Can we change the world?

The Bali dogs

We`ve been on the island for six weeks now. As a vet I think it is about time I write a little something about the Bali dogs.

Bali is full of dogs. The girls are very concerned about any animal. Although one should have expected them to be used to all the loose dogs by now, they are still very much vary of them. I get daily questions, asking if this or that dog seems like a happy dog. If it is sick. If it  is wounded or too thin. Those are hard questions to answer.

Bali dog resting
The Bali dogs will rest whereever

A very special, indigenous breed

The Bali dogs have existed for more than 2000 years, living side by side with the humans. Until recently they were pure Bali dogs. A breed that before 2004 remained protected, with a very special and rich DNA. They are the ancestors of other modern breeds like Saluki, Chow Chow, Akita and Basenji. The Bali dog along with the Kintamani, which probably arose from the Bali dog, are two of very few indigenous dog breeds left in the world. In 2004 the authorities opened up for the import of foreign dogs. Since then the breed has become somewhat blended. Recent studies conclude that only about 20% of the island`s dog population are now pure Bali dogs.

Kintamani dog
Blanca is a Kintamani which we have been fortunate to share garden with for a whole month

The Balinese people consider dogs as a part of their community. They believe keeping a dog will help them protect their property as well as from bad spirits. Studies indicate that most of the dog owners keep a dog mainly for protection. Only a very small proportion for social purposes. Their perception of keeping a dog is very different from what we as western people consider a responsible ownership. Their Balinese owners will feed them, but not necessarily pet them or treat them if they get sick or hurt.

Bali dog
An obviously too thin nursing bitch seraching for food

A small proportion of free roamers

As a matter of fact most dogs on Bali do have an owner. The dogs are very seldom aggressive as long as they are left alone and not threatened. Dogs are territorial and they`re herd animals, and usually form a group of 4-5 dogs. Hence, many foreigners might find them scary or aggressive, whilst all they actually do is to let the humans know that they`ve trespassed their territory.

Studies done by M.K Morter et al. conclude that less than 10% of Bali`s dog population is actually free roaming. They state that “there is unlikely to be a population of free-roaming dogs in Bali that is capable of maintaining adequate health without any direct human oversight, with fundamental implications for disease control and animal welfare.”

Time to change our perception

Maybe it is time for us to put aside our western way of considering whether a dog is well maintained or not. Maybe we should consider them more like wild animals. -Because in fact, we do believe that wild animals, which live a life untouched by humans, and are not treated for any disease or injury, are happy animals, don`t we? -And, I must admit I`d rather have a flock of 4-5 dogs around my house picking up food from my garbage, than a bunch of rats.

The scientific findings done by M.K. Morters et al. in 2014, correlate well with my impressions. Most of the dogs I see look fairly healthy and they are seldom too thin. I have only seen a few which are hurt or obviously sick. I do however regularly see itching dogs with what I presume are ecto parasites and concurrent skin infections. Of course I strongly believe that we should take action in cases where a dog is suffering. I don`t think we should turn on the blind eye.

I truly honor the work done by the Bali Animal Welfare Association and Barc4Balidogs! They have 24/7 emergency services for dogs in need, and do a substantial work to teach the local communities how to take care of their dogs in a more responsible way. Anyone who care for the dogs should save their hotline service number to call for an ambulance if they ever see a dog in need: 0811 389004.

Dina cuddles Blanca
For the love of dogs

Dogs on and around campus

After the first outbreak of rabies on the island in 2008, the matter of how to handle the dog population became more complex. Rabies is a terrible and lethal disease, and has caused the dog population on Bali to decrease with more than 50%. Unfortunately, also humans have been infected. Therefore I have decided to take on some action together with a few other parents on Green School, to look closer in to the complex situation of the Bali dogs. We will particularly be looking at the situation on and around Green School campus. I look forward to keep you all posted on how that goes!

Dog on Green School
Dogs on Green School Campus

17 thoughts on “The Bali dogs

  1. Nina, I really enjoyed reading this post. As a mom of three kids who love dogs and being a dog lover myself, living in Bali has made me reflect a lot on the nature of the human-dog relationship here. I appreciate your point about questioning our Western notions of what is a good life for a dog. I think my dog from home could never get over the culture shock of being a Bali dog: dogs in Bali are connected with each other, not with their owners. My own bias is my opinion that people are missing out on a chance to have a connection with their dog, but many of the dogs seem happy to be able to be off leash all day. The rabies issue makes it so much more complex. I appreciate your writing!

    1. Hi Sarah! I totally agree! They really miss out on a lot when they don’t interact more with the dogs. However, that probably also protects them from various contagious stuff they could have attracted from the dogs.
      -And oh yeah, I cannot under any corcumstances picture ourown dog dowm here either 🤪

  2. Great article. I find Bali dog is so strong, very little maintenance and best guard. I’m sure because it’s pure breed and most suited in this climate.

  3. Thank you for all your insights! It was a really balanced perspective. I had a pregnant stray dog come into my house, but unfortunately I couldn’t keep her as the landlord would not allow pets. I tried everywhere to find a place for her to go so she wouldn’t end up having her pups on the street. Finally, the day she had her pups was also the day we had to leave, Villa Kitty came to the rescue even though it is meant to be for cats. I only had her for 3 weeks and then went away for 8 weeks and when I returned and went to visit her, she was hysterical with excitement! These dogs are very special, and if you give them love, they never forget you! Rescuers like Elizabeth from villa kitty are also very special people who should be commended for the love and energy they put into these animals and the time they spend trying to find them homes.

  4. Hi Nina, Thanks for taking action regarding dogs on Campus. I am also interested to know where you sourced the information regarding the dog population on Bali (decreased more than 50% due to rabies) and if you and your family have been vaccinated? Thx

    1. Hi Miki!
      I have linked most of the sources in the post. Click on the text that appears blue. I have also used the articles linked in the articles I’ve linked and the web-page of BAWA.
      My family and I are not vaccinated.
      Best regards Nina

      1. As I reflect on your information about the Bali Dogs and Agree with some comments I find it very sugar coated. As I traveled the roads in Bali I found it difficult to endure due to the number of dogs in the streets and their dire need of help. I was hurt broken and could not wait depart. Alot of them are in search of food, some of them are afraid especially the ones in areas of main traffic. Most of them require medical care. What amazes me through observation is that it seems to be Ok for these dogs to be in the condition they are by the locals. As if their conditions are Exceptable. Well I find it to be extremely cruel.
        For those that are helping I applaud you
        Keep up the good work these dogs need you. Your job is very challenging
        Please post how one can help

        1. Please bear in mind that most of the Balinese by no means have the money to seek a doctor for themeselves or their loved ones, so expecting them to be able to help a dog is unfair. And even more so to call them cruel for not helping.
          Statistics from professional research prove that around 90% of the dogs on the island have a satisfying health conditions, and after having spent a year on the island that is also my personal experience. Now, what is satisfactory can be very subjective, and some of us seem to mean that an animal should get help sooner than others. Remember that if you look for something, you will find it everywhere. It`s like when you expect your first child; suddenly you see pregnant women and baby strollers everywhere. I totally understand that you saw dogs in need everywhere, cause there is. 10% of 500 000 is after all 50 000 dogs on a pretty small island.
          You can help by contacting BAWA. Check out my other post too;

  5. I stayed in a guest-house in a Balinese family compound where they kept a beautiful Golden Retriever tied up 24×7 and fed her rice only. It was a very challenging situation to be in for a dog-lover such as myself, but fortunately they allowed me to take her for walks, which I did whenever I could, as well as sneaking some extra variety of food into her bowl (which they didn’t approve of). I found it very hard not to be judgemental of the family and it eventually led to me leaving the house after the dog took ill and died without them seeking help from a vet. When I realized how sick she was, I called Barc who came and fetched her, but by then it was too late – her lungs were full of fluid and she died not long after. Although this incident had a sad ending, I acknowledge the amazing work that organiations such as Barc are doing, and have noticed a definite improvement in the overall condition of the dogs in the 8+ years that I’ve been coming to Bali

    1. Hi Matt.
      Your experience sounds like something not very common here, snd I totally agree that is not the way to keep a dog. Then it is much better to let them loose 😆

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