By Linda Cole
It’s one thing for stray dogs to hang around a local butcher shop or search for food in dumpsters and trash cans, but for dogs living in Russia it’s just a matter of catching the subway into Moscow, where they can find plenty of opportunities to fill their tummies. What’s amazing about these subway riding canines is that they have riding the tube down to a fine art, and scientists have been learning some interesting things about how man’s best friend has learned to adapt to their environment.
In the days when Russia was still the USSR, there were no dogs allowed in subways and even if they had been welcomed, dogs had no reason to go into the city. There were no street vendors or restaurants in the downtown area of Moscow, just industrial buildings. The stray dogs living on the outskirts of town found food digging through garbage dumps and trash cans. When the old USSR fell in the 1990s, everything changed for the people and the stray dogs. Restaurants, street vendors and fast food joints sprang up in Moscow, and the only challenge for the dogs was how to get from the suburbs into the downtown area where all of that easy food could be found.
Dogs are opportunistic and intelligent, and when they figured out they were no longer chased away from the subway stations, they began hopping trains for a lift into the city. The Moscow subway system is a maze that can be confusing for people, but the dogs appear to have learned the system. Scientists have been studying the train-hopping dogs to learn how they know which train to catch and when to get off. Researchers believe the dogs know their stop because of their ability to judge how long they’ve been on the train. It appears some of the dogs recognize the names of stations from the announcement over the loudspeaker or can sense the different smells of each station. It’s possible that it’s a combination of knowledge the dogs have learned. Some may even recognize certain people who exit at a specific station each day and simply follow them when they get off.