Whether a dog is lost or was born a stray, his behavior will be markedly different to that of your own pooch. Street dogs are a lot more reliant on their survival instincts and are much more streetwise. Dogs who have roamed from their home and got lost may be anxious, confused and aggressive. Stray dogs also exhibit unpredictable behavior, so it's important to approach them with caution and compassion.
Behaviors of Stray Dogs
Dogs who have strayed from their home are in unfamiliar and scary surroundings. The strange sounds and sights may encourage them to be defensive and fearful. The fear may manifest as aggression, even when approached by a well-meaning stranger. Dogs who were born as strays are used to their surroundings and may be less prone to fear. In some cases, they are quite used to the presence of crowds and will happily interact and mingle.
Dogs who are naturally wary of strangers are likely to be even more wary when in unfamiliar surroundings. They typically avoid strangers, running away when approached and will only overcome their fear when hunger gets the better of them.
A friendly dog may see being out and about by himself as a great adventure, completely unaware of the dangers. Such dogs will happily approach strangers, other dogs and will not run away if approached. These dogs are at an advantage, as it is more likely that they can be caught and returned to their families. Even dogs who have spent their whole lives as strays can learn to be friendly, especially if they are in an established routine, like the stray dogs who live on the Moscow subway network.
When a dog is sufficiently fearful, he may turn aggressive. The threshold for fear turning into aggression varies according to the personality of the dog. Dogs who have escaped from their homes may quickly turn aggressive due to the shock of being in unfamiliar, scary surroundings. Streetwise strays may exhibit aggression toward other dogs, whom they view as competitors for food and territory, but will simply avoid humans.
Increased Prey Drive
Dogs who have to find their own food will have sharper hunting instincts than those who are used to being fed as part of a domestic routine. Therefore dogs born as strays will kill their food, and in some cases may actually provide a valuable service to the people they live near by keeping vermin populations down by hunting rats and mice.
By Simon Foden
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.