Raja’s Report: Dogs of Peru

Posted by Raja on September 19th, 2011 — Posted in interview

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Wearing my Inca hat in Cusco

Raja here, barking about something I know from personal contact… What’s it like to be a dog in Peru? 

First, Peru has a national dog, the Peruvian Orchid Dog. Generally Hairless- but crested with a stylish Mohawk, small footed, sensitive, family oriented and ancient, this breed pre-dates the Incas.

Peru's National Orchid Dog

 They are not the most popular dogs in Peru.  Currently the Schnauzer is the fashionable dog, along with the Jack Russell, the English Spaniel and the Lab.  

I even met a Shih Tzu in Cusco.  Meet Kiwicha, another of my hearty Himalayan breed showing everybody that we Shih Tzu dogs don’t mind high altitudes. 

Meet Kiwicha, a Shih Tzu girl of Cusco!

Several of the popular travel guide books on Peru provide inaccurate, slanderous information about Peru’s street dogs.  Contrary to what they say, Peru’s street dogs are not wild, yapping biters.  The majority is gentle, mild mannered, non-territorial and friendly.  From my first stroll near my hotel in Cusco, I met three new friends who I found had the neighborhood names of Pelusa, Marlon Brando and Shadow.  They peacefully accompanied me on every walk I took and they were waiting to greet me after I returned to Cusco after my visit to Machu Picchu.  The guidebooks are wrong.  Peru’s street dogs are awesome.  (But, you know, don’t go to Peru without your rabies shot, just to be safe, OK?) 

It is said that every Peruvian has a dog and a cat, and this statement seems to be pretty accurate.  One thing that amazed me about the dogs of Peru was that most Peruvian dogs seem to not need leashes.  In big city Lima and in small country towns, dogs stroll about with their owners off leash, even crossing streets in traffic.  Even strolling in public parks where there are other dogs.  Even waiting outside a house on a busy street without straying away or getting into traffic.  How do they do that?  (I rather suspect that only the dogs who are not roamers survive to put their stay-off-the-streets genes into the gene pool.)

Cafe greeter!


As ubiquitous as the New York dog, the Peruvian dog has much more freedom in many ways.  Within a range, they can go where they want and nobody seems to bother them.  So, while the New York dog gets transported from place to place, always chaperoned, always dog walked, the Peruvian dog makes his own decisions and trots on his own paws.  

In Aguas Calientes

Like the New York Dog, the Peruvian Dog often wears clothes for fashion or to stay warm, which is pretty cute since in zones under 12,000 feet in Peru, it’s never very hot or very cold.  Here is a puppy from Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu, in a stylish evening jumpsuit.  This Cusco dog wore his bolero between 5 pm and 8 pm. I didn’t wear any of my sweaters in Peru, but, many people told my family to get me a coat or I’d be cold. 

In Cusco

Dogs of New York often sit in cafes, shop and ride pubic transport.  Peruvian dogs are less welcome in indoors and human zones, but in outdoor zones there are few restrictions.  For example I was invited to walk all through a botanical garden of endangered orchids and threatened enormous caterpillars.  Try that in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden! 

Similar to dog culture in New York, Paris and Marrakech, a traveling dog provides a reason to chat with a stranger and make new friends.  What do Peruvians ask about each other’s dogs?  What’s his name, age, weight, of course.

I gave in and got a coat in Peru. Everybody was too worried about me.

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