One Week for a City Dog - How Many Dogs/People Does Your Dog See?

Fuji, our 18-month-old Basenji, is a very social dog. She loves to meet dogs on the street and to run with them at the dog run. As first time dog owners, my wife and I have been paying attention to the Basenji adoption sources on the web to see what dogs might be available as a companion to Fuji. From the listings, and from conversations with other adoptive owners, we have learned that there is often a preference for owners with locations that are best described as suburban or rural, with a "back yard, etc." Living in Manhattan, without a back yard, we feel we could offer the well-socialized dog a very good life. And seeing how few dogs and people we have encountered when we visited suburbia, we decided to take a census to measure how much interaction Fuji has in a week.

During the first week of July 2013, Fuji met 283 dogs and 297 people on the streets and parks of Manhattan. In this count we included only dogs that Fuji met with a mutual sniff. We did not include those passed by across the sidewalk or street. This time period was marked by occasional rain, very hot and humid weather, and the holiday desertion New York City sees on the Independence Day holiday weekend. The numbers are the result of five daily walks, including an hour-long visit to the dog run at Washington Square Park. We also made a Saturday morning visit to the Union Square Greenmarket.

We do not have comparable numbers for suburban or rural dogs, but would be surprised to learn that they have more canine and human opportunities each week. We understand that if your dog does not welcome the company of others that this census is proof of the problem with city living. For our dog, this place is the best. She is eager to visit dogs on the street, and is active at the dog run, welcoming each new arrival and playing with regulars and visitors.

Does your dog have the chance to see 40 other dogs and more humans each day? We'd love to know what your pup's weekly census looks like.

Wow! Quite honestly, I don't think my dogs have met 40 different people or dogs in the past YEAR, let alone the past week. This past week? Aside from the 3 people who live here (me, husband, roommate) they have encountered three other people; the farm manager for the land we live on, the guy who is raising pheasants in the 3 acre flight pen in my backyard, and the UPS man. All people they've met before and encounter on a semi-regular basis, at least 1-2 times a month. LOL.

We live on 3500 acres in South Dakota and our next door neighbors are 3 miles away. 😃

However, we've only been here 4 years. For the Senjis, the country life is a big difference from where they started out. Jibini lived the first half of his life with me as an "apartment dog" in busy-suburban Orlando & Tampa FL….not city environment but enough people in one spot that we might encounter 5-6 others on our daily walks, plus we hit the dog park every other day when he was young. Then I got a job driving an 18 wheeler nationwide, Jibini accompanied me for 5 years and over a half-million miles....he has "marked his territory" in all of the lower 48 states. For that time in his life, every day brought a new "backyard" and new neighbors and endless opportunity for new experiences for both of us. We adopted Tana while we were still trucking, she rode with us for 2 years 🙂 Before BRAT got her, she lived in a puppymill for the first 2 years of her life and was scared of her own shadow....today 6 yrs later you'd never believe it- she is confident, friendly, playful and loves life 🙂

My other 2 dogs (mix breed and Brittany) joined the family after we moved to SD. And yep, attempting to socialize a rural dog & offer the same types of experiences that are easily accessible to a city/suburban dog....is a fairly monumental task. Puts a lot of miles on your vehicle for sure. Chloe our mix accompanied me nearly everywhere for the first 6 months I had her- luckily it was fall with cool weather so I could take her along any time I made trips into town. Farm stores usually don't mind you bringing a dog in, so she visited Tractor Supply and the feed mill a lot. We went to parks, walking trails, worked on obedience with distractions, etc. Once a week for six weeks, we'd drive 120 miles one-way to attend group Obedience classes in Sioux Falls (I mainly did this to address a few issues with being reactive to other dogs, the training I could handle on my own- but she was originally a city dog from Hartford CT and I think much of it was just her temperament type not a lack of early exposure).

Ellie my Brittany was a lot easier- couldn't ask for a sweeter, gentler, more confident and friendly dog. No issues, I can take her anywhere and do anything with her and nothing fazes her. Plus she's one heck of a fine bird dog. I do think a lot has to do with genetics, she is easily the most well-adjusted dog I have ever owned and she has had the LEAST amount of socialization. The breed is generally supposed to be friendly, energetic and confident and that's her to a T. I knew exactly what I was looking for when I bought her, and she comes from some phenominal genes to say the least.....I think in some cases when you happen to have a dog who's genetically predisposed to be rock-solid with a great temperament, you can get away with less effort when it comes to socialization....the dog is far less likely to develop any behavior issues that are fear-based, which most common behavior problems such as aggression, are. 🙂

First Basenji's

Woofless, 3500 acres?? I can't even imagine!

For our experience, I did also do a personal "census" for a while, because I was curious too. I live in a semi-urban university town nestled amidst some urban and less urban areas (I wouldn't call any of my immediate area suburban). Lots of single-family homes with small or modest backyards, which we do have, but that's not where the dogs get their exercise. Lots of people around here live in apartments with no yards, as well. So our dogs typically get daily walks around the neighborhood in the evening, and I take them to one of the local off-leash dog parks every day.

Local culture has made this a pretty dog-friendly area with lots of public use land available for canine social activity. I consider us pretty spoiled in that regard. On each average weekday, we interact with 40 ~ 70 dogs in an off-leash environment when I take them to the 23 acre dog park (over 200 Yelp check-ins since February of last year, and still counting) – but I counted both passing and actual greetings in my tally. Bowdu my Shiba is better with just a cursory sniff, while Bowpi loves to check out and gently sniff nearly every dog she sees. On the weekends, it just gets too congested at that park -- one can easily hit three digits in a one-hour visit -- so we go to some of the less dense trails, where the dog count per visit usually stays under 20.

I do not count people, but my dogs generally ignore them all equally. Unless they happen to have treats or something. 🙂

I started counting because I wanted to get a sense for myself just how "socialized" my dogs are, relative to the number of other creatures they encounter. Truth told, I was concerned about how my Shiba in particular doesn't always get along with every dog he meets. But once I started counting, I realized that the other dogs that he gruffs at are very few and far between, and there's ALWAYS a reason -- the young, exuberant Lab who literally plowed into his side when bounding over a blind hill, the unneutered Boston Terrier who was snort-breathing in his face and wanted to push him aside to pee on all the bushes, the pack of JRT that swarmed my Basenji and made her squeal. So doing the census also helped me learn which dogs and situations to avoid, or at least anticipate.

They meet far fewer dogs on their leashed walks around the neighborhood. I can't even imagine if 40+ dogs a day was the number of LEASHED encounters -- my trouble dog is a very different beast, and not at all interested in being sociable in that situation!

It sounds to me like your Fuji is very well socialized and very sociable as well, as not every dog can be that gregarious both on leash and off. I recall that with the BRAT application, there is a section that asks you to describe your daily routine with your dog (if you have one). I'm sure you would be able to provide a convincing narrative that a backyard is not at all necessary for adequate exercise or mental stimulation. I think though that a setting with more space (which you read as "surburban" or "rural") is implied is because not every dog is psychologically equipped to deal with a flood of new social interactions -- especially not rescues, who sometimes come from unknown backgrounds. Or maybe exactly because their background is known.

My Shiba, for example, came to us as a puppy from a VERY urban, extremely populated setting, where virtually nobody has backyards and there were no dog parks (Taipei). He never learned to like it. Even when moving to the States, he had to adapt to becoming comfortable in a large range of social settings. He's less fearful now, years later, but I don't think he'll ever truly ENJOY interacting with most dogs and most people. He's happy enough sniffing his own bushes and running in his own space. I'm okay with the idea that I'm probably more interested in meeting a wide range of dogs and people than he is... and that my Basenji also has different socialization priorities. But if you threw them into an environment like the streets of Manhattan without having known anything like that before (and most living creatures in the world have NOT), well, there will be a period of acclimation, regardless...

Thanks both Woofless and Curlytails for your responses. Amazing variety of circumstances for these dogs.

Fuji's a lucky girl. Her dog encounters are split about 50:50 between on the street and at the dog run. Our dog run is probably 1/2 acre at best, so the numbers there are smaller than your 23 acre expanse. Fuji will usually greet every dog at the gate, so her yield is quite high.

As we consider adoption, we realize that our circumstances make us great for the well socialized dogs, and probably equally bad for those that need a wide berth. Thanks again for your experience.

Well socialized Basenjis (and other dogs) sometimes change their attitude toward other dogs as they mature. I would not bet on an 18 month old female continuing to love every dog she meets, although certainly she may. In my experience, somewhere between 18 months and two years there may be an attitude adjustment. Fingers crossed you don't encounter this. 🙂 I have had Basenjis that remained social throughout their lives. I have had others that became quite dog aggressive as they matured. (in some cases, only same sex aggressive, in others just dog aggressive).

I have to agree with eeeefarm. These experiences do help a lot, but they can change.

I don't do dog parks, I don't ascribe to dogs needing a wide variety of play mates. Being good to humans is more critical in my dogs' lives and so we work on that young. When showing, I did take the dogs out a lot because they DID need it more. But I honestly didn't encourage play, simply ignoring/acceptance. So now, without a show dog here, my 2 do not EVER meet other dogs except at the vets office or out at petsmart etc. They meet only people who come here to visit unless out. But I have a fenced in yard, I don't walk my dogs because we have idiots with loose dogs around that make it too dangerous.

eeeefarm
Our fingers are crossed. We hope we don't see too much change. At present we consider ourselves lucky that the dog who has the chance to meet 20 dogs on the street each day enjoys those meetings.

DebraDownSouth
We also enjoy watching her meet and play with a wide variety of dogs at the run. We have seen our job as supporting that behavior; it's clear that we could not have created her eagerness to meet other dogs and success in interacting with them. At the same time, because she encounters so many on her walks, we think it's important that we help her feel comfortable with as much variety as we can deliver.

In your position, where you really have to take her out a lot, I understand. And I hope her comfort continues. My point was it is situational need, not dog need to be that social. 🙂 I have a slim chance of that having worked with my current 2, but with my incredibly dog aggressive first one, I'd have been out in a basket muzzle and warning everyone to keep their dogs away.

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