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Dogs and Traffic
Terrifying and dangerous
This Costa Rican dog is crossing the street with care

Living temporarily in the urban area of San Ramón, Costa Rica, I have seen far too many near misses between cars and dogs. (There are a ton of strays as well as many dogs who wander all day even though they have a home.) A fatal accident can happen so fast, and I have felt very fearful watching dogs in the roads. It’s especially frightening here, where cars have the right of way, and pedestrians of both the human and canine variety are taking a risk every time they step off the curb to cross a street.

There are people who hurry across in front of zooming cars, taxis and trucks in situations in which I wouldn’t dare try to make it in time, and some dogs do the same. Just yesterday, I watched the same dog twice disappear from view alarmingly close to cars and felt enormous relief both times when I saw him reappear on the other side. I really thought that he hadn’t made it. A man walking near me said, “No va a llegar al edad,” which means, roughly translated, “He’s not going to reach old age,” and I worry that he spoke the truth. Presumably, dogs who lack the skills to safely navigate the city streets don’t last very long.

Perhaps that’s why most of the dogs I see wandering freely, whether they have a family to return to at night or not, seem to understand that cars are to be avoided. Either they learn that early on, or they don’t survive. Many watch and cross when people do, taking a followers approach to street safety. Others cross after watching for a break between cars. The majority of the dogs are playing it safe.

Still, I have a bad feeling that before the end of our four months here, I may see an accident with a bad ending. Have you ever had the misfortune to see a dog hit by a vehicle?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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