Over the past two centuries, the typical life of dogs has changed dramatically. While dogs previously fulfilled various roles as guardians, shepherds, hunting helpers and traveling companions, industrialization and urbanization brought about changes in the human way of life which also transformed the human relationship. -dog, with dogs primarily becoming pets and residents inside homes.
Companion dogs are enjoying an adequate degree of welfare in many ways, with an industry that offers specialty foods, veterinary care, toys, accessories, and other basic services and products. However, the lifestyle of a pet in the city is very different from the free life that dogs once led. Lots of dogs They only go out with their master and on a leash., with limited freedom to explore, play and socialize with other animals off-leash in open spaces. Moreover, due to the hectic life of the owners, many are left home alone for several hours a day, further limiting the dogs’ opportunities for socialization. Likewise, during the same period, selective breeding, driven in large part by human aesthetic ideals and concepts of purebred purity, transformed dog populations.
In an effort to explore this question, a group of researchers conducted a review of the literature, examining two of the main challenges for companion dog welfare related to these changes, the social demands of companion dogs and associated behavioral issuesand selective breeding and related issues.
The authors compared the life and well-being of city companion dogs to the opposite extreme, village dogs living in semi-freedom.
“We have to keep in mind that it is not our goal to idealize the life of the dogs of the village. They have their own welfare issues, for example lack of proper and adequate food, lack of veterinary care, and human hostility, issues that are often compounded by uncontrolled breeding. However, “we suggest that this comparative approach can be used to put the welfare of companion dogs into perspective.”
BENEFITS OF VILLAGE DOGS
The authors of study explored the relationship between dogs and humans, comparing the lives of city dogs and small town dogs, one obvious difference is the degree to which owners control the lives of city companion dogs. “This is particularly relevant when it comes to the social life of companion dogs. Owners often decide the degree of social interaction of the dog, as well as how and with whom the dog can socialize. Additionally, many companion dogs “live in conditions where humans are away most of the day.” Therefore, companion dogs can suffer from problems related to this lack of social interaction.
In contrast, although village dogs depend on the human hand for food resources and may also enjoy the company of people, “do not depend directly on humans to meet their social needs”.
In this sense, given their greater freedom to establish social interactions, “it has been discovered that city dogs have a calm and less excitable temperament than city dogswhich is explained by continuous exposure to the street environment, humans, animals and other dogs”.
SELECTIVE BREEDING AND WELFARE ISSUES
Today, there are approximately 400 dog breeds, each established by selection from a small gene pool resulting in distinctive physical and behavioral characteristics.
Although dogs are increasingly being bred without a pedigree, the authors say in most countries the main drivers of dog breeding are national kennel clubs, which assume responsibility for herd books, breed restrictions , dog shows, etc. This situation createdan extraordinary diversity in the morphology and behavior of dogs ». “It also restricted gene flow and created bottlenecks associated with breed formation that resulted in loss of genetic variation,” they add.
In turn, “this imposed a welfare cost for purebred dogs due to health issues,” as many of these breeds carry certain associated disorders, such as brachycephalic dog breeds. The authors explore how these races, typically present in cities, present a certain degree of malaise.
Therefore, “the extreme welfare problems of certain purebred dogs compared to typical village dogs, could be avoided or considerably limited”, as they point out, by optimizing breeding systems, avoiding such genetic pressure suffered by purebred dogs in the city.
EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING VS LIFE EXPECTANCY
Compared to the city dog that lives in semi-freedom conditions, the typical modern companion dog that spends most of the day indoors experiences, as they explain, “good well-being under several aspects”. East well-being is particularly important when it comes to safety, meet nutritional needs (although pet dogs have other problems due to a high prevalence of obesity and the diseases associated with this condition), as well as adequate veterinary care, with the corresponding antiparasitic treatments and a correct vaccination protocol. As a result, the authors indicate that the average life expectancy of companion dogs of all breeds is over ten years, while compared to that of a village dog it is around one third.
However, exploring other quality of life parameters, the authors conclude that “the modern companion dog often experiences poor well-being, suffers from reproductive-related diseases, the loneliness and unrealistic social demands that can contribute to anxiety depression or aggression”.
“Perhaps counterintuitively, companion dogs have no welfare advantage over city dogs in any respect. As such, we have shown how comparing the two can highlight potential initiatives to improve companion dog welfare.”