Chrissi and Marco have been digging into the formal studies done on the behaviors, land use patterns, and population dynamics of free-roaming dogs in different parts of the world. They will illustrate the research findings with videos, pictures, and stories of the dogs in their own neighborhoods: Marco lives in the beach town of Sayulita on the Pacific coast, and Chrissi in the city of Guanajuato in central Mexico. You’ll learn who the free-roamers typically are, what benefits and dangers their life holds, what their social life looks like, and what they do on an average day: where do they sleep, what do they eat, and who do they interact with?
A common assumption in the Western world is that all dogs should have a home. But what, exactly, is a home? Is it helpful to assume that every dog, no matter their background, would be better off as a Western-style pet? After an overview of the life of free-roaming dogs, we are going to zoom out, and look at the quality of life of different kinds of dogs – free-roamers, Western pets, and kennel dogs. We will explore this question through the lens of the “five freedoms” defined by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee (1979; 2009; 2011):
1. Freedom from hunger and first
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
4. Freedom to express normal behavior
5. Freedom from fear and distress.
The five freedoms were initially formulated with livestock welfare in mind, but have been used to try and measure the quality of life of different animals – including dogs. We will look at how Italian veterinarians judged the life quality of different dogs in a 2013 study, and invite you to think about your own interpretation of “a good life”: what freedoms do you consider most important? Which ones are you willing to compromise on in favor of others? What if the concept of “a good life” is – like many things in dog training! – more subjective than we’d like to admit?