El Salvador – Perros Aguacateros

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know that my interests can get very specific, and perhaps, a little peculiar. “Perros Aguacateros” or “Chuchos Aguacateros” (Salvadoran street dogs) are a good example of this.

When I first visited El Salvador in 1999, the street dogs were one of the things that caught my eye, and won my heart.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had stray dogs all over the place here?” I asked Carlos. He shrugged. It hadn’t occurred to him that this would be of any interest to me, and perhaps it would be like telling someone outside the United States that we have fire hydrants – it’s just something that’s there, that we really don’t find very interesting.

Coming from a place where seeing a dog running around on its own sends me looking for a leash to capture it so I can try to return it to its owner, the perros aguacateros of El Salvador fascinate me. I love dogs, and although I feel sad that these street dogs live without families and have to eat trash to survive, I love seeing them and photographing them, (even as locals laugh at me) – and to many people’s horror – I love petting them, too.

This time when we went to El Salvador, I was really looking forward to seeing mis queridos aguacateros again, but they were fewer in numbers. I was told that the government has been making efforts to get them off the streets. It’s a good thing, (although I doubt they’re adopted out), and a sad thing too, because they’re such an integral part of the culture.

Carlos’s best friend and his son showed us around for most of our stay, and although they originally laughed at my obsession with the street dogs, they soon began pointing them out and trying to help me find them, “Tracy! Aguacatero!” … It was good therapy too, because we had to put our dog to sleep about a week before we left.

Here are my favorite shots I took of los perros aguacateros of El Salvador. (Photos of aguacateros from my 1999 trip HERE.)


  1. Wow. You weren’t kidding. Son muchos los perritos. Me hace triste verlos. A few years ago when we visited family in Italy I was shocked to see cats EVERY WHERE, in similar condition to your perros aguacateros. I started taking pictures of them wondering if there might be a market for a “Cats of Italy Calendar.” : D

    • Ezzy – That is SOOO weird that you said that about a calendar. That was actually something I had planned to do with my aguacateros photos!! LOL. This was a project I was so excited about, but since there weren’t as many to photograph and I missed a lot of great shots since we were driving too quickly in the car – I don’t have enough quality photos to put a calendar together, I think.

      I could seriously spend the rest of my life doing this as a hobby though. If I lived in El Salvador, I’d carry my camera with me and just take photos of them daily – maybe publish an entire book of aguacatero photos – or a blog. LOL. They have such individual personalities. I love to look at them and wonder what their story is, where they’ve been, if they have a schedule of where they go each day…. And when I photograph them, the culture and daily life of El Salvador is always right there in the background.

  2. I smiled reading this post because I could defintiely relate to this experience of seeing dogs everywhere- but in Turkey. It was amazing because I’m actually afraid of dogs- I overcome it most of th etime, but especially a dog wandering around? In the US such dogs that are unleashed come up to wanting to play, chasing or sniffing or licking- and the more I resist the more excited they get that I’m ready to “play”. . . in Turkey- those dogs were like bored teenagers- they could not be bothered. They walked around like they were just regular citizens of Istanbul on their way to work or lounging about. In some ways its definitely sad because these dogs are obviously not having all their needs met but in other ways it was nice to see them have their freedom, to live like “the rest of us” so to speak.

    • LOL! Exactly. The dogs of Turkey sound like the dogs of El Salvador. Some of them aren’t just “bored teenagers” though, they’re delinquents. They run off and get up to no good. Hee hee… But yes, they’re just like people the way they just take naps, go get something to eat, cross the street….. When an American dog gets out of the house, they freak out, run around, have no idea how to cross a road and panic, LOL.

      I’m always careful about which ones I pet – I read their body language and give them my fist to sniff. Some are so incredibly sweet. There was a littel black one with the markings of a Doberman that I wanted to take home so badly.

  3. When we were there in 2001, Feng got badly bitten by a stray dog on the beach in La Libertad. He came back to the hostel his leg dripping blood. I kind of freaked out. We ended up at the local clinic where they cleaned up the wound (bit deep but not so bad). I was mostly worried about rabbies… but we didn’t have time to stick around and get the shot.

    • Wow, sorry to hear about that. Sounds like really bad luck – agucateros that are agressive are in the minority – at least in my experience. A lot of them are shy, but will run rather than bite.

      Dogs I encountered in La Libertad near the beach, (both in 1999 and this year), were skittish for sure though.

  4. I was upset the first time I visited my hubby’s home town (a very small town) in Mexico and saw the dogs. Some of them were in terrible shape. Matters were made worse by “someone” in the neighborhood going around and shooting each of them in one leg with a air rifle to make them lame. (The people of the neighborhood were upset about this too). When a dog gets sick or hit by a car, it just lingers painfully until it finally dies. I was willing to take one particularly pathetic dog to a vet myself but I asked and there is no vet anywhere near. It’s a decent life, though, as long as it lasts while they are healthy. Certainly running around freely in packs is more of a fun life for dogs. And children.
    It was a bit hard on my son to understand that he could not pet most of the dogs we saw. Most of them are not really pets but guard dogs.

  5. This is common in Puerto Rico as well. Thankfully there is a great guy working in parts of PR to help spay & neuter the dogs there. They run in packs sometimes – same for the cats – but I’d never pet them. My kids wanted to last time but they aren’t allowed. At night, as people start to clear out of Old San Juan, they come out in droves to find left overs, scraps, and garbage.

  6. There are some beautiful looking dogs there, that’s for sure. I can understand your fascination!

    I’m so sorry you guys had to put your dog down. That’s sad stuff, for sure.

  7. Nosotros llamamos a nuestro perritos AGUACATERRIERS para que no se sientan TAN mal! Si, da tristeza verlos “wondering” in the streets. Pero gracias a Dios ya son menos. Hace muchos años (tipo 25+) eran miles por todos lados y recuerdo se desató un serio problema de sobrepoblación, rabia y sarna.
    Lástima que no tenemos una entidad que los tome en adopción!

    • If they don’t have adoption centers due to cost, they should at least invest money in education on spay/neuter, (and make that available for free.)

      Aguacaterriers … LOL.

  8. […] The problem is that when you move your laptop around constantly, accidents can happen, and you’re much better off keeping it on a work tray which makes it easier to transport. Carlos gave me the idea to use a scrap of wood we had and just buy handles for it, but I realized it was the perfect project to show off the new 2014 Pantone Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid. And to go with the trendy color, I chose something else trendy to decorate the tray – a fox! Foxes have been super popular in everything from fashion to home décor to music this past year, and I think that trend will continue, (although, if anyone is taking nominations for 2014 animal of the year, I nominate chuchos aguacateros.) […]

  9. I had a similar experience when I was in El Salvador, thanks for sharing your pictures, I wish I took some! I don’t think anyone hear can understand how it is there…

  10. Hi Tracy!
    I’m actually from El Salvador and it was interesting to see your photo while I was looking for something completly different. I have a place where you can have a lot of pictures and perhaps you can also share more info about Aguacateros in El Salvador. Probably when you came all Aguacateros were poisoned and you were not able to see much of them. Thats is happening here so the streets look “cleaner” most of the people is not aware of this because it happens during the night and they are being taken on a truck. It’s aweful! We ‘re still waititng for a regulation that protects animals ’cause there is a lot of cruelty toward them. Media is powerful and we invite people to adopt and not to buy a pet ’cause as you said there is a lot of dogs out there in the street waititng for a lovely human. Saludos desde este pequeño pais! In case you want to visit El Salvador againg and get pictures of them let me know :) Te saluda una voluntaria que esta a favor de los fieles y lindos agaterito! God Bless

    • That’s really heartbreaking. My husband (whose from El Salvador), told me that sometimes people poison the dogs.

      I’m glad there are some organizations now in ES to rescue the aguacateros and find them homes.

      Thanks for your comment. When we travel back to El Salvador, hopefully we can meet. Saludos!

  11. My daughter came home with 2 aguacatero PUPPIES (7-8weeks) from Suchitoto, El Salvador. She was also fascinated by the street dogs, but thought it odd that no one ever sees puppies – surely they must breed … she learned the females retreat out of the city to have their litters in privacy away from the other street dogs who would eat the pups if they found them… later in Suchitoto she was directed to a shack where someone had said he came across a litter of aguacateros. The home owner said the female had deposited her litter out in the field behind his house and when he noticed the mother hadn’t been around lately, he investigated, found the litter of 4 and took 2 home & the other 2 went to his mother. He was feeding them on tortilla/day and they were skin & bones. One of them too weak to stand. My daughter took both dogs to a vet in San Martin for innoculations, deworking, flea baths. The sickly one was not given much chance of surviving. On the road back to Suchitoto, 3 gunman stopped their car in an attempt to rob & whatever. They escaped by racing out of there, with 6 bullet holes in the car. They didn’t return to Suchitoto and returned to Canada with both dogs. After 2 weeks they are flea-less, healthy , and have doubled their weight. For some reason I can’t copy pictures into this comment.

  12. Hi. I was reading this with my grandma who was born and raised in El Salvador to an upper middle class family. She was a high school lit teacher and asked me to clarify this for your article: 1) Perro aguacatero (chucho aguacatero, as refer to by most people there) is a dog of mixed breed or descendant of several generations of the same. It is just an expression that tells you the dog is not of a particular breed. 2) Perro callejero or street dog is any dog without regard to breed, that has no home, no owner, no family, usually no one to care for him.

  13. a todos mis perros alla en el Salvador les ponia de nombre cachiflin,ahora quiero traer uno del Salvador a usa y tener mi cachiflin.

  14. I’m traveling to San Salvador quite a lot and I still have a hard time seeing so many homeless starving pets :/ I wish the country would see in them what I see , but I know this won’t be the case even in near future 😞

  15. Yeah these dogs are really cool. They just walk around like people and everyone treats them like people. Theyve just become a part of the natural habitat at this point.

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