Whenever we stop in a town to rest for a few days, inevitably, an adorable street dog finds its way to us. Whether we attract more dogs because we travel with our own or they simply gravitate towards new people who tend to promise food scraps, these dogs manage to make their way into our hearts, ultimately leaving us heartbroken when the time comes to depart.
We joke that Sora wouldn’t mind sharing her trailer with a new friend and that Dave could certainly handle a load increase. Each time we fall for a new dog, we leave promising that when the time comes, we’ll head out on bicycle tour with an empty trailer in search of a new companion to bring home.
Adopting one stray dog from overseas not only rescues that animal from a life on the streets, but also helps prevent the generation of more strays. And it’s a fairly simple process, depending on which country the pup originates.
We have friends who brought home two street dogs after spending a year living in Mexico. While crossing into Chile at Lago O’Higgins, we met Henry, Ruby, and their dog Sir, who followed them on their bike tour for so many days that they decided that they may as well make him part of the family. Emily, founder of Fedwell pet food found her pup, Fenway while living in Togo where she completed Peace Corps service.
To learn of others like Henry, Ruby, and Sir who travel by bicycle with their dogs check out our post Cycle Touring Dogs around the World.
Of course, there are plenty of animals in shelters that also need homes, and we assume that most people do not consider the possibility of bringing a dog home from their travels. It seems daunting and complicated or one assumes the dog has rabies, but in actuality, those fears are not true in most cases. Here are 10 reasons to consider adopting a street dog.
#1 They’re super friendly.
Street dogs follow us around, play with Sora, play with us, and just hang around for some pets or some nibbles of whatever we may be eating. We’ve had dogs follow us for days when we’ve stayed in campgrounds and sleep outside our tent, protecting us throughout the night (since Sora is the worst guard dog, ever). No matter the number of times locals shoo them away or throw rocks at them, these dogs still manage to trust and love humans.
#2 They are well-socialized.
Since there are so many street dogs roaming the cities in packs, they are all well-socialized. Constantly meeting other dogs and people, they tend to get along with with new friends so any anxiety surrounding socialization is likely negligible. Further, with the amount of stray cats, they’re generally accustomed to living around cats (but still may want to chase at first!).
#3 You can skip the puppy stage.
Most of the street dogs we meet have shiny white teeth, indicating their youth. We estimate the age of most street dogs we meet to be 1-3 years old. Although cities often have catch and release programs for spay and neuter, people don’t often fix their animals, plus they allow them to wander the streets during the day, which means lots and lots of puppies. When adopted at a young age, dogs can more easily adapt to life indoors as a pet, learn proper training, and break some of their street behaviors.
#4 They need a home.
As mentioned earlier, some of these dogs have “homes,” where they are fed, but are free to roam the streets during the day. You can generally determine these guys by their collar. The others whom have not been “adopted,” however search the trash for food or lap up drainage water when they need to hydrate. They’re more prone to fighting with other dogs over food and territory and have nowhere to go when the weather turns bad.
#5 They need veterinary care.
So many dogs we meet have likely never seen a vet. They walk around limping, with sores, infections, or mange and desperately need to seek medical care. A single visit to a vet can often remedy most of these issues and put a pup on a path towards health. (Do be sure to check that your selected pup doesn’t already have a “home.”)
#6 Who doesn’t love a mutt?
Since street dogs reproduce with whomever they like whenever they like, you won’t find many purebreds walking about (ok, that’s not quite true, Chile seems to have an abundance of Sharpeis and we found the odd street Golden Retriever in Turkey). Purebred dogs tend to have more genetic health issues due to inbreeding, though evidence is inconclusive.
#7 It’s fairly easy to bring home a street dog!
Traveling with a dog overseas is certainly more work, but it’s easy doable. All it takes is a few veterinary visits, some shots, and paperwork and you’re on your way. Flying with a dog is stressful for both human and pup, but it’s a common practice. It all depends on the country of origin and destination, so check with the department of agriculture in each destination and your airline before traveling.
#8 Easy to train.
Street dogs tend want the structure and benefits provided to them by a loving human. After spending a life searching for food, they will likely be more obedient and learn quickly knowing that you are the Food Person. As they are highly food-motivated, they will respond well to positive reinforcement.
#9 They’re great off-leash!
Since street dogs are used to roaming around and following people anyway, they can be well-behaved off-leash, the perfect running or hiking buddy. They respond well to recall and when following us around, tend to look back when they walk ahead, checking that we’re still in sight.
#10 You’d be saving a life.
The average lifespan of a street dog ranges from two to eight years, with most never making it past five years old. They die from disease, starvation, cold, are hit by cars or are killed in fights with other dogs.