Thursday, November 10, 2011

Commuter dogs

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, feral dogs began to figure out how to ride the subway. There was now food to be had in Moscow, so they learned how to negotiate the morning trains to ride from the suburbs to downtown--and back again in the evening.

Once downtown, they have at least two methods for scoring food: the cute ones approached folks with food and begged, sometimes by laying their heads on a sitting person's knee and giving 'em the ol' big eyes. The thing is, according to Dr Andrei Poiarkov, of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute, the dogs also figured out who was likely to be an easy touch. "Dogs are surprisingly good psychologists," he says in The Sun.

The second method the dogs use is a scare tactic that Dr. Poiarkov calls "going on a shawarma hunt." Again, the dogs size up their victims, this time choosing those most likely to startle. When one of these people procures their shawarma from a streetside vendor, the dog comes up from behind and suddenly barks. If all goes according to plan, the meat kabob drops to the ground, and the dog nabs it.

The commuter dogs also use traffic signs to cross the roads safely--relying on the electronic figures of a walking person to know when to step off the curb.

After a day of making a living, the dogs board the subway for the return trip, judging when to get off by the length of time or perhaps the conductor's call at each station. The dogs sometimes fall asleep, though, and get off at the wrong stop. (Sound familiar?)
Somebody wake me when we get to Люблинско-Дмитровская.


  1. Love this!  Some dogs are smarter than some humans.  And evidently, dogs don't need tickets to ride the train.

  2. I wondered a bit about the tickets too. I mean, it seems surprising that the authorities allow the dogs to ride. But Dr, Poiarkov has been studying the dogs for 30 years. He's also noted dogs that have aligned themselves with security guards at various fenced-in sites. These "guard dogs" get food from the security guards. And there are the "wild dogs" that come out at night to hunt mice, rats, and cats (!), and the "scavengers" who root through garbage. He calls the subway riding dogs "the beggers." Here's more about his findings:   

  3. I like the idea that "dogs are good psychologists!"

  4. An amazing story!  Just goes to show that animals are far more intelligent than we think.  Maybe dogs will be the next dominant species.