I got this interesting comment from Andrew on my What is Dog Cruelty article –
Question: what is dog cruelty?
Answer: the domestication of dogs is cruel.
What do you think?
- Is the domestication of dogs cruel?
- Should dogs be left in the wild?
- Are wild dogs happier than domestic dogs?
Let us consider how our companion dogs have fared in contrast to their wild, non-domesticated brothers and sisters – the gray wolves.
Wolf vs. Dog
Gray wolves have been on and off the endangered species list since 1974. Arguments have been made over what constitutes a safe wolf population size – whether it should be 300 wolves or 2000-2500 wolves.
In contrast, based on the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2007 Edition), there are more than 72 million pet dogs in the U.S.
Clearly, from a survivability standpoint, dogs have done much better than wolves.
Some argue however, that population numbers alone do not indicate good quality of life. After all, some of the most populous countries have a relatively low standard of living for the majority of its citizens.
Therefore, what factors contribute most to a dog’s quality of life?
Dog Quality of Life
Here are some of the key factors that contribute to a dog’s quality of life. If I am missing any, please let me know.
- Freedom to roam, dig, roll in skunk sauce, and other favorite dog activities.
- Pack companionship.
- Physical and mental activity.
For a quality of life comparison, let us consider each of these factors for domestic dogs and non-domestic or wild dogs (e.g. dingoes).
Should Dogs Be Left in the Wild 1 – Food and Shelter
Domestic dogs often get as much food as they want, fed to them on a silver platter.
Non-domestic dogs must work hard for their food, often traveling long distances to look for prey. Sometimes, they may go hungry for days at a time if no prey can be found.
As we encroach more and more upon the natural habitats of wolves and wild dogs, it will become difficult for them to find proper food sources and shelter.
Indeed, we should be better stewards to the wild life on this planet, and protect more of their natural ecosystems. However, human encroachment is a fact of life that all wild animals must contend with.
In terms of food and shelter, domestic dogs win out because they are provided with both. Animal laws do at least state that owners must provide their dogs with adequate food and shelter.
Should Dogs Be Left in the Wild 2 – Health
Wild dogs do not have any special health-care, aside from what they can provide to each other. On the other hand, domestic dogs are properly vaccinated against dangerous diseases (e.g. rabies, lyme disease) and can receive help and medication for allergies, joint issues, skin parasites, and much more.
As a result, domestic dogs usually have better health and live longer lives than wild dogs.
Some may say that wild dogs do not need to deal with as many human introduced health hazards, such as cars and over-feeding. That is true, but most serious health issues are faced by all dogs, including heartworm, rabies, lyme disease, and cancer.
Should Dogs Be Left in the Wild 3 – Freedom to roam, dig, and roll in skunk sauce
Clearly wild dogs have more freedom. They need not live in a house and are free to migrate over long distances in search for food. They may dig wherever, and roll in whatever that suits their fancy. However, unlike domestic dogs, much of their time will be taken up by the search for food.
Domestic dogs live in fixed locations (houses or apartments), and often have many rules placed upon them. Many are not allowed to dig at all, and certainly rolling in skunk sauce is a big no-no. Constraints may be placed on where they can walk, how fast they walk, what they can smell, where and when they can pee, what they can eat, and much more.
As far as freedom goes, wild dogs get a much better deal than their domestic counterparts.
Should Dogs Be Left in the Wild 4 – Pack companionship
Wild dogs often live in packs and hunt in packs. A pack is helpful for survival and provides its members with companionship from their own kind.
However, dog owners are frequently busy and may be away for most of the day. As a result, domestic dogs may spend most of their lives chained in the yard, or left home-alone to bark at shadows.
In terms of pack companionship, domestic dogs that do receive good quality time with their pack (human and dog), have it best. They have the leisure time to enjoy the company of their family, and get to engage in a larger variety of activity and play.
On the other hand, wild dogs probably have it better than dogs that are left alone, in an empty house, for most of the day.
Sadly, it is likely that a greater number of domestic dogs fall into the latter group.
Should Dogs Be Left in the Wild 5 – Physical and mental activity
Wild dogs get physical and mental exercise every day by necessity – during the hunt for food.
Domestic dogs usually get food presented to them in a bowl, and will require other forms of physical and mental exercise. There are a variety of fun ways to exercise a dog including –
- Neighborhood walks and hikes at the park or beach.
- Dog obedience training sessions.
- Fun dog games such as flirt pole, fetch, and soccer.
- Dog sports such as agility, disc dog, fly-ball, and lure coursing.
- Fun interactive dog toys.
- Supervised play sessions with other friendly dogs.
A domestic dog that gets a good mix of these activities every day has it better than a wild dog. However, dogs that are not exercised and walked regularly, will have a lower quality of life.
Is the Domestication of Dogs Cruel?
When I started writing this article – I did not think so.
My intent was to state the pros and cons, then clearly show that domestic dogs have a better life than wild dogs. However, after writing this article, the results are not clear at all.
Andrew makes a good point.
It is probable that many domestic dogs have a lower quality of life than wild dogs. Luckily, there are also a fair number of domestic dogs that enjoy a very good life with their human family; one that is filled with understanding, joint activity, and a lot of pack companionship.
In the end, the question of quality of life for a domestic dog comes down to us – how we treat our dogs, and what laws we enact to protect them. It can be a great life for a dog, if we care to attend to their very simple needs.
Dogs are pack animals and need to spend time with their family. They also need exercise and positive outlets for their doggy-energy. That is why it is most important to consider our current time commitments and constraints before getting a dog.