The Dogs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Leah Walker May 21, 2014

I realize many of you are clamoring for the a post featuring the beautiful people of Rio. After all, in Brazil there’s a leggy, svelte supermodel on every corner, and every man is a perfectly chiseled Adonis. Although that stereotype isn’t exactly true, I am surrounded by beauty, both in Rio’s landscape, people, and dogs.

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Yes, you read that right, DOGS! Perhaps it’s the fact that I miss my two dachshunds back in Texas, or that I’m just a dog lover in general, but Rio is a terrific city for dog watching. I never thought I’d find a place that rivals Paris for being so dog friendly, but the Cariocas may just edge out the Parisians in this regard. It seems as if dogs are welcome {almost} anywhere, even in some restaurants, which is such a strange concept for this American.

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Since moving to Cidade Maravilhosa, I’ve spent time getting acquainted with the Carioca way. And given the fact that I’m not frantically running around visiting Cristo Redentor, Pão de Açúcar, or Parque Nacional da Tijuca, I’ve been able to notice things like Rio’s dog-loving ways.

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I regularly walk around Lagoa, my favorite escape thus far in the city. This 7.5 km loop surrounds a beautiful lake and is the gathering place for locals who live in the nearby neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema. Even on the weekdays, Lagoa has plenty of runners, bikers, and families, but on the weekend it is an epicenter of activity with birthday parties, picnics, and generally, people just enjoying being outside.

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As much as I like having the place to myself on a Tuesday, it’s prime people-watching territory on the weekends. And though I’m very careful to only take my iPhone with me during the week, on the weekends, I’m more comfortable bringing my DSLR along. This past Sunday, I set out with the explicit intention of capturing some of Rio’s most beautiful and beloved residents–their dogs.

Call me a PET-ophile. I don’t care!

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By asking Cariocas if I could take photos of their dogs, I was able to interact with them. Some didn’t care to chat, whether that’s because they didn’t speak English {it’s painfully obvious that I don’t speak Portuguese} or that they just couldn’t be bothered, but I found that most locals were eager to talk about their dogs. They were also curious about me, and what I was doing in Brazil. I suppose it’s not every day that an American is walking around Lagoa taking photos of dogs.

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Through my doggie photo expedition, I discovered a few new things. The first and funniest is that dogs go crazy for coconut, both the water and the pulp. I mean, who can blame them? It is delicious. I met a spitz that is completely blind, but could hear and sniff out a coconut being cut from fifteen yards away. To see the look on these dogs faces when they actually get a coconut is priceless.

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I met a tiny terrier by the name of Maria whose owner is a photographer. A Carioca that has lived in New York, he’s back in Rio working as a paparazzo. If you’ve seen a photo of a star visiting Rio then it was probably taken by him. He’s now gearing up for the World Cup, and told me that Beyonce is supposed to be in town. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for that.

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And apparently the sidewalks in Rio are painful for some of the more tender-footed dogs. I saw more than one wearing some sort of paw covering, which makes me giggle every time I see it.

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With the exception of one mean old lady at the grocery store, I’ve found Rio to be a very friendly city. Although, I do get some strange looks when I’m apparently smiling for no reason. I think the key to dealing with people in a new place is to just allow them to sniff you out, comparable to how dogs operate. I believe that people are similarly wired and just need to get acquainted, especially in a city.

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Even though there was no butt sniffing on Sunday, I hope I’ll be remembered around Lagoa not for being the crazy American stalking dogs, but instead for being the newly transplanted expat who really loves meeting new people. Should our paths cross again in Lagoa, perhaps we’ll chat over a coconut. And, of course, the dogs will have their very own.

Leah Walker

Leah has a marketing management company specializing in strategy, content creation and implementation for luxury brands and destinations. She's also a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. Leah documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. She sometimes freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for five years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.


    1. The socks crack me up, but I did see a dog last night walking like she was on glass. I wanted to give her the socks off my feet. 🙁

  1. I love checking out the dogs when I visit new places so, naturally, I loved this post! Great pictures Leah – you’ve really captured the dog-life in Rio!

    1. Thanks, Francesca! I could have gotten enough photos for a coffee table book on Sunday. This place is filled with pretty pooches.

  2. I thought Parisians were nuts about their dogs but it’s good to know that there’s another pootch-crazy city out there. I had no idea about the coconuts but I think it makes sense – it’s like a ball that has treats inside!

    1. I’m not sure if Rio dogs can go on the metro or trains, but the dog culture is huge here. Now that you mention the coconut being a ball with a treat inside, it does make sense!

  3. I just loved this article. How often to read about the dogs of any destination! Oh how I would have loved to play with them all!! Great pics…especially the Labs, but I am partial! Great post Leah!!

    1. Oh, thank you, Jeff! I just couldn’t help but notice the dog culture in Rio. It can’t be escaped, which I love.

    1. Thanks, Matt. I think they’re supposed to be on a leash, but when it’s not as crowded, there are some free. And then at the dog park it’s every pup for himself.

  4. I found this to be the case in Buenos Aires too – everywhere I turned my head, there was a dog – or a dog walker with lots of dogs!! I especially love the expression of the dog in your first picture!

    1. Oh the dog walkers are so talented in Rio, and the dogs know the drill. I like to watch the dynamic there, too.

  5. I almost didn’t click over. I was imagining a sad story of starving, homeless dogs but being a big dog lover thought I should see what it was about; good or bad. What a wonderful surprise! I just lost my Abbie (15 year old pup!) recently so I’m sort of craving a dog without really being sure I want another. This photo essay helped!

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about Abbie. It’s so tough to lose a beloved dog. The dogs in Rio are certainly pampered, at least from what I’ve seen. It’s great to see.

  6. Brazil certainly has a big dog population problem, but as your photos show, people who have dogs really love them. I hadn’t heard of dogs drinking coconut water. How fun is that? And I love that you were able to get to know some locals through their dogs. 🙂

    1. When my dogs get here, I will not give them a taste of coconut. Can you imagine how expensive of a habit that would be?

  7. As much as I love Thailand, they do not treat their dogs well for the most part. They are mangy and flea ridden. Nice to see some good looking well loved dogs in Rio. I am ready for the hot super model photo essay or perhaps I will come down and see for myself.

    1. Ted, I’ll work on giving you a taste of the Brazilian beauties once the sun comes out and the rain stops.

  8. SO adorable, I can barely take it! Love the idea of seeing a city through it’s pups. 🙂

  9. Just love the great variety of dogs you took photos of. So cute! Stopping to admire someone’s dog leads to great conversation when traveling. I’ve don’t this throughout the States and Canada, and in France and Holland, but never knew that Brazil offered another dog-lover haven. Thank you for your creative post!

    1. Oh yes, I think it helps that Rio is such an outdoor society. It’s not a huge deal to be in an apartment because the weather is so beautiful, they’re outside as much as possible WITH their dogs.

  10. Awww…that black and tan dachshund looks exactly like ours that passed away. Great photos!

  11. A word of warning to visitors who plan on bringing their furry companion (which is easy to do with minimal paperwork) along: Public transport is off-limits. Even if it were allowed to bring dogs, trains and especially the buses are overcrowded to a degree that makes taking a dog aboard a painful exercise. Many/most taxis won’t take (large) dogs, either. I always rent a car and brave the traffic with my shepherd mix…
    Restaurants and hotels are OK for the most part. Beaches are fine as well – we mostly go to less crowded ones, though.

  12. Wow, your experience was certainly different then ours. We lived in Rio De Janeiro from July, 2014 through October, 2016 and moved from California with our two rescue dogs (one of whom was rescued in Sochi, Russia). We found Rio to be very dog Unfriendly ! While we loved regularly walking our dogs around Lagoa and to Rio’s only officially fenced in dog park at Lagoa in general restaurants, even with outdoor seating, do not allow dogs. And there are no dog friendly beaches in all of Rio. There is one beach, Diablo, at the end of Arpador where many dog owners take their dogs for a swim but it is unofficial and often the police would come and make all the dogs leave. Now, one visiting Rio may observe things very differently and may see many dogs at beaches and other places but this is only because of the Carioca culture of never abiding by any rules that inconvenience them. We often saw residents of Rio, or Cariocas, totally disregarding the rules and allowing their dogs to do things that are against the rules. However this law abiding, rule respecting Gringo, was accosted numerous times, especially in our home neighborhood of Urca, and told to get off the beach with my dog.
    Don’t get me wrong, we met many great dog owners in Rio and our vet and dog sitter was perfect for us, and many of our friends there had dogs (we once hosted a dinner party with 15 people and 7 dogs) but officially and for anyone not wanting to run afoul of the law and risk being yelled at by some dog hating Carioca it not the most dog friendly place. We have now moved back to Southern California where we take our two dogs anywhere we please because it is totally allowed.

  13. The photos and the post was brilliant but doesn’t really give a true insight into how dogs in Rio live. The tiny percentage of rich people treat their animals very well for the most part but if you were to check out the favellas and rural areas of Rio then the pictures wouldn’t tell the same story. I have lived in the state of R.J for 16 years and rescue dogs. We currently have 102 street dogs under our care. Most would have died without us and hundreds that have died of old age, along the way. Many are in other countries adopted by a culture that for the most part do care and take responsibility for their animals. As they say their are two sides to every coin and the street dogs vastly out number the dogs owned by the poor and the biggest percentage of dogs in Rio the dogs owned by no one at all. The reality for dogs in Brazil is harsh and sad.

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