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Free-ranging dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, are an integral part of the human environment in India and many other countries. They can serve as the perfect model system for understanding the process of development of the human–dog relationship that led to the domestication of the wilder ancestors of the dogs and created ‘man’s best friend’. Yet, very little is known about the ecoethology of these animals and all our understanding of dog behaviour is based on studies of pets reared by humans. The free-ranging dogs lead a scavenging life, depending on human excesses for their survival, and rarely hunt. They are often considered as a menace by many people, as dirty animals that bark, bite and spread rabies. These notions are often founded on personal biases and little scientific data exist to either support or refute such claims. As part of an extended study on the behavioural ecology of free-ranging dogs in India, we carried out random sampling of dog behaviour through censuses in two cities and one township of India. We used our data from 1941 sightings to draw up a time activity budget of dogs during the part of the day when they share the streets with humans. Our analysis reveals that dogs are generally lazy and friendly animals, and their rare interactions with humans are typically submissive. Thus dogs do not usually pose a threat to human wellbeing, and proper management of our refuse and a tolerant, if not friendly attitude towards dogs can ensure their peaceful co-existence with us.
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CURREN T SCIENC E, VOL. 106, NO. 6, 25 MARCH 2014 874
*For correspondence. (e-mail: abhadra@iiserko
A dog’s day with humans – time
activity budget of free-ranging dogs
in India
Sreejani Sen Majumder1, Ankita Chatterjee1,2
and Anindita Bhadra1,*
1Behaviour and Ecolo gy Lab, Depar tment of Biological Science s,
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata,
Mohanpur, Nadia 741 25 2, I ndia
2Present addres s: National Institut e of Biomed ical Ge nomics,
Kalyani 741 251, Ind ia
Free-ranging dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, are an inte-
gral part of the human environment in India and
many other countries. They can serve as the perfect
model system f or unde rstanding t he process of deve -
lopment of t he human–dog relationship that le d to the
domestication of t he wilder ancestors of the dogs a nd
created man’s best frie nd’. Yet, very little is known
about t he e coethology of these animals and all o ur un-
derstanding of dog behaviour is based on studies of
pets reare d by humans. The free-ranging dogs lead a
scaveng ing life, depending on human exce sses for their
survival, and rarely hunt. They are often considere d
as a menace by many people, as dirty animals t hat
bark, bite and s pread rabies. These notions are ofte n
founded on personal biases and little scientific data
exist to eithe r support or ref ute such claims. As part
of an extended study on the behavioural ecology of
free-ranging dogs in India, we ca rried out random
sampling of dog behavio ur through censuses in two
cities and o ne towns hip of India. We use d o ur data
from 1941 sig htings to draw up a time activity budget
of dogs during the part of the day whe n they share t he
streets with humans. Our analysis reveals that dogs
are ge nerally lazy and friendly animals, and their rare
interactions with humans a re typically s ubmissive.
Thus dogs do not usually pose a threat to human well-
being, and proper manageme nt of our refuse and a
tolerant, if not friendly att itude towards dogs can
ensure t heir peaceful co-existence with us.
Keywords: Census, free-ranging dogs, time activi ty
budget, scavengers.
THE dog, Canis lupus familiaris, is known as man’s bes t
friend, and yet, scientific knowledge on the ecoethology
of dogs in their natural habitat is al most non-existent. A
reason for this is pr obably that the presence of unattended
dogs on the streets is forbi dden by law in most wester n-
ized countries, and so, even if such dogs are present, their
activities are interfered by humans, and stabl e social
groups are not formed1. Due to their l ong his tory of do-
mestication dogs have adapted excellently to living with
humans in their homes, isolated from conspecifics. How-
ever, dogs have descended from wolves (Canis lupus
lupus), and like many other canids, they too are capable
of forming stable social groups that are influenced b y the
same factors that affect social organization of wild canid
systems1–5. Dogs that do not have owners and w hose
movements are not li mited by human beings are typically
called free-ranging dogs. These dogs can be interesting
model systems for studying the effects o f d omestication
on their be haviour, a s well as for understanding the evo-
lution of the dog–human relationship in nature.
Free-ranging dogs are a ubiquitous part of the urban
ecology in many developing and under developed coun-
tries like Mexico 6,7, Ecuador8, Zambia9, Zimbabwe1 0,
Italy1 1, India 12, Nepal and Japan1 3. Though dogs in India
have lived outside of human homes for centuries 14, and
have also been used for hunting, they have not undergone
the usual domestication process to become exclusively
pets as i n most developed countries. Dog figurines a nd
remains have been unear thed i n the Indus Valley Civili-
zation1 5 a nd references to dogs can be found in ancient
Indian texts like the Rg Veda, the Puranas, the Maha-
bharata, the Ramayana and the Manu Samhita and i n
many folk tales from across the country. The Agni
Purana classi fies the dog as a village animal, and though
dogs have been considered as outcastes and have been
associated wi th death and evil i n the Hindu culture, the
householder’s daily duty i ncluded feeding the dogs and
outcastes16. The European i nflue nce has introduced pedi-
greed dogs to the homes of the middle class and elite
society, but the India n Native dog (IN dog) or Indian
pariah dog has co ntinued to live on the s treets, depe nding
on garba ge and begged food for sus tenance 17.
The free-ranging dogs in India have a wide distributi on
ranging from ci ties to forest fringes3,17,18. Typicall y the y
have mongrel characteris tics, with poi nted ears, very
short fur, wolf-like poi nted faces and patch baldness in
their coats. They live in small groups or singly o n s treets
and depend on garbage and human generosity for their
sustenance17. Competition for food is high and fights are
common at garbage dumps, near roadside food stalls, or
when humans occ asio nally offer food to the dogs. Such
fights ar e sometimes a source of irritatio n for people, a nd
this makes dogs unpopular among many humans. They
breed twice a year, once i n autumn and once i n spri ng,
but a given female usually produces one li tter per year
(qualitative observations). Mortality in early life is quite
high, with less than 50% of the pups surviving beyond
the juvenile stage (Paul et al., in preparation). Though
humans are generally tolerant of dogs, dog–human c on-
flict is not uncommon, and a part of the human pop ula-
tion in India is regularly affected by dog bites.
Rabies is a serio us proble m i n India, with an estimated
2 in 1 00,000 people being affected ever y year19. Since
1985, 25,000–30,000 deaths have been reported due to
rabies i n the co untry2 0. In a multi-centric study based in
six anti-rabies clinics, Ichhp ujani et al.21 reported 1248
CURREN T SCIENC E, VOL. 106, NO. 6, 25 MARCH 2014 875
fresh dog bites over a peri od of 18 months. The aggres-
siveness of dogs and their propensity to attack a nd bi te is
often put forth as a justifica tion for culli ng the dog popu-
lation i n cities. Though most repor ted animal bites are by
dogs (91.5%), only about 60% o f these is by free-rangi ng/
stray dogs, while the remaining 40% is by pets2 2. Thus
there is indeed some amount of dog–human conflict on
the streets, but these studies only report the human per-
spective of such conflic t. No studies exist on either the
conflict or c ooperation that dogs receive from humans.
Efficie nt management of a population requires an under-
standing of the behaviour and ec ology of the species, and
in order to mitiga te dog–human conflict in our environ-
ment, scientific understanding of the behaviour o f free-
ranging dogs is necess ary. As dog–human interactions are
maximal during the daylight hours, and so are the inci-
dences of dog-bite23,2 4, we conducted a survey of free-
ranging dogs to draw up their time activity budget duri ng
the human activi ty hours on the streets of India.
We sampled dogs i n three different locations – the
IISER-Kolkata campus at Mohanpur (2294N, 8853E),
West Bengal; the Indian Institute of Science campus at
Bangalore (1298N, 7758E), Karnataka, and the town-
ship of Kalyani (2258N, 8828E), West Bengal. The
three locations were regarded as urban’ co nsideri ng
the definition of urban and r ural India accordi ng to the
Census of India 2001 (ref. 25) and the Natio nal Sample
Survey Organization26 .
Sampling was carried out in the morning (0630–
1030 h), afternoon (1400–1630 h) and evening (1630–
1930 h), when both hu mans and dogs are typically see n
on the streets. We avoided the time between 1030 and
1400 h, as the dogs usually rest in shelters at this time,
avoiding the heat, a nd hence are difficult to find on the
streets ( quali tative observa tions). Though we s ampled
along streets which were mostly lit in the eve ning,
the do gs were often sighted at s pots off the s treets, w here
the li ghting conditions did not allow for accurate obser-
vations. Hence we avoid ed sampling beyond 1930 h.
The observer rando mly picked a road i n the pre-
defined area and started wal king alo ng the same, covering
all byla nes along the road. Whe never a dog was si ghted,
its se x (deter mined by looking at the genitalia), a ge class
(adult or juvenile, determined by the structure of the
genitalia), a nd behaviour a t the time of sighting were
noted. For each dog, only the behaviour seen at the i n-
stance of sighting was recorded. For example, if a dog
was observ ed to be scratching itself and then sniffing
grass, scratching was recorded as the observed behaviour.
Thus we obtained data equivalent to instantaneous scan
sampling of the population. For eac h pre- defined area, a
sampling bout lasted for 2–3 h, and all roads in the area
were covered on foot. The da ta were collected between
August 2008 a nd August 2011, in five phases – one sa m-
pling event each in Kalya ni and IISc, and three sampling
events on the IISER-Kolkata Campus. Thus we obtained
a ra ndom sample spread over di fferent seasons a nd areas,
such that it would be re presentative of the population.
The data were sorted according to behaviours, and the n
the behaviours were sorted into vario us cate gories li ke
inactive, mainte nance, vocalizatio ns, interactions, i ndi-
vidual behaviours and others. We kept vocalizations as a
separate category and did not put these under interactions
because for ev ery vocalization r ecorded, we did not know
the context in which it was produced. While voc alizations
are typicall y used for interactions, we did not always
know who these were directed at, or why. In addition, not
every vocali zation needs to be an interaction. Interactio ns
could be with do gs, humans or other animals like cows
and cats. Dogs were seen to be walking b oth solitarily as
well as with other dogs. However, if we did not see any
direct physical interactions, we co nsidered walking to be
an individual activity, as our sampling methodology did
not allow us to discern if the dog happe ned to be present
with other dogs by chance.
The various behaviours that were recorded and catego-
rized under these headings are provided in Table 1. The
data thus sorted were subjected to statistical analysis
using STATISTICA 7.0 and StatistiXL 1.8.
A total of 1941 free-ranging dog si ghtings were re-
corded a nd used in this analysis. For 1308 dogs we could
record the age class and se x, whereas for the r est data
were not available, though the behaviour was recorded.
We used the entire data to draw up the time ac tivity
budget of the free-ranging dogs, a nd the subset of 1308
dogs for more detailed analysis.
We c ompared the five sampling events over the three
locatio ns for all the five behavioural ca tegories (inactive,
active, vocalizations, maintenance and interac tions) to
check if there were significant variatio ns between sa m-
plings and l ocations. There was no significa nt difference
between the five samples (ANOVA: F4,20 = 1.13 4,
P = 0.369), and hence we could conclude that the overall
behavioural profiles of the dogs i n all our samples were
similar. Thus for all further analysis we pooled the data
from all the five samples under these behavioural catego-
The dogs were found in a s tate of rest or inactivity in
52.7% of the si ghtings, which was si gnificantly higher
than the cases in which they were fo und i n various states
of activity ( Figure 1 a;
2 test:
2 = 5.46, df = 1, P <
0.019). When the do gs were active, they were sighted
most often as walking, ei ther i ndividuall y or with other
dogs. The d ogs spent 15.66% of their time wal king,
which contrib uted to 4 7.7% of the i ndividual activi ties.
Individual activities were divided into the three sub-
categories of walking, maintenance and other activities,
and the dogs did not show these various behaviours in
equal proportions (
2 test:
2 = 60.49, df = 2, P <
0.0001). The amount of time spent walking was si gnifi-
cantly higher than that spent in maintenance activities
(24.8%) (Figure 1 b;
2 test:
2 = 23.66, df = 1,
CURREN T SCIENC E, VOL. 106, NO. 6, 25 MARCH 2014 876
Table 1 . De tails o f catego rizat ion of b ehaviour s used for a nalyse s with the various behaviours included in eac h catego ry
Behavioural category Behavioural subcate gory Beha viours include d
Inactive Sleep, laze, sit
Maintenance Groom, scratc h, defe cate, urinate, drink, eat, e at grass, c hew object, fo od search, forage,
sniff garba ge, beg, follow, receive food
Vocaliza tions Bark, growl, howl, angry ba rk
Dog–dog intera ctions Aggressive Attack, c hase, fight, subm it, bite
Affiliat ive Mock bite, play, allogroo m, sniff d og
Indirect Mark, a ngry bark
Dog–huma n inte ractions Affiliat ive Submit, beg, follow, wag tail, receive food
Individual be haviours Stand, alert, watch, run, walk, jump, inspect ob ject, sniff
Figure 1. a, The time activity b udget o f dogs dur ing the hours of hu-
man ac tivity, between 0630 and 1930 h, calculated from 1941 dog
sightings in three lo catio ns, over 5 d iffer ent p hases of obser vatio n
spanning 3 years. b, The proportion o f time of the total ac tivity period
spent in three differe nt kinds of individua l level activities. The free-
ranging dogs spend most o f their active time (47.7%) in wa lking. Dif-
ferent alphabets signify statistic ally signi fica nt differences between the
values d enoted b y t he bars.
P < 0.0001) , as well as the time spent in other activi ties
like standing, watching, sniffing, etc. considered toge ther
(Figure 1 b;
2 test:
2 = 18.01, df = 1, P < 0.0001). Thus
it can be c oncluded that walking was the most co mmon
individual activity displayed by the dogs. There was no
significant differe nce between the propor tion of time
spent in maintenance behaviours like grooming, scra tch-
ing, foraging, etc. and the pooled be haviours i n the
‘others’ category (Fi gure 1 b;
2 test:
2 = 0.39, df = 1,
P = 0.535).
We po oled all ki nds of vocalizations like bar k, growl,
howl and angr y bark under the category of vocalizations,
which comprised only 3.3% of the activities of the dogs.
Interesti ngly, all interactions recorded, including those
with dogs and humans claimed only 10.9% of the total
23% of the ac tive time of the dogs. Co nsidering these two
categories together, the dogs spent only about 14% of
their total time in any kind of active i nterac tions with
each other or with humans, whether through actual physi-
cal interactions or thro ugh vocali zations. This was si gni-
ficantly lower than the total time spe nt in other
behaviours when the do gs were not sitting idle or res ting
2 test:
2 = 144.9764, df = 1, P < 0.0001) . Of the i nter-
actions recorded, 84.7% were with other dogs, which was
significantly higher than the prop ortion of interactions
seen with humans (
2 test:
2 = 101.505, df = 1, P <
0.0001), and onl y two cas es of chasing a calf were recor-
ded (Fi gure 2 a). Of the 32 interactio ns seen with humans
(0.13% of all interactions), none was a ggressive, and 16
were in fact submissive interactions like tail wagging,
submitting and begging for food.
We categorized all instances of interactions between
dogs into aggressi ve, affilia tive or indirect interactions.
Attack, chase, fight, submit and bite were listed under
aggressive interactions; mock bi te, play, allogroom and
sniff dog were categorized as affiliative interactions;
mark and angr y bark (very loud bar k wi th a n alert body
posture) were included in the category of indirect interac-
tions. We also noted that dogs produce three other kinds
of vocali zations – bark, growl and howl, which we did
not use in the cate gory of interactions as dogs can pro-
duce these sounds without havi ng other dogs in the vici n-
ity (for example, when they are in pain), a nd we had no
records of the conte xt i n which the vocalizations had
been recorded. The three kinds of interactions did not
occur i n eq ual freq uencies (Fi gure 2 b;
2 test:
2 =
110.029, df = 2, P < 0.0001), with affiliative i nteractions
comprisi ng 65.21% of all interactions, which was si gnifi-
cantly higher than the two other categories of interactions
taken together (
2 test:
2 = 10.12, df = 1, P = 0.001).
For a s ubset of the da ta (1308 do gs), we had complete
records of the sex and age classes. For the rest, either the
CURREN T SCIENC E, VOL. 106, NO. 6, 25 MARCH 2014 877
Figure 2. a, The distr ibution of interactions with dogs, humans and ot her animals, calcula ted o ut of the total number of interac tions of any kind
shown by the dogs in the 1941 sig htings. Most interactions recorded were bet ween d ogs. b, The distribution of inte ractions betwee n do gs into the
categor ies of affiliative, aggressive a nd indirect. Most interactio ns record ed were affiliative in nature. Different a lphabet s denote statistically sig-
nificant diffe rences between the values de noted by the bars.
sex could not be recorded as the genitalia were not visible
during the sampling, or the age class could not be a ccu-
rately de termined. There were a total of 711 females, of
which 168 were juve niles and 597 males, of which 86
were juveniles. The behavioural profiles considering the
proportion of all behaviours of the four kinds of dogs in
the population, namely adult females, adult males, juve-
nile females and juvenile males did not vary from eac h
other (Kruskal–Wallis test:
2 = 0.199, df = 3, p = 0.978).
When the dogs were ca tegori zed according to either age
or sex, we did not see any significant di fferences between
the sexes (Mann–Whi tney U test, U = 850, df = 41,41,
P = 0.934) or between the age classes (Mann–Whitney
U test, U = 892, df = 41,41, P = 0.638). We carried out
similar a nalysis for each category of be haviours sepa-
rately, and found significant differences of interaction
patterns between the sexes a nd between the a ge class es.
Males were more aggressive than females ( Fisher’s exact
test, P = 0.005), and adults were more aggressive than
juveniles (Fis her’s exact test, P = 0.001).
The free-ranging dogs i n India coexist with humans i n
every possible habi tat, and yet, they are often considered
as a menace by many people because of their scave nging
habit, the territorial fights that often e nsue between dog
groups a nd beca use of occasional dog–human conflict
that leads to people being attac ked and bitten by dogs.
Though there is no dearth of dog lovers in the country,
dogs are faced by the challenge of interacting with per-
haps a larger number of people who are intolera nt of
them, and consider the m to be aggressive, unfriendly
animals that should be removed from the streets1 9. This
aversion towards dogs is a socio-cultural pheno menon
that has very deep roots, going b ack to at least three thou-
sand years1 6. Our sa mpling study in two urban habitats
and one se mi-urban habitat in India covered an area o f
approximately 768.5 acres a nd spanned over different
seasons. In five phases, we recorded 1941 dog sightings
during the time of the da y when humans are usually active,
which included both adults and j uveniles of both sexes,
and was thus representative o f the population at large.
Our analysis reveale d that the d ogs are inactive for
over half of the day, either slee ping, lazing or just sitting.
Considering the fact that we sa mpled only during the time
when dogs could ac tually be see n on the streets, and were
not hiding i n shelters, this is actually an underestimate. If
our sa mpling had spanned the entir e day and included the
time that do gs spend resting in their hideouts, the propor-
tion of time spent i nactive would have been higher. These
results match the obs ervations on free-ranging dogs in
Berkeley, Cali fornia, USA, in which r epeated samplings
were carried out in a 48 ha residential area for 7 months27.
In this study, 1243 si ghtings were made on about 50
unique free-ranging dogs, w hich were found to be r esting
in 44. 4% of the si ghtings. This s tudy also reported that
free-ranging dogs were most abundant i n the early morn-
ings and la te afternoo ns, with the percentage of dogs
found to be resting increasi ng with temperature, for an
observed temperature range of 929C. Though we did
not record the tempera ture during our sampling, the aver-
age temperature range during our observations was
8–36C, considering all the time periods and the three
locatio ns covered, wi th the mean tempera ture ranging
from 18C to 30C (www.wunder
Given that we did not sample ver y earl y in the morning
and i n the middle o f the day, the actual temperature
would have been higher than the minimum and lower
than the maximum, and hence closer to the mean range.
When the dogs were not resting, they were most often
seen to be wal king. Since our sampling was base d on
random sightings, we di d not have any method for re-
cording the p urpose of this walking. Dogs typically wal k
in search o f food, a nd also for marking their territories.
CURREN T SCIENC E, VOL. 106, NO. 6, 25 MARCH 2014 878
Often they seem to be wal king randomly, the purpose of
which ca n be r evealed only through detailed behavioural
observations on focal individuals and groups. Interaction
rates were found to be quite low, and all recorded instances
of i nteraction with humans were submissive. Thus, this
analysis does not support the general notion of free-
ranging dogs being aggressive, unfriendly animals that
are a constant source of nuisance to people on the streets
of India.
Dogs bark and howl, often producing a chor us reminis-
cent of their wolvine ancestry, and this makes them score
low with many humans. Many encounters between do gs
are often interrupted by people who chase them away,
often by throwi ng stones or dousing them with wa ter.
However, dogs were sighted produci ng some sound in
only 65 cases, which was 3.34% of the total observations.
Thus, the perception of dogs as noisy and aggressive
creatures that prese nt a threat to human well-being is
quite ill-founded and biased. However, i t is true that
many dogs in the Indian streets are rabid, and do g bites
do occur, though these are no t regular incidents as per-
ceived by some28. Dogs are efficient scavengers, and are
responsible for removal of a large part of our garbage
from the streets (Anandar up Bhadra, unpublished data).
Though we need detailed ob servational data for a better
understanding of the behavioural ecolo gy o f the free-
ranging dogs, this preliminary s tudy sugges ts that the
general perception of these dogs as a nuisance is quite
flawed. We would like to argue that the sol ution to do g–
human conflict is not c ulling, but efficient manage ment
of garbage and rabies in the country, and a positive attitude
towards the animals that are otherwise know n to be man’s
best friend.
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ACKNOW LEDGEMEN TS. This wor k was c arried out entirely in the
field, and no ani mals were harmed during the obse rvations. We thank
Manabi Paul, IIS ER-Ko lkata, for help with ana lysis. We also thank the
Council o f Scie ntific and Industria l Research, New De lhi; Ind ian
Nationa l Sc ience Acade my, Ne w Delhi and IISER-Kolka ta, fo r provid-
ing funds. We tha nk Prof. Raghavendra Gadagkar (IISc, Bangalore),
for use ful co mments that helped improve the manuscr ipt.
Received 13 J une 2013 ; revised acce pted 20 February 20 14
... He pointed out that the observed absence of activity at midday during summer might be interpreted as heat avoidance (Beck, 1975). A study investigating FRDD in an urban environment in India revealed that dogs concentrated their activity on times of higher activity of humans in the streets (Majumder et al., 2014). Thus, the dogs were active primarily between 6:30-10:30 h and again between 16:30-19:30 h, and spent the middle of the day mostly resting (Majumder et al., 2014). ...
... A study investigating FRDD in an urban environment in India revealed that dogs concentrated their activity on times of higher activity of humans in the streets (Majumder et al., 2014). Thus, the dogs were active primarily between 6:30-10:30 h and again between 16:30-19:30 h, and spent the middle of the day mostly resting (Majumder et al., 2014). Such a bimodal activity distribution was also observed in wild canids, such as wolves (Canis lupus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes), in different environments, suggesting that the linkage with human activity cannot be the only reason for this pattern (Boitani and Cuicci, 1995;Kusak et al., 2005;Theuerkauf et al., 2003;Zingaro and Boitani, 2018). ...
... A recent study demonstrated that FitBark measurements are highly correlated with observations of dogs' off-leash physical activities (Colpoys and DeCock, 2021). Thus, activity tracking is a useful tool to complement observational studies (Bhattacharjee and Bhadra, 2020;Majumder et al., 2014) of the activities of free-roaming dogs. ...
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Although free-roaming domestic dogs (FRDD) constitute the majority of the dog population worldwide, many aspects of their ecology across habitats are little known. Activity budgets by these dogs may also inform management decisions for domestic dogs in human hands. Here we collected data on the activity patterns of owned FRDD from Guatemala (n= 58) and Indonesia (n= 37), and of farm dogs (n= 11) and family dogs (n= 20) in Switzerland. The FRDD from the two countries and the Swiss farm dogs shared the similarity that although they had owners, they spent most or all of the day outside without confinement. Conversely, activity in family dogs is largely controlled by their owners. This cross-continental study thus allowed us to tease apart environmental effects on dogs’ activity from effects due to different levels of control by humans. Dogs were collared with FitBark activity trackers, which measure 3D acceleration, for 2.4 to 7 days. Activity for each dog was defined as the sum of BarkPoints (a continuous activity metric recorded by the FitBark tracker), calculated for each hour in the 24-hour cycle. The proportion of time resting, in ‘moderate’ and ‘high’ activity (defined by fixed thresholds of BarkPoints) over 24 hours was calculated for each dog. The activity patterns of all dogs that (partly) roam freely, i.e. owned FRDD in Guatemala and Indonesia and Swiss farm dogs, showed two peaks over 24 hours during 5:00 to 7:00 h and, less pronounced, 16:00 to 19:00 h. Such a bimodal activity pattern, which is also observed in other canine species, could only be detected in 45% of the family dogs. Their activity is more dependent on the owners’ daily routines and predominantly showed one high mid-day peak that often changes from day to day. Swiss dogs spent significantly more time resting and less time with ‘moderate’ activity than the owned FRDD. However, family dogs were significantly more often highly active than all other dog groups and compensated with longer resting periods. Activity decreased significantly with age, neutering and increased body condition score, whereas sex did not have any significant influence on activity. Within this study, similarities, but also differences of the activity pattern between owned FRDD and pet dogs could be revealed. Although overall activity levels of the pet dog sample fall in the range of those observed in the less controlled FRDD, future research of interest could include the investigation of benefit of a more structured daily schedule for pet dogs.
... Understanding the behavioural and ecological adaptations of such species can provide important insights into the management of urban ecosystems and of mitigating human-wildlife conflict. Urban-adapted species show varied levels of tolerance of humans; while some species are extremely shy of humans, others have adjusted remarkably well to human disturbance (Sen Majumder et al. 2014b;Samia et al. 2015;Schell et al. 2018). Studies on some bird species have found higher flight initiation distances (FID) in populations of birds that are declining due to human disturbance, while species that are tolerant of human disturbance show no population decline (Bjørvik et al. 2015). ...
... Most canids like wolves, jackals, coyotes and foxes, who share the urban ecosystem with humans, tend to avoid direct physical contact or interactions with humans (Kaartinen et al. 2005;Shamoon et al. 2018). Some studies suggest that repeated and prolonged exposure to humans leads to greater tolerance of humans in canid species (Sen Majumder et al. 2014b;Samia et al. 2015;Schell et al. 2018). Among the various species that share the urban habitat with humans, the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is special due to its ability to communicate with and befriend humans. ...
... They are primarily scavengers, showing a high degree of flexibility in their food habits, eating anything from vegetable peels to meat . They are efficient scavengers, using a simple 'Rule of Thumb' to sequester protein-rich food using their olfactory prowess Sarkar et al. 2019) and also have a high degree of flexibility in their interactions with humans (Bhattacharjee et al. 2017;Sen Majumder et al. 2014a, 2014b. Humans, on the one hand, are the major source of food and shelter for the free-ranging dogs and on the other, a cause of morbidity and mortality ). ...
The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is known to have evolved from gray wolves, about 15,000 years ago. They frequently exist as free-ranging populations across the world. They are typically scavengers and well adapted to living among humans. Most canids living in and around urban habitats tend to avoid humans and show crepuscular activity peaks. In this study, we carried out a detailed population-level survey on free-ranging dogs in West Bengal, India, to understand the activity patterns of free-ranging dogs in relation to human activity. Using 5669 sightings of dogs, over a period of 1 year, covering the 24 h of the day, we carried out an analysis of the time activity budget of free-ranging dogs to conclude that they are generalists in their habit. They remain active when humans are active. Their activity levels are affected significantly by age class and time of the day. In addition, we provide a detailed ethogram of free-ranging dogs. This, to our knowledge, is the first study of this kind, which might be used to further study the eco-ethology of these dogs.
... Two further highly prevalent factors in our dataset seem indicative of animal welfare issues: keeping dogs in an isolated and/ or confined space and suspected or established animal abuse. Dogs need to exercise, for instance through performing foraging behaviours [36][37][38]. Also, dogs need to perform social interactions [39,40]. ...
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To examine the dog ownership factors characteristic to a population of dogs confiscated after a human and/ or animal-directed biting incident, we compared bite risk assessment reports of 159 confiscated dogs in the time frame 2008, 2009, 2010 (tf1) and of 215 confiscated dogs in the time frame 2020, 2021, 2022 (until mid-May; tf2). The reports were compiled by the same institute in a standardized format. We studied frequencies and chi-square pairwise comparisons (P<0.05) for 30 identified ownership factors. Overall (tf1 and tf2), 1,308 ownership factors were mentioned in the reports and reports mentioning ≥5 factors were twice as frequent in tf2 (38%) than tf1 (16%). Our data suggest that nine factors may in particular serve as a warning signal for biting incidents, as these factors were most frequently (≥15%) prevalent in the total of reported cases: having a multiple dog household, a dog reportedly roaming a neighbourhood without an owner, a dog's care tasks being transferred, a short leash and muzzle obligation served to the owner for a dog, an isolated and/ or confined keeping of a dog, a dog owner's (suspected) substance abuse, a dog owner's (suspected) animal abuse, a dog owner aggressing at confiscation of the dog and a dog owner being reported on for antisocial behaviours such as intimidation. Particularly, a dog owner's aggressive or antisocial behaviours and previous obligations to muzzle and short leash a dog (in our dataset often inappropriately adhered to by owners), may indicate that a proportion of owners of confiscated dogs, may not always be willing and/ or capable to guarantee societal safety. The results show that identification of dog ownership factors, might be useful for establishing biting incident policies and further studies should be done on preventive measures and controls.
... This opportunistic exploitation in a human-dominated environment is a spontaneous and enduring population-specific practice underscoring the macaques' abilities of economic behaviour, numerical judgement, delay of gratification, and social learning [72][73][74] . This association of humans as potential food sources is also demonstrated by the begging behaviour displayed by urban animals such as red foxes 75 , dogs 76 , and gulls 77 . ...
Rapid urbanisation, leading to habitat loss is a major problem for biodiversity conservation. While urbanisation negatively affects the survival of many species, some species are well adapted to the urban environment, often depending on humans directly or indirectly for food and shelter. Such animals show various behavioural adaptations to anthropogenic disturbance, and there are even examples of some exploiting humans for their own advantage. In this review, we use some of these examples to highlight how cognitive and physiological underpinnings of urban-adaptation in some animals can help us to understand how they survive in the human jungle. We propose that more in-depth studies of urban-adapted species are necessary for nurturing biodiversity in the face of urbanisation, and building more sustainable cities for the future.
... Surprisingly, a contrary school of thought exists where authors advocate 'peaceful coexistence' of FRD with humans and describe the latter as scavengers of human refuse and thus important for human settlements (Majumder et al. 2014). In India, where Animal Birth Control (ABC) has been a government-approved policy for dog population management and rabies control, the de-sexed dogs are released back into the localities from where they were originally caught instead of relocating them to dog shelters (Gupta and Gupta 2019). ...
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Rabies is an acute encephalitis caused by a lyssavirus. It is primarily transmitted through bites of infected dogs which results in the worldwide death of an estimated 59000 humans every year. The disease is preventable through the application of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and its elimination has been demonstrated in many countries by applying multiple interventions simultaneously. Nonetheless, rabies is still widespread in many developing countries, primarily due to the poor implementation of intervention strategies that include inadequate dog-bite wound management practices, unavailability/unaffordability of PEP by the communities, failure to control the disease in free-roaming dogs and wildlife, improper dog population management, weak surveillance and diagnostic facilities and a lack of a One Health approach to the disease. In this review, strategies to control dog-mediated rabies through a One Health approach were discussed. We recommend applying multiple interventions against the disease by involving all the concerned stakeholders in selected urban and rural areas of the countries where rabies is endemic. An empirical demonstration of disease freedom in the selected areas through a One Health approach is needed to convince policymakers to invest in rabies prevention and control on the national level. This multifaceted One Health control model will enhance the likelihood of achieving the goal of global rabies eradication by 2030.
Free-ranging dogs form the majority of the domesticated dog population in the world. They are a ubiquitous presence in many Southeast Asian countries, especially India, and were the first animals to colonize urban settlements. They spend their entire lives on streets unsupervised by humans and fending for themselves. In this chapter, we summarize the life history strategies of these free-ranging dogs and the various ways they have adapted to the urban human-dominated environment. These dogs are non-aggressive by nature, and their hours of activity overlap with those of humans. Mother dogs spend a large proportion of their time taking care of pups, which decreases with increasing pup age. In these, she may be aided by other female relatives and, sometimes, males in the group. Pups typically spend the majority of their time sleeping and playing, and in spite of the high levels of care received by them, early life mortality is as high as 81%. Humans play an important role in the lives of free-ranging dogs. Despite humans being a major cause of pup mortality, pregnant females choose to give birth in dens close to human habitations. Their near-constant interactions with humans in different capacities have inculcated in them a noteworthy understanding of human behavioral cues and adaptable responses to human gestures and intent. These dogs also depend on human-generated resources for their sustenance displaying characteristics of efficient scavengers as well as urban resource exploiters. Free-ranging dogs are thus an intriguing model system for understanding the evolution of the dog-human relationship in a natural environment.KeywordsUrban ecologyFree-ranging dogsIndiaLife historyDog-human interactions
Dogs, together with humans, are one of the most successful species on the planet. In the Western world, dogs usually live as companions and often take on important roles for their human partners. However, a larger proportion of dogs worldwide are free-ranging – living in the human environment, but otherwise making their own decisions. In this chapter we summarize the various aspects of the socio-ecology of these dogs. The discordant reports, going from solitary to structured packs, likely reflect the flexibility and adaptability of this species as well as possible genetic differences between populations of FRDs. The high variation in sociality begs the question of which socio-ecological factors, such as food distribution and abundance, interdependence, closeness to humans, etc., may be affecting the dogs’ social structure. Where packs do form, the internal structure remains still scarcely understood. It appears that, in most cases, groups are composed of multiple males and females, but mostly due to the absence of genetic data and/or long-term studies, it remains unclear whether the pack members are related with each other or not. Both males and females are largely promiscuous, and parental care seems to be mostly provided by the mother, with varying support from putative fathers and other (related?) females. Dog packs collectively defend established territories, marking and engaging in defensive aggression against other packs.
Rapid urbanisation leading to habitat loss is a major problem for biodiversity conservation. While urbanisation negatively affects the survival of many species, some species are well adapted to the urban environment, often depending on humans directly or indirectly for food and shelter. Such animals show various behavioural adaptations to anthropogenic disturbance, and there are even examples of some exploiting humans for their own advantage. In this review, we use some of these examples to highlight how cognitive and physiological underpinnings of urban adaptation in some animals can help us to understand how they survive in the human jungle. We propose that more in-depth studies of urban-adapted species are necessary for nurturing biodiversity in the face of urbanisation, and building more sustainable cities for the future.
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Apparently random events in nature often reveal hidden patterns when analyzed using diverse and robust statistical tools. Power law distributions, for example, project diverse natural phenomenon, ranging from earthquakes to heartbeat dynamics into a common platform of self-similarity. Animal behavior in specific contexts has been shown to follow power law distributions. However, the behavioral repertoire of a species in its entirety has never been analyzed for the existence of such underlying patterns. Here we show that the frequency-rank data of randomly sighted behaviors at the population level of free-ranging dogs follow a scale-invariant power law behavior. It suggests that irrespective of changes in location of sightings, seasonal variations and observer bias, datasets exhibit a conserved trend of scale invariance. The data also exhibits robust self-similarity patterns at different scales which we extract using multifractal detrended fluctuation analysis. We observe that the probability of consecutive occurrence of behaviors of adjacent ranks is much higher than behaviors widely separated in rank. The findings open up the possibility of designing predictive models of behavior from correlations existing in true time series of behavioral data and exploring the general behavioral repertoire of a species for the presence of syntax.
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A population of urban free-ranging dogs Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in Katwa, West Bengal, India. The analysis of changes in the density of the dog population over a period of 4 years revealed a considerable stability of this population. Mean (± SD) seasonal population density was 185 ± 19 dogs/km2, ranging from 156 to 214 dogs/km2. A sex ratio of 1.37:1 in favour of male was recorded in this study. High mortality (67%) occurred under the age of 4 months, and 82% mortality occurred within the age of 1 year. Among the adults, 24% mortality under the age of 2.6 year was recorded. Only a single breeding cycle and synchronization of breeding was observed. Immigration was observed as a crucial factor affecting the stability of this population.
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A survey in a major Mexican city (Merida) and three rural communities was conducted to generate information regarding the size and structure of the owned-dog populations and people's opinions about the dogs and how they took care of them. Household characteristics and dog population size, health and reproductive issues were compared between the two kinds of communities: urban and rural. A telephone survey was conducted in Merida city whereas personal interviews were used in the rural communities. Local veterinarians were also interviewed to evaluate their influence on the dog populations in Merida city. The ratio of people to dogs was 3.4:1 in the city, and 1.7:1 to 4.6:1 in the different rural communities. In general it was more common to find a dog-owning household in the city of Merida (72.8%) than in the rural areas (63.6%, 65.5% and 71.1%), and in the city more households had adequate fences to restrain dogs. Larger families were more likely to own a dog than small families. Households of medium socio-economic status had a significantly higher probability of owning a dog than households of low or high socio-economic status. Of the dogs in the city, 90.1% were vaccinated against rabies compared with 62.3% of the dogs in the rural communities. Most animals were intact; the frequency of neutering/spaying was 3.1% in Merida and 1.8% in the rural communities. Few private veterinary practitioners were involved in the control of dog overpopulation. It is concluded that dogs are popular pets both in urban and rural Yucatan. People's opinions about dogs and the level of supervision varied with socio-economic status, and people in the city provided better food, shelter and preventive medicine. The veterinary practitioners did little to promote the control of dog breeding or to reduce the relinquishing of unwanted dogs in the city. Better client education and the promotion of sterilization of pets at low cost would improve the situation.
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A population of urban free-ranging dogsCanis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in Katwa, West Bengal, India. The analysis of changes in the density of the dog population over a period of 4 years revealed a considerable stability of this population. Mean (±SD)2 seasonal population density was 185±19 dogs/km2, ranging from 156 to 214 dogs/km2. A sex ratio of 1.37∶1 in favour of male was recorded in this study. High mortality (67%) occurred under the age of 4 months, and 82% mortality occurred within the age of 1 year. Among the adults, 24% mortality under the age of 2.6 year was recorded. Only a single breeding cycle and synchronization of breeding was observed. Immigration was observed as a crucial factor affecting the stability of this population. Key words Canis familiaris -reproduction-mortality-immigration
Out of the 3.5 million domestic dogs Canis familiaris living in Italy, c850 000 are free to move in and out of villages. These are an immense reservoir to the 80 000 feral dogs whose biology is very much like that of wolves C. lupus. In wolf areas, with a mean density of c1 wolf/100km2, there are 150-310 free-ranging dogs/100km2 and 24-82 feral dogs/100km2, densities increasing from central to S Italy. Direct and indirect competition of different sorts result: competition for food, as both wolves and dogs feed mainly at the open dumps outside villages and to a less extent on livestock; competition for range, as movements of loners and young wolves in search of new territories are limited by the presence of packs of up to 20-25 dogs; 'genetic' competition, as loners and isolated female wolves may interbreed with dogs and their offspring be more fitted to the Italian environment than wolves, due to their dog-like look. Consequences for wolf conservation are discussed.-Author
Population size and density, age structure, survivorship patterns, sex ratios, and social organization of urban, rural, and feral dog (Canis familiaris) populations were examined in Cd. Juarez, Mexico (urban site) and on the Navajo reservation (rural and wild sites) between June 1983 and December 1984. Urban and rural dogs were less social than expected whereas feral dogs characteristically lived in packs. Seasonal variation in the structure of feral dog packs was influenced by reproduction, both directly (pups born into the pack) and indirectly (pregnant females may temporarily emigrate form the pack to give birth).
(1) Factors are examined which influence prey selection by feral dogs from a population of marine iguanas on Isabela, Galapagos, Ecuador. (2) For various size classes of iguanas the relative risk of predation by dogs is significantly greater for large animals. (3) Variation in risk was related to differential fleeing distances, and to the greater exposure of territorial male iguanas which did not seek shelter at night. (4) Anti-predator behaviour of iguanas did not protect them against feral dogs, and dog predation was probably considerably greater than the marine iguana population could sustain.
Consensus decisions about the nature and timing of group activities allow animals to maintain group cohesiveness, but also entail costs because individuals often differ with respect to their optimal activity budgets. Two mechanisms whereby animals reach a consensus include ‘consistent leadership’, in which a single dominant individual makes the decision, and ‘variable leadership’ in which several group members contribute to the decision outcome. Sharing of consensus decisions is expected to reduce consensus costs to most group members. Both patterns are thought to emerge from the complexity of social relationships of group members. We investigated the distribution of leadership during group departures in two packs of free-ranging dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, and tested how its distribution between individuals was affected by dominance rank-related affiliative and agonistic relationships. Although leadership was not entirely concentrated on a single group member, both packs had a limited number of habitual leaders. In the largest pack, the pattern of leadership changed from ‘variable’ to nearly ‘consistent’ after its size had shrunk. Habitual leaders were usually old and high-ranking individuals. However, high-ranking dogs that received affiliative submissions in greeting ceremonies were more likely to lead than dominant dogs receiving submissions only in agonistic contexts. During resting times, habitual followers associated more closely with habitual leaders than with other followers. These results suggest that in social species collective movements may arise from the effort of subordinates to maintain close proximity with specific valuable social partners.
Carnivores use various scent-marking methods. Observations on the scent marking by urination of 16 free-ranging dogs from two neighbouring groups were recorded in the town of Katwa, West Bengal, India. The frequency of urine marking was higher in males than in females. The seasonal mean (±S.D.) number of markings for individual males varied with a minimum of 4.0 (±1.5) in summer, and a maximum of 31.5 (±9.1) in late monsoon. Similarly, the seasonal mean (±S.D.) number of markings for individual females varied with a minimum of 1.1 (±0.9) in summer, and a maximum of 5.9 (±2.5) in late monsoon. Therefore, the frequency of marking was not the same in every season. The incidence of urine marking was higher in the courting place as well as in the late monsoon. Occasionally, ‘possessive urine marking’ was observed among the alpha males. Urine marking seemed to be linked with scavenging behaviour. The incidence of urine marking mostly by the males near the territorial boundary during trespassing by neighbouring dog(s) showed the evidence of territorial defense. Perhaps to protect the pups, the females marked with a higher rate at the nest site. The dogs, especially the males, marked on strange objects/vehicles perhaps to familiarise the strange objects.Every male and every female performed High leg raising (HLR) and squat postures, respectively. Raised leg display (RLD) was performed only by the males and was influenced by the presence of other dogs. The males showed the RLD mostly in the courting place and also near the territory, perhaps to indicate their dominance, aggressiveness and to threaten the others.
The dispersal of free-ranging dogs, Canis familiaris, from the town of Katwa, West Bengal, India, was studied from January 1993 to December 1996. Between January 1993 and September 1996, 315 pups were observed from 64 litters. Pups were born between October and March each year, with a peak between November and January. The mortality rate was 68% during the first 4 months, with 102 individuals surviving to the juvenile stage (4 to 12 months). In case of juveniles, the rate of dispersal was 39.29%, whereas, in case of adults it was 23.33%. Mean (±S.D.) home range size for the non-dispersing dogs was 4.8 (±1.7) ha and for the dispersing dogs was 8.4 (±1.7) ha. Moreover, there were significant seasonal variations in the home range sizes of both non-dispersing and dispersing dogs. Juvenile males were the predominant dispersers. Dispersal occurred in all seasons and dispersal rates did not differ between seasons. However, during late monsoon (September to November), dispersal was greater (P
The structure of mammalian carnivore communities is strongly influenced by both intraguild competition and predation. However, intraguild interactions involving the world’s most common carnivore, the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), have rarely been investigated. We experimentally examined the behavioural responses of a small canid, the Indian fox (Vulpes bengalensis), to the presence of dogs and dog odours. Resource competition between dogs and Indian foxes is low, so it is unclear whether foxes perceive dogs as interference competitors. To test this, we exposed foxes to neutral, live dog, and animal odour stimuli at food trays, and recorded the time spent at food trays, the amount of food eaten, and vigilance and non-vigilance behaviours. When dogs were visible, foxes continued to visit the food trays, but reduced the amount of time spent and food eaten at those trays. Foxes were more vigilant during dog trials than during neutral and odour trials and also exhibited lower levels of non-vigilance behaviour (resting and playing). In contrast, dog odours did not affect fox foraging and activity. These results show that vigilance/foraging trade-offs due to interference competition can occur between native and domestic carnivores despite low dietary overlap. These negative effects of dogs on a smaller member of the carnivore guild raise conservation concerns, especially for endangered carnivores. In many parts of the world, free-ranging dog densities are high due to human subsidies, and these subsidized predators have the potential to exacerbate the indirect effects of human presence.