It's a sad truth that not all dogs have a home with humans.
Many spend time in animal shelters where the luckiest are able to find a forever home with a friendly family.
Where the Wild Dogs Come From
But not all homeless dogs are that lucky. Some dogs are let loose in the country, often by well-meaning people who are no longer able to care for them. Maybe people believe the dogs will either be taken in by a farm family, or will be better off on their own than they would be in shelters. Dogs are abandoned in the city when their human families move to a place that doesn't allow dogs or are no longer able to keep the dogs for other reasons.
Some dogs used to be fighting dogs and are abandoned on the streets when they are no longer able to serve that purpose. Some come from puppy mills when they are released so the owners of the mills are not found with too many puppies for the conditions. And still others were born on the streets.
What Does "Feral" Mean?
Dogs that live without human contact are known as feral dogs (sometimes also known as "street dogs" or "free range dogs.") They look like domestic dogs, but over time, their behavior changes.
Most dogs like human companionship. If a dog is lost or has been separated from his human, he'll often respond cheerfully to a person who approaches him in the hopes that person can help reunite him with his human family.
Feral dogs tend to be frightened, or at least very wary, of humans. They likely have had little contact with humans and what contact they have had may have been unpleasant for them.
How They Live
If there are several feral dogs in close proximity to one another, they will form a pack with a hierarchy similar to that of wolves. It's often the most intelligent dog, not the most aggressive, that becomes the pack leader.
Urban feral dogs become scavengers, eating garbage, waste or even carrion: whatever they can find. Because as a species they have been dependent on man for so long, they won't necessarily hunt. Even if their instinct to hunt does kick in, they don't necessarily know what do with their prey once they've killed it.
Since human-supplied food sources are scarce out in the country, feral dogs there may hunt as a pack and attack sheep, goats, chickens and other small livestock.
Actions You Can Take
Feral dogs can be infected with fleas, mange, rabies, parvovirus and other diseases that can be a threat to domestic dogs. Keep your dog away from feral dogs.
If you see a feral dog, you should alert the proper authorities. Many feral dogs can be rehabilitated with time, proper care and handling. But first they need to be taken off the streets.
Feral dogs are a problem in many cities and rural areas throughout the world. There is no cheap and easy fix to this problem, but by being a responsible dog owner, you can help keep it from becoming worse.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.