Top Things To Know About Stray Dogs Of India

What breed are the stray dogs of India?

The street dogs found in India are a big mix of different breeds over the years but the most common trait or breed used to define the Indian street dogs is the Pariah Dog. We personally don't like this name as Pariah means 'Outsider' and this namesake was given by the British during their ruling in India. We prefer Apna (Our) Dog or simply Desi (national) Dog. This breed of dogs has been around for as far back as 4500 years ago. 

Just like shopping on SevaStray, the assortment and uniqueness vary from place to place. Here are some of the common traits of desi dogs. 

    • Size: medium 
    • Weight: typically between 40-55 lbs
    • Coat: Typically short 
    • Distinct features: Sharp longer snouts, perked up ears, curly tails. 

Why is the Pariah / Desi dog one of the best breeds?

If we just focus on the criteria of ‘features and benefits’ of a breed, the Desi dog outperforms practically any dog breed that is 'bought' and bred in India. They are extremely intelligent, which is required for their ability to survive with little human support. Just being able to cross a highly trafficked street in India requires the talent that most humans even lack. 

Desi dogs are adapted to the climate of India unlike German Shepards, Rottweilers, Huskies, and other purebred dogs. 

Desi dogs are loyal to their human friends and protective and their survival depends on defending their territory. 

Indian street dogs are less prone to diseases from inbreeding such as cancer, hip dysplasia, etc. as this is the true breeding pool and natural selection process.

The traits of the breed, however, do not apply to any single dog, each dog is different and its behavior, abilities, and personality are going to vary from dog to dog, not by the breed. 

Why are there so many stray dogs in India? 

Before we get into the reasons behind why you see so many street dogs in India, it helps to understand why you don't see them in developed nations like the United States

  • Lack of programs

    and government funding of animal control programs. In developed countries, almost every town, county, and state has a government program that is dedicated to capturing stray dogs, vaccinating, spaying and neutering, and working with a shelter for adoption. This is typically referred to as Animal Control, this does not fully exist in every part of India (yet). However, there are local municipal organizations that are working on programs quickly. 
  • Euthanasia

    Just because you don't see as many stray pets in the United States or other developed countries, does not mean that the process is humane. Other countries simply 'manage the population' and euthanize the dogs in shelters. In 1984, 17M pets were being killed in shelters annually. This is now down to 733K dogs per year because of the incredible work by non-profit organizations to promote the adoption of pets instead of buying them. YUCK. Still, this means that almost a million pets get killed every year in the US. 

So now that we understand why you don't see that many street dogs in other countries, it explains why you do see them in India. 

  • Open garbage

    India is known for many things. Culture, food, music, but cleanliness isn’t one of them. There are several reasons for this, mostly because of the culture of only consuming biodegradable foods until the past 30-ish years where single-use items and plastic were introduced. Most garbage is thrown outside in the open, making food available for dogs to scavenge on and keep multiplying. 

Chitimala being dumpster diver

  • Lack of spay and neuter programs

    There are several factors for this, religious reasons (interrupting nature’s process), lack of government programs as mentioned above, lack of awareness and the benefits associated with spaying or neutering a pet. 
  • Can you kill stray dogs in India? 

    • No, you can’t.  Euthanasia is illegal - which is a great thing in our opinion and only a short term bandaid. More dogs will move in and keep reproducing in the area eventually. The killing of dogs has been banned since 2001. 

How can you help a stray dog in need?

Before you jump into helping the street dogs, you really have to pause and consider how you want to make a difference. Every little bit helps, even if you can help one dog in your lifetime. 

  • Volunteer with a local non-profit organization. They always need help! 
    • Is the dog injured?
      • Take it to your local vet. Most private vets help street dogs and want to help. 
      • Contact a local organization that is helping stray dogs, this may be in the form of an NGO or a community that is working on improving the lives of street dogs. 
    • Create a community dog program in your area in partnership with your neighbors to provide clean water and shelter for the dogs. Also, make sure you can get the dogs sterilized as well, not just feed them. Especially the female dogs, this will help you create a puppy free area for the future and the neighbors that don't like dogs will even support you. It's in the best interest of all stakeholders.

People caring for indian stray dogs

Shelter for stray dogs

How many stray dogs are there in India?

F’ton. Since that isn’t an official number, we’ll go with the 30-35 million stray dogs which seem to be the number that different articles have claimed, like this one and this one. The number in the entire country doesn’t matter as much, it’s simply way too many dogs and it is a noticeable issue. 

How many street dogs are there in India

What are the problems that exist with stray dogs?

There are several issues that are causing the stray dog population in India to have a negative impact on how society views the dogs, most of them are genuine issues that need to be addressed. 

    • Human bites and the threat of Rabies: India has the highest rate of rabies deaths in the world, at 20,000/year according to the WHO (but who is WHO?)
    • Impact on wildlife: The stray dogs in rural areas or wildlife areas can become the biggest predator threat to wildlife.
    • The poor condition of the dogs: Most of the dogs are in poor health, especially in rural and low economical areas. The dogs suffer from all sorts of issues ranging from starvation, diseases such as parvo, distemper, rabies, mange, worms and much more. 
    • Poor treatment of the dogs: Because of the fear of rabies and bites, many people respond to this fear with violence and hit, injure or kill the dogs. 
    • Dogs getting hit by vehicles is one of the biggest reasons for injuries to street dogs, we try to help and do our part by giving away reflective collars to organizations.
Communities divided

Street dog supporters

Against street dogs

Dogs are being beaten by people and treated poorly.

Dogs are dangerous and a threat.

We can’t see dogs starving to death in front of us.

Feeding the dogs allows them to keep multiplying and creating new dogs.

Dogs are living beings and equal to us.

Dogs are a nuisance


What are the best solutions to helping the Stray Dog population in India?

There is rarely a simple or one cookie-cutter solution for such complex problems, but we have tested many programs in collaboration with our NGO partners and based on all of the international research and results from the initiatives, below are the most effective ways to improve the well being of the dogs, listed in importance. 

Reduce the population by conducting ABC (Animal Birth Control) programs

      • Government programs exist for street dog sterilizations, such as municipal corporations. 
      • Privately of your own street community dogs. 
      • Focus on the female dogs first if you have limited resources.

Adopt don’t shop

adopt a desi dog

      • Stop the breeding of purebred dogs in India and only adopt the street dogs and puppies. There are so many breeders in India that are selling purebred dogs such as German Shepherds, Labradors, Pugs, Golden Retrievers, Huskies, Rottweillers and most recently the Pit Bull Terriers. This may not be an issue in countries that have few or no street dogs or high euthanasia rates, but in India where there are 30-35 million street dogs, adding more dogs to a population should be reduced or made illegal. There are so many reasons for this, for example: 
        • If just 3 out of 100 people adopted a dog, there wouldn’t be any stray street dogs left in India. 
        • Improved lives of domestic purebred home dogs
          • Most of these dogs live inside a house in a limited area, tied to a chain or stuck in a backyard or rooftop. 
          • The dogs don’t get any exercise except for a short morning or evening walk. Most of these dogs are big working dogs that are full of energy and very rarely are they able to get the exercise and training that they need. Most purebred dogs that we see in India are overweight and overexcited from the lack of exercise and mental stimulation. 
          • The dogs are not the right dogs for the environment. The dog breeds that are bred and purchased in India are rarely fit to India’s climate which is hotter than most places in Europe or North America where the breeds originate from. 
          • The owners can’t handle the dog. I can’t begin to tell you how often I see a dog walking a person. You read that correctly! The big guard dogs are taking the humans for a walk, dragging the women or housekeepers behind them and the walkers are simply trying to hang on for dear life. In early 2020, I was charged by a giant Rotweiller in the middle of the night that got loose from its walker who was a tiny little lady who simply couldn’t handle the breed of dog that big and strong. 

Crackdown on dog abandonment 

    • Dog abandonment is a truly big problem in India and when pet owners can’t take care of a dog or are having issues, they simply drive it far away and abandon the dog, thinking that it can survive on the streets like the millions of other dogs. Actually, we’re not sure what they are thinking or if they are thinking at all. This in our view, is one of the most inhumane practices and should be cracked down by government authorities. Not only is this inhumane to the dogs that are left to fend for themselves, who have never lived on the street and are most probably going to die a terrible death, this also adds to the street dog population increase. 

I hope that you found this article helpful. We've spent years in India trying to understand the issues from every point of view and I've tried to answer some of the most common questions that I hear. 

What is a difference in stray dogs in purebred dogs?

 Human perception. That is the main reason why so many desi dogs suffer on the streets while "purebred" dogs live comfortable lives inside homes. The craziest thing about this phenomenon is that all of the purebred dogs are imported dogs, they aren't even our national dogs. So while our dogs suffer and fight to live on the streets, we import dogs from other countries, breed them and sell them as if they are property and not things. 

I too suffered from this class system and dog racism while growing up. The thing is, we get our own sense of identity from external things. A nice car, a big house, a purebred dog, the list goes on. These external factors give us a sense of confidence and superiority in the eyes of society. Most of us are stuck in it, and its not really our fault necessarily, we simply get born into this system. It takes years of unlearning to reconsider different, objective ways of thinking about the problems that exist in society. 



All of the pictures are our own or of our friends that adopted one of the dogs. 

4 comments

  • This was much needed information! Thank you so much for your efforts! Please keep it up. As a hind thought, maybe you could include NGO lists that support such initiatives or what might be the steps that we can take to care for our stray (if we want to adopt them straight from the road etc).

    After reading your article, I’m convinced that we should help our streets by adopting poor- cute beings surviving all on their own!

    Janhvi Chaudhari
  • An extremely well-researched article and thank you for sharing such valuable information:-)

    Nupur
  • Thank you for the article. We need to spread more awareness about our wonderful Indies 💕

    Leena
  • I just want to thank you for all your work and the interesting reads! Where I live in the US we have some streets dogs although nothing like your street dog population or interesting breed mix. Our dogs are dogs that have been abandoned or lost, eventually they may find their way to being picked by Animal Control or a kind person takes them in. Otherwise they do get killed by traffic. Amazing that your street dogs can find their way through traffic, that is a sign of intelligence for sure! Thank you again for all you do.

    Jane Gerard CPDT-KA KPA CTP

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