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December 15, 2009



Yup, yup and yup. I spent time in Vanuatu last year and it had me questioning everything I thought I knew about a satisfying dog life.

The dogs there had no vet care, no commercial food and dug nests on the beach to sleep. But they lived a quite excellent life, following their 'family' from place to place, living an exciting life of dirt and stink and perfectly executed dog conversations.

'Hey! Your patch, eh? That's cool. Nice to meet you... bye!'

Such great body language.

Also - no purebreds. All the dogs were small, brown and curious. But friendly - SO friendly! Simply, a dog who bites a kid, worries a chicken or dares to act a menace, doesn't last long enough to ever get to pass on his bad habits.

Fascinating post B!

Stephanie Feldstein

It's an interesting question. I think socialization is a deeper cultural issue than leash laws. On the islands and in South American countries, there's a much greater sense of community. In European cities where people bring their dogs everywhere, you also see better socialized dogs. I think the lack of socialization here is another symptom of urban sprawl.

Here, people live holed up in their suburban houses with their fenced yards and don't bother to interact much with their neighbors. Look at the difference between your average dog that lives in a city and is used to going on walks every day versus the one who just gets let out in the yard. And, of course, one of the top bite risks is a dog kept chained in his own yard (which says a lot symbolically about where our culture is at these days, too).

Back in the day, people used to just let their dogs roam the neighborhoods all day, but they also knew their neighbors and were part of a community. That's changed a lot in the last fifty years. It would be interesting to look at human social trends and see where leash laws fit into the timeline -- whether they were one of the starting factors of our increasing isolation or whether they were another result of it.

(...and now I'm going to be looking out at the cold, rainy day here and thinking about Belize!)


wondering what tropical diseases purebred dogs are more prone to, and speculating that all those unleashed well-socialized (intact??) dogs might be the cause of all those mixed breed dogs... and of course when you have uncontrolled random breeding of dogs, you tend to end up with dogs of the "small brown" type that the commenter above observed.


Actually, there is some of this idea of less socialization in the scientific literature. Way back when, folks generally let their dogs run at large, fewer fences, even in the suburban areas. And yes, the problems of intact dogs and random breedings were common. But dogs interacted more with each other, this idea is brought out some in the book, The Social Life of Dogs. Now....we have fencing and more restrictions. The dogs have far less of an opportunity to interact with their own, learning proper dog etiquette and protocol. A dog behind a wooden fence can not see or effectively interact with the rest of the world. I am certainly not advocating letting dogs run at large. But I think we have forgotten about dog behavior, the how, what, when and why. So people are shocked! shocked! when their dog bites or is aggressive.



It is ironic that people in the U.S. live in a country where many of the really big things we have ever accomplished have happened when we get a lot of people, many who may not even speak the same language, acting together. But when it is over we live our lives segregated from each other and complain about the effects.

I have wondered what it would take to find volunteers in neighborhoods to walk their dogs and encourage other owners to come with them - maybe the city could send invitations in utility bills. They already pay for centers for kids and seniors to keep them off the streets, this would offer at least as much benefit. A couple hours a week might bring about big change, especially with trained volunteers.

According the the website "Laws of Belize" it sounds like there is a bit of reticence to enforce the animal laws:

Section 17. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no owner of a dog
shall permit that dog to be at large in any street or place of public resort in any
town and any person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence...

And Animal Control can be a little final...

Section 18.-(1) Subject to this section, the licensing authority of any city or town may place poison in any street or place of public resort in such city or town for the
purpose of poisoning any dog which is at large therein.
(2) (a) The poison used shall be a preparation of strychnine in capsule form.

Apparently there was a bit of a hue and cry about this, but it is still on the books...

As others have noted, we can't let dogs run loose, but we could definitely manage to give them more socialization than they are getting.

So I am going to go take the dogs out in the snow...

The Pied Piper

It's interesting how different perspectives can be. Some people look at loose, roaming dogs in other countries and see happy, healthy animals allowed to socialize and wander and soak up the good life of living relatively natural as can be expected.

Other people look at those dogs and see the rampant over-breeding, lack of vet care which results in slow, painful deaths of disease and injury, lack of quality food which causes health problems like rotting teeth, the consequences of a certain lack of care that results in "excess" animals being rounded up and shot, gassed, poisoned, drowned, or worse, the results of spreading diseases, and the overall attitude towards animal welfare which is usually very lacking. Socialization certainly doesn't suffer, but other behaviors that in any way make an animal remotely inconvenient don't end in a health check or behavior modification, they end in death.

I'll take leash and anti-roaming laws for domesticated animals any day, though I agree that regulation is not always the right answer (such as pet limit laws).

Our Pack

Good post Brent. As a person having worked with animals in the 70s (what leash?) (a collar, huh?) I know exactly what you mean. Things were very different then. The dogs responded to each other differently. Now, Leash Reactivity!


Emily - -I do not know the specifics on diseases, but we've heard it from multiple sources (that seem knowledgeable enough)that purebreds don't do well there. But yes, no doubt, the off-leash, unaltered dogs roaming around has a lot to do with all the mongrel dogs.

Piper - -I was only talking about the socialization aspect. They have a LONG way to go for adequate vet care/vaccinations/sterilization. The community we were in was served once a month for shots from the local Humane Society - -but otherwise, there was no vet care. I don't know it for sure, but I would imagine heartworms are a huge problem there, and it is rare to see elderly dogs. I imagine they live quality, but short, lives. Because of the short lifespan, there didn't seem to be a huge overpopulation issue - -and it isn't as if there is a shelter that is taking them all in. But yes, proper vet care is a real issue -- and I do plan to post something about that in the coming weeks.

Our Pack/TEH -- To be fair, according to most statistical references, dog bites used to be WAY more common in the 70s and 80s than they are now - - even though there are more owned dogs now. So our leash law system is better for overall public safety. Unfortunately, we've dealt with the problem by creating more and more isolation for the animals -- and as a result, I feel like we've lost a lot of dogs' natural socialization. Somehow we need to bring that back into the fold without reverting back to the free-for-all that was the 1970s/80s.


BTW, I have had a couple of requests for the old Goodpooch article that was referenced in my 3 year old blog post -- Goodpooch was unfortunately taken down a couple years ago.

Here's a link to the old article -- thanks PAI for finding:

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