 10 for as long as the niche is able to support 10 dogs. How? Well, you’ve spayed/neutered everyone in this village, so there are no new puppies being born in this village right now. But the moment one of the existing village dog dies – a spot opens up, since there are now only 9 – someone else is going to fill this spot. If it is not a puppy being born in this village, it will be a dog from the next village over. This dog will likely not be spayed/neutered. Alright – so far, they are the only dog who is intact in this village. But if they are female, once they get in heat, a male dog from the next village over will pay her a visit. And now, you’ll have a bunch of puppies. There is now less supply of puppies in this village, so it’s entirely possible that all of these puppies become owned free-roaming village dogs right away. And they are all intact. You see where I’m going with this? I don’t know how to mathematically model this, but the thought experiment shows (I believe) that spay/neuter clinics do not impact population size in countries where dogs generally roam free. If you are reading this and know how to visualize the scenarios, go for it!

Yep, I have an opinion on this …

I’m not a vet, and I am not telling you whether to spay/neuter or not spay/neuter your dog(s) – that’s between you and your vet. I’m also not telling you whether to let or not let your dog roam free. This is between you and yourself (and maybe between you and your dog, but mostly, let’s be honest, between you and yourself. You are your dog’s benevolent or not-so-benevolent dictator, after all, and you are the one with the opposable thumbs who does or doesn’t open the gate.)

There is one thing I will tell you though: in my opinion, the fact that there are and always will be 10 (hypothetical number, remember) community dogs is not a problem. I am an outsider, and I am not going to organize any spay/neuter clinics.

I don’t come from a background culture that preaches spay/neuter – I come from a country where it is illegal to remove a dog’s reproductive organs unless it is medically necessary. It is possible that this is part of the reason I don’t see the consistent 10 community dogs as a problem – I don’t know. It is very likely part of the reason I do not spay or neuter my own dogs.

I don’t ever want biological kids and my periods are always painful, my gender identity is not feminine and I have zero emotional attachment to my reproductive organs. And yet, I have not spayed/neutered myself (even though it would be nice to not have periods). Since I don’t experience gender dysphoria, a surgery like this seems excessive. So why would I subject my dog to it?

Important aside: I fully support everyone’s right to have surgery. It should absolutely be covered by your medical insurance, and it is fucking aweful that the US has started taking these rights from the trans community. Fuck this fascist shit! I’m just saying I don’t want surgery myself. Anyways, I digress.

… or two …

I do not see free-roaming dogs and their life expectancy as a problem, I believe, because I’m under the impression that most community dogs are living a good life while they are alive, even if most puppies don’t survive. Sure, they may have fleas, which is annoying. They may have a bearable load of endoparasites they don’t notice much. But other than that? They have a lot of freedom, they eat better than my own dog (who is mostly on kibble), and they have active social lives and both human and canine friends. Death is a natural part of life – I don’t see it as tragic if a dog dies at a young rather than an old age as long as they don’t suffer, and the life that they did have was a pleasant one.

(We need to define/operationalize “a good life” as well as “freedom.” If you’re reading this – share your definition in the comments! Does it differ depending on the species you are talking about?)

… or three.

I am clearly projecting my own values on these dogs, and I am trying to stay aware of it. I personally value life quality A LOT, and life quantity not all that much. That, I believe, is the reason I see things the way I do: not a problem; just life. I also value personal freedom greatly, and “safety” (something else that needs to be defined/operationalized) relatively little. And I can’t stand it when someone tries to control me or doles out unsolicited advice.

Based on my own values, I am okay with the way community dogs and owned free-roaming village dogs live their lives, reproduce, and do their thing. It’s not my place to intervene into their lives, physical integrity, or reproductive behavior.

The video (finally, we’re talking about the video!)

The video starts just after Veronica, who runs a (most delicious!) quesadilla stand, has doled out the dogs’ dinner. Every day, throughout the day, she fills a bucket with leftovers, and in the evening, she’ll add whatever won’t be used anymore the next day. She and her granddaughter clean up, and then, the last thing they do before they go home: they empty out the bucket for the dogs. The dogs will start coming by and waiting around 6pm, when Veronica closes the place. The dogs’ dinner is around half past 6, when everything else has been cleaned and put away.

What do they eat, you wonder? Here in this video, the bucket contains intestines (chicken hearts – those are first to go, stomach – probably venison, liver), sheep bones, veggies (among them chili peppers, which are the red things the dogs only eat in the end), and tortillas de maíz. It’s pretty much what you’d feed your dog if you were feeding a home-cooked or raw diet.

Veronica knows the dogs, and they all have names, typically referring to a physical characteristic of theirs (for example, the little curly one is “Chinito” – literally “little curly guy”). Veronica also knows the dogs’ personalities. The brindle male with the black back, Wilson, is one she keeps in check: he used to beat the other dogs up and not let them eat until he was done. You can see this in the video: some of them don’t dare to approach the pile while Wilson is here, and Veronica will come back occasionally to shoo him away. He doesn’t show any food guarding behavior towards the other dogs, but based on their body language, we can tell that they are being tentative around him. (They are not afraid of Veronica, even though it might look that way because she stays close as long as Wilson is close – they are all sociable towards people.)

The only dog in the video who keeps a respectful distance from Veronica is Wilson: he has likely had a close encounter or two with that very bucket she is swinging at him. It is no longer necessary for her to implement punishment – he knows, just based on her coming closer or talking to him, when it is time to retreat. You can see him keep an eye on Veronica just like the other dogs are keeping an eye on him.

The female who only approaches the food towards the end and occasionally jumps on me is my friend – I don’t have a relationship with any of the others. However, that female may have had a memorable encounter with Wilson in the past because she doesn’t even think about approaching while he is around. You’ve met her in a previous video:

The white puppy is also particularly interesting. See how they’re experimenting with what they can get away with around Chinito, who has a bone the puppy would very much like for themselves?


(*) Foreshadowing: this very puppy is going to also be taken out of the community dog population, and become an owned free-roaming dog. You are going to meet them again under different circumstances in a future video.

One Wild and Precious, E7 Dog geekery: pet dogs or free-roaming dogs … who’s got it “better”?

Listen to this episode on any other major podcast player – just look for “Our One Wild and Precious Lives (and Our Dogs).”

Link to Apple Podcasts.

Link to Spotify.

Injured free-roamers referred to in E7:

1. The free-roaming dog with the big wound on his leg – pictures:

To give you a face to go with the pictures of the wound below – we’re talking about the dog who looks like a Mal mix. He’s Game’s and my friend, and the young Husky mix next to him is his buddy. You may have seen both of these dogs in some of my videos already:

Picture of the wound on this dog from January 27, 2022:

A better pic I managed to take on February 1st:

The wound starts looking smaller – the picture below is from February 8, 2022:

And below, 2 pictures from February 14: now there’s no way of denying that he’s healing up!

I didn’t take any pictures after this, but a few weeks later, you could hardly tell there had ever been a wound!


2. The dog with the dangly leg I saw near a freeway on my road trip:


By the way, if you want to roam and ramble with your dog the way I (Chrissi) do with Game – who’s not free-roaming, but has a lot of freedom when the two of us are out together – join me in Out and About at FDSA! Registration is still open, and class starts on October 1st. Gold students tend to work on a large variety of eclectic topics related to being out in the world with their dogs. It’s always an interesting and rich class to follow along with, even if you’re only reading along at the Bronze level!

Sue doesn’t teach a class in October, but the spay/neuter webinars she and Jessica Hekman presented on September 22 may still up for purchase on the day this podcast episode airs! I attended both of them live, and highly recommend them. Grab ’em while you can: https://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/self-study/webinars


PS: For a weekly glimpse into the life of free-roamers, subscribe to my latest passion project: my Free Ranging Dogs Youtube channel! I discuss their behavior, body language, interactions and various ethological concepts in the video description, and release a new video each Sunday afternoon. My goal is to build a free resource and share the free-roamers Game and I encounter on our meanderings with anyone who’d like to learn more about them.

The free-roaming dogs of Mexico

I started a Youtube channel on the free roaming dogs I encounter on my own free meanderings. Every Sunday at 5pm CT, you’ll get a little glimpse in their lives and encounters. Make sure to read the video descriptions for more information and context.

Today, I released the third episode – here are the first three to give you an example of the kind of content I’m going to feature. To stay up to date, subscribe to the channel.Feel free to videos that interest you with your friends! I love sharing “my” free-roamers with you all!

Game chooses to stay close to me so I’ll keep her safe

Video description

Game is good with dogs. She’s got excellent social skills, and she’s a confident girl. However, this is the morning after a night of fireworks that made her quite uncomfortable. She’s not up for dealing with other dogs today, and chooses to stay near me. We have a system of communication, and within our shared language, this means that she is asking me to deal with the dogs for her. So I do. All is well.

Game meets a playful free roaming puppy

Video description

Before I got the camera out, the puppy approached us, ran towards and play-bowed at Game. By the time I start filming, the roles are reversing and Game is finding out if she, too, will get to be the chaser.

We walk here a lot, but haven’t seen this puppy before. She does not behave like a typical free-roaming homed puppy. That and the fact that there is a busy street nearby is why I joke about her wanting to be my dog – that’s not a thought that usually crosses my mind. If she were either an obviously homed free-roaming puppy or this was a pedestrian area (one or both are the case for almost all – let’s say 98% – of dogs I see in Guanajuato), I would keep my distance. This is not the case for this puppy, which tempts me to interact more with her than I would with a typical free-roamer whose life I feel I shouldn’t interfere in much. I would usually offer neither food nor pets, and keep my distance, just observing.

Passing a shy free-roaming dog on leash

A typical encounter. As it turned out, the dog was in his core area – the little store likely belongs to his folks.

Happy training, observing and learning, everyone!