Are There Differences In The Emotional Well-being Of Town And City Dogs?

Over the last two centuries, the typical life of dogs has changed dramatically. While canines previously fulfilled various roles as guardians, herders, hunting assistants, and traveling companions, industrialization and urbanization brought changes in the human lifestyle that also transformed the human-dog relationship, with dogs primarily becoming pets and residents inside houses.

Companion dogs experience an adequate degree of well-being in many ways, with an industry that offers specialized foods, veterinary care, toys, accessories and other basic services and products. However, the lifestyle of a pet in the city is very different from the free life that dogs led in the past. Many dogs only go out with their owner and on a leash, with limited freedom to explore, play and socialize with other animals off leash in open spaces. Additionally, due to the busy lifestyles of owners, many are left home alone for many hours a day, further limiting the dogs’ opportunities to socialize. Similarly, during the same period, selective breeding, driven largely by human aesthetic ideals and concepts of purebred purity, has transformed dog populations.

In order to explore this issue, a group of researchers has conducted a literature review, examining two of the main challenges for the welfare of companion dogs related to these changes, the social demands of companion dogs and the problems of associated behaviour, and selective breeding and related problems.


The authors have compared the life and well-being of city companion dogs with the opposite extreme, village dogs living in semi-freedom.

“We must keep in mind that it is not our goal to idealize the life of the village dogs. They have their own welfare problems, for example lack of adequate and adequate food, lack of veterinary care and human hostility, problems that are often aggravated by uncontrolled breeding.” However, “we suggest that this comparative approach may serve to put the well-being of companion dogs into perspective.”


The authors of study have explored the relationship between dogs and humans, comparing the lives of city dogs and small town dogs, one obvious difference is the degree to which owners control the lives of city companion dogs. “This is particularly relevant when it comes to the social life of companion dogs. Owners often decide how much social interaction the dog will have, as well as how and with whom the dog can socialize.” In addition, many companion dogs “live in conditions where humans are absent for most of the day.” Therefore, companion dogs can suffer from problems arising from this lack of social interaction.

In contrast, although village dogs depend on the human hand for food resources and can also enjoy the company of people, “they do not depend on humans directly to satisfy their social needs.”

In this sense, given their greater freedom to establish social interactions, “it has been discovered that town dogs have a calm and less excitable disposition than city dogs, which can be explained by continuous exposure to the street environment, to humans, animals and other dogs”.


Today there are approximately 400 breeds of dog, each established by selection from a small gene pool resulting in distinctive physical and behavioral characteristics.

Although dogs are increasingly being bred without pedigrees, the authors say, in most countries, the main drivers of dog breeding are national kennel clubs, which take responsibility for stud books, breed restrictions , dog shows, etc. This situation has created “an extraordinary diversity in the morphology and behavior of dogs.” “It has also restricted gene flow and created bottlenecks associated with breed formation that have resulted in a loss of genetic variation,” they add.

In turn, “this has imposed a welfare cost on purebred dogs as a result of health problems”, since many of these breeds carry certain associated disorders, such as brachycephalic dog breeds. The authors explore how these breeds, typically present in cities, present a certain degree of poor welfare.


Therefore, “the extreme welfare problems of some purebred dogs compared to typical village dogs, could be avoided or considerably limited”, they explain, by optimizing breeding systems, avoiding genetic pressure so high suffered by purebred dogs in cities.


Compared to the town dog that lives in conditions of semi-freedom, the typical modern companion dog that spends most of the day indoors, experiences, as they explain, “good well-being in several aspects”. This well-being is especially important when it comes to safety, satisfaction of nutritional needs (although companion dogs have other problems due to a high prevalence of obesity and the diseases associated with this condition), as well as adequate veterinary care, with the corresponding antiparasitic treatments and a correct vaccination protocol. As a result, the authors indicate that the average life expectancy of companion dogs of all breeds is greater than ten years, while when compared to that of a village dog it is approximately one third.

However, exploring other quality-of-life parameters, the authors conclude that “the modern companion dog often experiences poor well-being, reproductive-related illnesses, loneliness, and unrealistic social demands that can contribute to anxietydepression, or aggression.

“Perhaps counterintuitively, companion dogs do not have a welfare advantage over village dogs in all respects. As such, we have shown how comparison between the two can highlight potential initiatives to improve companion dog welfare.”



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