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Dogs say woufen in German

by Alex in Toulouse Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 11:13:12 PM EST

Should we humans have so many pet dogs, or should we not? Why do people have dogs in towns? Why don't people have dogs in towns? Are urban dogs really different from countryside ones? What's the cost? What's the story with dogs anyways?

Come and bark below the fold.

Let me start with a short personal note, as a good substitute for a preamble: I do not have any dogs (no room for one, no cash for one, no desire to have that much responsability), but I like dogs.

Ok let's get started.


1) History (short)

Dogs have been domesticated for at least 17,000 years (1), a process by which they initially entered mankind's sphere by being confined to special tasks with a food reward, tasks such as livestock protection and herding in particular, or hunting. Domestication is thus generally thought to have been initially oriented on food, not companionship. Dogs have been valued animals for quite a while too, on the following evidence at least: European Mesolithic sites like Skateholm (5250-3700 BC) in Sweden, or Svaerdborg in Denmark have dog burials (1).

Domesticated dogs come basically in 2 forms. Pet, and task-oriented. Both these forms are not necessarily antinomic. Task-oriented dogs, such as helper dogs for the blind, police sniffer dogs, sheep-herding dogs, hunting dogs, Nanook of the North's dogs etc, do not only exemplify the stunning relation that mankind has developed with dogs along the millenia. They may also show a form of dominant human abuse in some cases, like this WWI picture below tells us, and like has been the case ever since the likes of Hannibal discovered that elephants were not only good for making jewelry (nb: although it can be argued that war elephants are not domesticated but merely tamed, much like N of the North's dogs).

ps: this diary will here on focus only on pet dogs

2) Data

a) Just how many dogs are there?

There are an estimated 8.51 million dogs in France, or roughly 1 dog for every 7 French people.

Given that the average life expectancy of a dog, at 11 years, is roughly 1/7th that of the average French person, suffice to say that to every French person in life will correspond a dog. Not everyone here has kids, but everyone has a virtual companion dog.

The worldwide population is difficult to estimate, though some have put it at 400 million (2).

Top 10 dog populations in the world (3):

CountryDog populationHuman populationHumans per dog
South Africa9,100,00044,187,6374.85

b) No way!! So many dogs??!! They must eat heaps of food that we could instead feed to starving children. What a waste!

How much a dog eats depends on its size, but a good estimate is that the average-sized dog needs an average 700 calories per day, which is more than a human starvation diet (300-500 calories per day or less). For complete dog requirements see (4) in the annex below.

However, most dogs are fed canned meat foods, which contain, on the protein side, essentially waste food products that are "unfit for human consumption" (slaughterhouse offal, such as lungs, esophagi, udders etc) (4a), so it's not really an issue anyhow, since they only eat the parts of the meat that humans throw away. They still get the bones, basically, and better them than the cows. Anhow don't be surprised that the expression "it will go to the dogs" exists. However this may not remain a suitable answer in a world in which humans consume too much meat (see my diary on this).

Besides, let's just say that dogs are part of the food cycle too. Not just because they die and are in turn consumed by bacteria and what not, but also because 2 million dogs in Korea are destined for human consumption each year, and it's very likely that dogs are eaten in different parts of the world on a regular basis. In Sri Lanka, on every Poya Day (full-moon Buddhist holiday), the TV shows the same program on meat consumption, which details the results of an inquiry that found out that stray dogs find their way into the plates served at food joints, with clients being unaware of it.

On top of all this, the pet food industry employs a lot of people and accounts for $11 billion per year in the U.S. alone.

So to put it simply: dogs are no waste, or at the very least not for everyone.

c) Ok, so dogs aren't any more wasteful than we are, food-wise, but are dogs really useful anyhow, frankly what good are they?

Anyone who attemps to answer this silly question can try to apply it to human beings first and see if they can come up with a good answer for that too (What the hell are we human beings for anyways?).

2) And now the deal ...

a) the Western dog

In India & Sri Lanka, domestic animals are anything but domestic. Animals that are not feral, are linked to a home and get fed by people in that home, but roam around outside, never entering the house except on specific occasions (pregnancy, ...). They are rarely or never patted, and are often never even given a name, "dog" being a commonly acceptable way to call them. This arrangement seems satisfying for both the pseudo-owners and the dogs (nb: the input of the dogs I surveyed was tailored to meet my needs).

Throughout much of Africa, dogs roam around freely and are likely to be despised, seen as disease-ridden and dangerous parasites.

In contrast to this peaceful yet distant arrangement in the East, and this violent disposition in the South, the Western world's relation to pet dogs appears more complex and not as evenly satisfying for all owners and all pets.

The Western world has somewhat pioneered a whole new way of relating to dogs. From largely anthropomorphic attitudes, via somewhat overweight, inactive and sometimes obese dogs (obesity affects approximately 25 percent of the Western world's canine population (5)), to plain perversions like zoophily (which however may not be particular to the West), we have made our dogs something unique, and maybe that's not such a bad thing despite the mistakes made along the way. Mobile phones for dogs are a fine example of how far some are willing to go (bar their use for guide dogs).

b) the Urban dog

i) dogs poop, and poop and poop and poop

Dogs deject 16 tons of poop into Parisian streets every day, or 5,840 tons annually, for a clean-up cost of 11 million euros per year. Let it thus be said that each kilogram of dog poop in Paris costs the municipality 1.88 euros. (6) Maybe urban dogs should be taxed ...

Other trivia, in no particular order:

Dog poops cause 650 accidents every year in Paris (I can already see your mouths curling into a "wow!").

UK dogs land 900 tons of poop every day.

A friend of mine once told me a simple anecdote. He had walked out of his house, and nearly stepped in a steaming pack of dog poo. He had narrowly escaped spending a half hour scrubbing his shoes, and was slightly angered. Not too far away, he noticed this old man holding a dog on a leash, and looking the other way while his dog was concentrating on taking a crap in the middle of the sidewalk. My friend decided to take his anger out on the old man: "Sir that's really disgusting, can't you make him crap where he's supposed to??". Old man, in a proud, offended, and defiant tone: "huh! those who don't like dogs don't like human beings!". My friend snapped back immediately: "Hitler had several dogs".

ii) urban vs countryside dogs

Now pointing back towards the title of my diary, sparrows are thought to have "dialects" (7), well I wonder if dogs do too. Does a dog from Paris chuckle silently at the bark of a dog from Marseille? Do dogs in more permanent and promiscuous ear contact with human beings (ie. dogs in towns), groomed exquisitely in the parler of our noble species, look down snobbily on hick dogs from the countryside who say "woufyabetcha"?

(follow-up, done quickly - with a mention that urban dogs living in homes with a garden fall closer to the countryside dog category)

While we're on language differences, but this time looking at the other side of the leash, one thing that I always find difficult in English, is calling some animals "it". I haven't checked to see if I've done it in this diary, so you may not get to see it firsthand, but the basic idea is that even though I'm fully aware that "it" is the proper pronoun, I keep on calling dogs and various other types of animals "he" or "she", like we do in Frenceh. Does this predispose me and French people in general to anthropomorphism?

Anyhow, bar dog dialects, what does differenciate urban and countryside dogs?

For starters, the amount of space available for roaming, and consequently the amount of exercice that they get (though it must be said some countryside folk are cruel enough to confine their dogs). It should come as no suprise that 25% of our dogs are obese, when most of them live where most of us live, in towns, in which they are more likely to fail in the exercice department. As I had mentioned in the part I've now erased, several surveys show that 40-50% of dog owners respond that their dog(s) are a motivation for the owner to do exercise too. Which is good, as it guarantees that many urban dogs get proper exercice ... it's indeed no rare thing to see a person strolling or jogging inside a city park with a dog. But what about the other 50%? What do they do with their urban dogs? I've seen so many times a person exit his/her building with a dog, walk 50 meters, wait for the dog to poop in front of another building's entrance, and then go back home.

Next difference: the degree of contact with people. Urban dogs share the living space of their master(s), while countryside dogs generally do not. Depending on the home setup, urban dogs may be in frequent close-up contact with a stay at home partner, or children. In setups that generally require reinforcement of the pack master concept, which the urban dog must accept. I have no time to look for studies on the topic, but my intuition would be that urban dogs have a better opportunity to develop cognitive skills. In contrast to this, countryside dogs are generally free to do their stuff, as they see fit. This doesn't exclude them from being in close frequent contact with humans too, but they can stroll away whenever they want, which brings us to the final difference I will be discussing here: the leash.

The leash is a necessary monstruosity in towns, at least on the way to the park. But how do urban dogs feel about getting the leash? A dog survey by CSA-Sofres, gives the following figures: when asked how they feel about the leash, 80% of urban dogs responded "arf", 18% responsed "wouf", and 2% ran off to chase another dog.



A previous dog diary here on ET:
Street dogs issue in Southeast Europe


(1) Dog @ Wikipedia

(2) Why we do what we do around dogs

(3) Mapworld (weak), CIA Factbook, and INSEE's latest population projections for France

(4) Dog calorie requirements

(4a) What's really in Pet Food

(5) National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, quoted by The National Academies

(6) Paris Municipality's guide to Good Animal Husbandry (PDF)

(7) Sparrow dialects

Urban pet dogs ... ?
. Pet dogs should prioritarily go to people with gardens or living in the countryside. 18%
. Everyone is entitled to a pet dog, regardless of where and how they live. 6%
. Dogs are pack animals, they like being in close contact with humans, so it doesn't matter where they live. 6%
. There are too many pet dogs in the world. 6%
. Hey, there is evidence up to at least 17,000 years of domestication of dogs, so this is how things are, 'nuff said! 0%
. I don't like dogs. 0%
. I don't care. 12%
. I liked the animated picture at the top of the diary. 6%
. I prefer cats. 37%
. Rin Tin Tin isn't better than Snoopy. 6%

Votes: 16
Results | Other Polls
What's the name of George W Bush's dog again? I forgot.
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 11:18:14 PM EST
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 01:46:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Lupin on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 05:49:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

(So he can leash it?)

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 06:44:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Eats cheroots and leaves.
by NeutralObserver on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 07:18:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's his lap dog. His attack dog is Karl.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 07:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I will leave it to your imagination what that makes Condi.

Eats cheroots and leaves.
by NeutralObserver on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 07:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, sorry you ran out of steam... Waiting anxiously for part 2!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 06:32:14 AM EST
Updated diary with a quick part 2.
by Alex in Toulouse on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 08:02:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All urban dogs I met, without exception, were mental cases. In a way so were their owners. So I'd vote for dogs only at houses with non-miniature garden and open spaces nearby.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 08:16:18 AM EST
I know this person, a woman, who has a "recycled" circus dog. The dog is very good at doing tricks and in general at getting people's attention. But the relation she has with her dog (the dog is tiny and lives in a spacious flat with her) borders on the psychotic. When you meet her, the first thing she generally says to you as her dog scratches at your legs, is "look he's giving you a party". If you fail to properly greet the dog (it's kind of annoying if the dog scratches hard), she gets upset.

One day my mom had asked me to stay at her place for the day (to open the door for someone she was expecting), while she and that woman went off to do some important shopping. The woman's dog had to stay with me. Now my mom has a large enough garden, which I ushered the dog into. But all the dog did was go towards the front gate, sit there, and look in every direction, for hours, searching/waiting for her master.

by Alex in Toulouse on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 08:59:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nonsense. It is important that the right type of dog be chosen of course. More than one is always good as well. A lot of the small dogs are really designed as  active  dogs (ratters). Farm dogs in urban environments are a nightmare: there's little worse you can do to a collie type than lock them up all alone in a house for ten hours a day.

On the other hand, hunting dogs were bred to put up with long periods of low activity so they don't get as worked up. For urban dogs, take a pair small hunting dog - say a dachshund - socialise them carefully, and you'll be fine. So long as you stick to dogs that still have a reasonable amount of sensible breeding in  them. Excessively bred show lines can be a nightmare. Having two makes sure that they're never left completely isolated from their pack.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 01:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, most of the mental cases mentioned were dachshunds, but admittedly, I can't remember two kept together, and the non-dachshunds were the worse.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 05:01:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dachshunds aren't mental cases, they're just too smart for their own good (or ours).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 02:29:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly true of the dachhund a neighbor had in his garden - very clever, and very strong relationship with the man. But are pet dogs too fat to move and dying early of heart failure, infantile, and with sick sniffing or licking habits, really too clever?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:14:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well no. That would what we call "negligent care". Infantile? Sick sniffing or licking?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:19:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's often not negligent but over-care, spoiled-brat-style. Often older women with an apparent mother complex (but men and children too).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:35:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is negligent. Dogs are not humans: if you can't understand that, you shouldn't have a dog. They need moderate exercise and they need sensible feeding. If you take on a pet you take on a responsibility to educate yourself about their care.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:44:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dogs do need sufficient exercise, or else. So I do think there are too many dogs kept as pets in towns by people who can't or won't exercise them. Certainly in France, that's the case.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:55:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh Thanks for the laughts!!
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 11:48:40 AM EST
"Should we humans have so many pet dogs, or should we not?... Dogs have been domesticated for at least 17,000 years..."

To sdhed some light on the real relationship between dogs and people the question must be asked the other way around:

Should dogs have so many pet human beings? Dogs have domesticated people for at least 17.000 years...

The historic truth is that dogs have sought the company of human beings for opportunistic reasons and have, over time, trained people to accept their constant company.

They didn't succeed equally well at all places. Go to the Balkans, South and Central America, the Caribbean and you will find that dogs there are still stuck in the initial phase. They are still at the outskirts of human dwellings trying to find their way into the houses of people.

In Italy and and Spain they made half way. A few are in but many more dogs are still out. (No dogs allowed in shops, restaurants and on inner city public transport.)

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 12:54:23 PM EST
...one of your best comments, ever. I've heard about this somewhere else as well, but can't recall where.
by Nomad (Bjinse) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:27:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read somehwere that it is commonly known that Hitler was a German Shepherd breeder.  

Go figgah!


by Keone Michaels on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 06:26:30 PM EST
Not dog-breeding, rather (dog) flea-breeding. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)
by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 09:15:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They may say "wouf" in French, but they say "woof" in English.

Dogs are great.  

by Rick in TX on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 06:47:56 PM EST
I hatte gedacht das es "wau-wau" war.

Noch ein dummer Amerikaner. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 09:10:42 PM EST
Es gab Zeiten als schlaue Franzosen über Deutschland weniger wussten als dumme Amerikaner :-)

(BTW, I can't keep myself from nitpicking: should be Ich hatte gedacht dass es "wau-wau" war, or even better, Ich hätte gedacht dass sie "wau-wau" sagen.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:04:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And thanks for the grammatik.

You must be German.

Either that or Lutheran. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:21:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many a starving person in a dog-rich environment has worked this out.

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)
by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 09:18:40 PM EST
I haven't contributed much to this discussion. I like dogs. I like this diary. That's it, folks!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 02:31:23 AM EST
by Nomad (Bjinse) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:26:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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