Walking the streets of Ubud or anywhere on Bali is certainly a very nice way to spend time and to experience the sights and sounds of life on Bali; it’s a myriad of sensory pleasure and a fascinating journey to all who visit.
The Bali Street Dog is very much a part of every Balinese community, so when walking through any Banjar you will most certainly come across Bali Street Dogs, doing what they do. For many visitors this experience can be somewhat intimidating as a working Bali Dog does not give two hoots if you are tourist or a local or even an expat who has lived here for many years. To them you are an outsider and their families and communities need to be alerted when a stranger has entered their territory.
Bali Street Dogs are working dogs. Balinese compounds and families have Bali Dogs to act as protectors and guard dogs. They live parallel lives, the dogs and the families, each doing their own thing. But make no mistake, the Bali Dog serves a purpose and first and foremost their purpose is to guard.
Bali Dogs are not aggressive; they are fear defensive; this is very different to being aggressive. Balinese people do not touch their working dogs to show affection or companionship. The only touch that a traditional Bali Dog will receive from a human is when it has done something wrong and is being redirected. This form of touch is normally a raised hand holding a stick and at times a swift kick to the flank. Therefore, they become fear defensive; because they have learnt that humans will only go to make contact with them in order to inflict some form of redirection or punishment. Generally speaking touch is not associated with pleasure by your typical Bali Street Dog.
When walking the streets of Banjars you will be approached by Bali Dogs, they will bark, they will snarl and at times they will run at you like they are going to attack. The next time this happens, try doing the following. Maybe then you too will become part of the parallel existence between Bali Dogs and their human communities.
1. Do not give the dog eye contact; look down or to the side.
2. Do not hesitate in your walking pattern, learn from the Balinese and adopt a relaxed posture and slow gait. Be slow, yet confident in your body language.
3. Do not raise your hands; do not kick out at the dog. This will instinctively spark the defensive behavior and the dog will likely attempt to bite you.
4. Do not raise your voice, try not to act or look startled, just keep slowly walking on through them.
5. When they circle behind you and you feel like a piece of your calf is about to be chomped, continue to walk slowly on your way. They will follow behind you barking and yapping and generally creating a ruckus until you have left their territory. They will then circle back to their compound, resume their position on the compound step and await the next intruder who dares walk past (or into) their families home.
6. If you see a sweet dog lying on the side of the road and your animal loving instincts kick in, resist the urge to reach down to touch. The dog may see your well intended approach as a threat and you may get bitten.
All of the above will in no way guarantee that you won’t get bitten, but understanding why a behavior occurs is the first step in working with the behavior.
Balinese people and Bali Street Dogs have lived together, in their parallel way, for thousands of years. If the Bali Street Dog was a naturally aggressive predator then it is unlikely that the Balinese people would have maintained them as an integral part of their communities.