The dog days (are never over): Why caring for dogs helps sloths

The dog days (are never over): Why caring for dogs helps sloths

Happy International Dog day everyone! While there seems to be a day for quite literally everything right now, a day dedicated to celebrating dogs is something that is pretty important to many of us! And it makes sense that the Day of the Dog is at the end of summer.

dogs day

Have you heard of the “dog days of summer“? Well Dog Day is right in the middle of them! To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” began when the dog star, Sirius, could be seen rising just before the sun came up.”Dog days” are traditionally the hot, sultry days of summer which are known for heat, thunderstorms, lethargy, mad dogs and bad luck. Sounds about right!

dogs with toy sloth on head
Photo credit: Two Traveling Dogs

But how on earth do dogs relate to sloths?

Well, more than you’d think. Now this isn’t going to be an article all about how bad dogs are (we are all big dog lovers over here at Team Sloth) but the fact remains that dogs are the second leading cause of death for sloths in the wild. In fact, they have contributed to the extinction of 11 wild species and kill thousands of animals every year, all over the world.

orphan baby sloths
Many orphaned sloths arrive at rescue centers because their mothers were killed during dog attacks./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Stray dogs are often the cause of these sloth attacks, with over a million stray dogs wandering the streets of Costa Rica.

Leash laws vary by country but even where it is illegal to have a dog off the leash (like in Costa Rica for example), many people allow their animals to roam, unsupervised, with no repercussions. Unfortunately, the animals that suffer the repercussions are wild animals, like sloths.

Ultimately this is not the dog’s fault, as they naturally have predator instincts. Certain breeds in particular have a very high prey drive. However, it is up to the owner to properly train and supervise their canine companions to prevent the injury and ultimate extinction of local wildlife species.

How can we prevent dogs from attacking wildlife?

In the South Caribbean we have implemented a program to help control stray dog populations with our “Oh My Dog” initiative!

In this project we sponsor the spaying and neutering of stray dogs (or for families that cannot afford it) as well as promote the responsible ownership of domestic animals. Other ways that we help to protect sloths from dogs include:

  • Building canopy bridges to prevent the sloths from having to come to the ground.
  • Planting trees to bridge gaps in the canopy.
  • Promoting adopting or rescuing dogs over buying a dog.
three fingered sloth using canopy rope bridge
Sloth crossing canopy bridges help prevent dog attacks by providing a safe way for wildlife, like sloths, to navigate properties without having to come to the ground./Photo: Foforo (Yorjes Salazar Elizondo)

These are measures that we have already implemented in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica, but they are important worldwide.

5 tips for dog owners that care about wildlife

Aside from reducing stray dog populations, all dog owners can help protect wildlife by training their dog! We have compiled some top tips for you to help prevent your pet from causing wild animal deaths, wherever you may be.

BONUS: Training is a great bonding opportunity for you and your pets!

Tip 1: Supervise your pet

Always make sure that you are watching your animal (especially at night) and check the yard before letting them out. If that is not possible, or your pet needs to be outside, use a long line or tether to make sure they are unable to reach wild animals.

dogs sloths
Photo by Dids from Pexels

Tip 2: Use brightly coloured collars

Use brightly coloured collars and/or collars with a bell to alert wildlife to their presence.

Colorful Birdsbesafe® cat collars have shown to reduce bird mortality by 87%./Photo: Birdsbesafe®

Tip 3: Teach your dog how to come when called

This training tip not only helps to ensure the safety of wildlife but is an incredibly valuable tool to keep your dog out of harm’s way.

Tip 4: Teach your dog to stop or stay

Like learning how to come when called, learning to stop or stay is another great way to ensure the safety of wildlife and your pet.

Tip 5: Stop dog aggression

Aggression can often get in the way of you having a good time with your canine pal. Here are some tips for curbing some of those aggressive instincts!

For more awesome training techniques on how to prevent your dog from attacking other animals, check out this helpful website!

Dog running through grass chase small animals



5 fun facts for dog day!

Now that we’ve gotten the training out of the way, here are 5 fun facts about dogs in honor of International Dog Day!

  1. Dogs have wet noses because the moisture helps to trap air particles helping them to smell better! Does wetting your nose make a difference? Give it a shot!
  2. Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic! Remember watching that film and thinking all the dogs probably didn’t survive? Well three did! They were all small dogs (like a Pomeranian puppy) and were smuggled on the lifeboat. Sorry Jack.
  3. The Beatles song ‘A Day in the Life’ has a frequency in it that only dogs can hear.
  4. A Bloodhound’s sense of smell can be used as evidence in a court of law.
  5. The most successful hunter in the world is actually a dog – The African Wild Dog’s hunts are successful 80% of the time which makes them the most successful land mammalian predator in the world – they even hold a Guinness World Record for it!

Interested in supporting our efforts to protect sloths by helping dogs?

Currently we fund the spaying and neutering of dogs on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in conjunction with two other great organisations: Puerto Viejo Dogs & Clinica Vetenario: Dr Arroyo y Dr Solano. Puerto Viejo Dogs rescues dogs from the streets, or ones taken by the government in abuse cases, and they fund the care for injured and/or sick dogs and cats. They also foster animals for adoption and so much more. They work with a wonderful veterinary clinic here, Clinica Vetenario: Dr Arroyo y Dr Solano, who spend their spare time providing free care to animals in need.

Both are amazing organisations in the South Caribbean and the animals here are so lucky to have them (follow them online to see more of their amazing work). To protect sloths while caring for dogs, we assist with the costs of spaying/neutering which can range from $30-$50 per animal. To continue helping the animals of the area and to help us assist even MORE animals you can join us by donating to the Oh My Dog project or sponsoring a spay/neuter for an animal in need here! Helping sloths, by helping dogs!

Helping Sloths By Helping Dogs

Sarah Kennedy
Director of Education & Outreach

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