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HomeCosta RicaCosta Rica Expat Living: An Insight into Costa Rica's Dog Culture

Costa Rica Expat Living: An Insight into Costa Rica’s Dog Culture

There are three types of dog owners in the world: Number one–People who love having a dog for a pet and companion. Number 2– People who would marry their dog if it was legally allowed. And number 3– People who should never, ever be allowed to own a dog. Most of us are number one.

Then we all know people like number two: They see a photo from a war zone like Syria or Ukraine, and they will feel a brief sadness for the people who have lost families, the dead bodies strewn in the street, the crying orphan in the bombed out doorway, then they see in the corner of the photo a stray dog, and they are ready to start a Go Fund Me to rescue it.

As for number three– I will attest that I have seen a marked improvement in 30 years of living in Costa Rica.

The quality of life for a dog in Costa Rica is better than it was when I arrived. My first month here, in a middle-class suburb of San Jose I saw a woman kick a dog in the street for no real reason. My next-door neighbor kept his beautiful white German Shepherd mix chained up, with the length of the clothesline its only mobility space. The barrio was a mix of wandering dogs that skulked along the streets and sad dogs whose existence was mostly at the end of a chain.

Today, all of the above still exists, but on a smaller scale, much due to the presence of a sizable dog lovers community that crosses all boundaries, and is active in promoting adoptions, castrations and looking out for the overall welfare of our canine buddies.
As for me, I fit into the first category myself, and have owned many dogs in my time in Costa Rica.

Dogs can also be categorized, and I have come up with what I believe encompasses all dogs in Ticolandia (with some dogs in multiple categories):

The Barks Too Much Dog

They bark at thunder, at cars backfiring, at their neighbors, at other dogs, at any random person walking down the street. If you are lucky they only bark during daylight hours. Woe to the person who lives near a nocturnal barker. You may experience something akin to sleep deprivation torture. Once one dog begins barking in the night, others in the barrio will follow.

Any period of silence will last just long enough for you to drift into semi consciousness, until another chorus of barking that rocks you like ten roosters cawing at the same time. (Note–this is not the dog’s fault. Stupid owners are to blame. How oblivious do you have to be to ignore your dog outside barking half the night?)

The Is It a Rodent or is it a Dog?

Some love them, some hate them. Cute, but often annoying. Fit into a small pocketbook. Average weight, 1-2 kg. Average annual food bill, less than 10,000 colones. Average number of ankles bitten, 5 per lifetime.

The Adopted Street Dog

Once you gain its trust it is loyal and loving, but ready to head for the streets if the opportunity permits. Will eat just about anything put in a bowl, and in record time. On a hot day, the preferred sleeping place is under a parked car.

The Free Range Dog

Turns up missing on a regular basis, but is not really missing, just enjoying its freedom. It is the opposite of the poor dog that lives its life on the end of a chain. It belongs to somebody, likely has a collar (but no id) and can be found prancing on the streets of a barrio or running the beach.

The Rural Farm Dog

Will never see a veterinarian in its life. Eats most anything. Expert in foraging for food. Life span is variable, due to the real possibility of snake bites, horse kicks, poison..

A group of old farm dogs together looks like the canine version of a photo of old war vets, missing eyes, limbs, etc. The Good Doggie– The one we all aspire to own. The one we all believe we own. Smart, loyal,well-trained, can be trusted without a chain even on a public road. Barks only when a bark is indicated. Wary of strangers, but not a biter.

The classic fur baby

A joy to have, truly a member of the family. There may be more categories, feel free to add your own. One thing we can all agree on, as they say, the only bad thing about dogs is they don’t live long enough.

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