Understanding Stray and or Homeless Dogs

The scope of the stray dog problem in many parts of the world is unimaginable by American standards. Street and village dogs have always been part of the developing world’s landscape, but exploding populations, increasing attacks on citizens and spiraling rabies epidemics have transformed this issue from a third world problem to a global public health priority.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 200 million stray dogs worldwide and that every year, 55,000 people die from rabies, while another 15 million receive post exposure treatment to avert the deadly disease. 95% of these cases occur in Asia and Africa, and 99% of the fatalities are caused by dogs.

Stray Dog Behavior

Homeless or stray dogs either have been separated from or abandoned by their owners, or are feral animals that have had limited or no contact with humans. Depending on their personality, past history with humans and other circumstances, stray dog behavior may vary. Dogs that have been mistreated are more likely to be fearful, while dogs that have had positive experiences with humans are more likely to be friendly and approachable.

How to Make Friends with a Stray Dog

Always always…move slowly around the dog, this is key! If the dog is in a stressful situation, such as in the middle of the road, or has been on its own for awhile, it is likely that the dog is weary of humans. Any sudden movements on your part may provoke aggression or fear in the dog. In addition, it could also cause the dog to quickly run away—possibly in the line of traffic. Avoiding too much interaction early on might help the dog begin to trust you.

Offer the dog food. Dogs typically respond well to food and may begin to trust and like you if you give it something that tastes good, such as lunch meat or hot dogs. If the dog will not come near you, start by placing the food a bit away from you. If the dog is a stray in your neighborhood, place food in a bowl a few yards away, then gradually bring it closer to you each day. If the dog is in an emergency situation, throw a piece of food toward it, then throw it closer and closer to you until you can get the dog to come near you and help it to safety.

Use another dog as your ally. Sometimes dogs feel most comfortable when they are with their own species. If your current dog is not dog-aggressive, consider going for walks with it around the stray dog. You must use extreme caution if using this technique, as you don’t want to put your current dog in danger, just in case the stray is aggressive toward other dogs. Start from a distance and work your way closer to the dog. If the dog starts to growl or show its teeth, walk away slowly. If the dog starts to wag its tail or seem excited, slowly come closer and closer. Eventually, the dog may come to greet you and will interact with you and your dog.

Adopting a Stray Dog – Challenges and Rewards

Every day people see stray dogs on the streets, wandering neighborhoods, and going from door to door begging for food. Fortunately, there are good hearted people who choose to adopt them, bring them into their families, and give them a chance at a good life.
If you’re considering adopting a stray dog, you should know that there are both challenges and rewards. Since you’ll be bringing the dog into your home and family, it’s important to weigh both sides of it before you make a final decision.


One of the major challenges in adopting a homeless dog is not knowing its background. The dog could have been exposed to almost anything, and you have no way of knowing before you adopt it. This can mean the dog has severe health problems, and you won’t know until you take the dog to the vet for an exam. Make sure you take the dog to the vet’s office right away, and continue regular checkups to keep it healthy.

Another big challenge is his or her behavior. After living on the streets, many dogs revert back to primal and or wilder behavior, doing whatever they can to survive. This means they may be wary of humans, defensive, and not know “proper” behavior in a family setting. When you adopt a stray dog, you have to work to be extra gentle with it as you teach it how to socialize with humans (and other animals).
Discipline goes along with behavioral problems a stray dog may have. Depending on how long the dog was on its own, it may have no discipline and not know what proper behavior is. While you’re gentle, you must also be firm with the dog, and keep up the training, even if it’s difficult. If the dog is an adult, it may be even harder to train, but patience, consistency, gentleness, and love will help.


Despite the challenges that come with adopting a stray dog, there are great rewards, as well. One of the most important is the opportunity to give a dog a chance at a good life. And, for many dogs, that second chance literally means the difference between life and death. Saving the life of a stray dog is quite a big reward!

Another reward to adopting a stray dog is the love and companionship of the pet. One of the big reasons people adopt dogs is for companionship and love. No matter what a dog’s background, if you continue to love it and are gentle with it, the dog will eventually show you love and affection, as well. But we also cannot forget the structure and leadership that our new canine friend needs every single day!

By adopting a stray dog, you also help reduce the number of strays in this world. Thousands and thousands of puppies are born to stray dogs every year. By adopting a stray dog (and having it spayed or neutered), you reduce the number of dogs that will eventually end up strays themselves.

Adopting a stray dog can be a very rewarding experience, but it does come with its challenges. If you’re considering adopting a stray dog, be sure you fully understand all that comes with it. Adopting any dog can be quite the venture, but adopting a stray can come with added complications. However, the rewards are worth it, and the love you’ll get from your rescued dog will help you forget all the challenges along the way!

Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

Joshua J. Marine

Before or immediately after adaopting a stray dog, please contact Doggy Thoughts for a FREE Consultation/Evaluation, to gain further vital knowledge regarding your endeavor with your new canine companion!

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