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Human-dog interactions and behavioural responses of village dogs in coastal villages in Michoacan, Mexico

By E. Ruiz-Izaguirre, K. H. A. M. Eilers, E. A. M. Bokkers, A. Ortolani, A. Ortega-Pacheco, I. J. M. de Boer

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In Mexican villages, most households keep dogs that roam freely. Therefore, socialisation of village dogs occurs in a different context than that of companion dogs in developed countries. The objectives of this study were: (1) to assess village dogs' behavioural responses towards familiar and unfamiliar humans, (2) to compare body condition of dogs living in a village with a seasonal trade in international tourism (IT-village) with dogs living in a village located in the vicinity of a sea-turtle nesting site (STN-village), and (3) to identify whether dog characteristics influence dog behaviour and body condition. Two coastal villages in Michoacan, Mexico, were selected as case study sites. Fifty-nine dogs were initially visited, 35 of which were repeatedly visited during the high and low seasons for international tourism and sea-turtle nesting. Caregivers were interviewed regarding human-dog interactions, and dogs were behaviourally tested and rated for body condition. Behavioural indicators were: (1) the dog's qualitative response to a caregiver's call and (2) the dog's willingness to approach an unfamiliar human. Additionally, a dog census per village was conducted to ascertain the dog population structure. Dogs were kept by over 60% of households in both villages. Body condition was optimal for 68% of the dogs. In the low season, dogs in the STN-village had better body condition than dogs in IT-village ( P=0.007). Dog characteristics that influenced behavioural responses were: sex, age, and whether the dog played with humans. The most common response to the caregiver's call was tail wagging, shown by 83% of male dogs and 50% of female dogs ( P=0.021). About 70% of the pups approached the unfamiliar human completely, whereas only 24% of the juveniles ( P=0.040) and 26% of the adults did so ( P=0.026). Human-dog play was reported to occur mainly with children (77%). The percentage of dogs that played with humans was higher in dogs responding with tail wagging (82%) than in dogs showing the rest of the response categories (withdrawal, baring teeth, and other) (50%) ( P=0.012). Human-dog play was reported for 85% of the male dogs compared to 55% of the female dogs ( P=0.036). This study showed that village dogs were socialised to familiar humans but were not attracted to unfamiliar humans. Village dogs maintained their body condition in the low season. Child-dog play may have a role in shaping village dog social behaviour towards humans.

Date 2014
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 154
Pages 57-65
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.02.002
Author Address Animal Production Systems Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals
  4. Animal science
  5. Anthropology
  6. APEC countries
  7. Body condition
  8. Canidae
  9. Canine
  10. Carnivores
  11. Case Report
  12. Children
  13. Countries
  14. Developed countries
  15. Developing countries
  16. Dogs
  17. Households
  18. Human behavior
  19. Humans
  20. Indicators
  21. Interactions
  22. Latin America
  23. Mammals
  24. Men
  25. Mexico
  26. nesting
  27. North America
  28. objectives
  29. OECD countries
  30. Pets and companion animals
  31. Population
  32. Primates
  33. Relationships
  34. seasons
  35. Social behavior
  36. Social psychology and social anthropology
  37. Teeth.
  38. Threshold Countries
  39. Tourism and travel
  40. United States of America
  41. vertebrates
  42. villages
  43. young animals