What is the Sato Dog Breed?

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What Is The Sato Dog BreedIf you have travel plans to the small territory of Puerto Rico, you may notice a large number of stray dogs. Also known as Puerto Rican street dogs, Sato dogs may seem like feral dogs at first, but can actually make excellent family pets if you get to know them. In this article, we share everything you need to know about the Sato dog breed and how you can help take these homeless dogs off the streets.   

What are Sato Dogs?

Satos can be small dogs that are brown and black in color found around Puerto Rico but they can also be medium-sized stray dogs that weigh no more than 35 pounds. A Sato may have a short, thick coat with large ears, long snouts, and short legs which makes them appear like a small terrier. They get their name from the Puerto Rican slang term for “street dog” but the term Sato also refers to feral dogs that are abused and unwanted.  

Sato Dogs Temperament 

Even homeless Satos are known as loyal, loving, and affectionate dogs — however, they are also known to be barkers. Locals around the island believe that these medium dogs bark to get attention or whenever they’re unhappy. However, there’s no evidence that supports such claims; according to experts, Sato dogs will bark as a means of natural communication.  

Dog behaviorists believe that a group of stray dogs will often bark to greet other dogs, warn packmates of danger, and let others know of their location. 

Sato Dog Breed History 

In Puerto Rico, homeless and stray dogs are referred to as Satos, known to outsiders as Puerto Rican Found Dogs — they’re not exactly a dog breed but are actually a type of dog. They are known as urban free-ranging dogs found throughout Puerto Rico’s cities and are considered highly enigmatic in their natural habitats. In the past, various mixed-breed dogs were dumped on Playa Lucia (also called Dead Dog Beach), located on the island’s southeast corner.  

This dumping ground became a refuge for the dogs that pet owners could no longer afford, paving the way for the Sato breed. However, the area has since become a popular attraction for tourists.  

Are Sato Dogs Good Pets?

While a severely abused Sato will likely be more aggressive and shy, dogs that have been cared for by foster homes or animal rights groups will be more at ease and calmer. Surprisingly, when kept in a loving home, this mixed breed dog can be affectionate and loving while interacting with all family members. They’re also known to be loyal dogs who love spending time with their owners; in other words, Sato dogs make good pets.     

What Breeds Make Up A Sato?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer since Sato rescues are usually a mix of various dog breeds. According to genetic testing results performed by researchers, the Sato is classified as an American Village Dog, also known as a mixed breed. Around Puerto Rico’s streets, a majority of Satos come from a Terrier, Chow, and old Chihuahua mix, but Labradors will also appear at times. More specifically, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier are big contributors to this “breed”. 

The Different Types of Sato Dogs 

The Sato dog comes in three different types; the Jinetero, the Perro de Ronda (round dog), and the Perro de Puerta (door dog). 

  • Jinetero: This kind is the most common type of Sato which comes with a short coat, wrinkled face, and a muscular, long tail. These strays aren’t scared of people so you will usually find these dogs around the streets. 
  • Perro de Ronda: These are the second most common kinds of Sato — these dogs are small pointers that stand a bit shorter than Jineteros and have a long and curly coat. Their brown eyes are used for hunting rats, and they often live in buildings waiting for their prey. 
  • Perro de Puerta: This is the rarest type of Sato, and is the smallest kind. It comes with a thin and long coat and is used as a burglary tool that has been trained to steal from buildings. 

No matter the Sato you encounter, they will usually be friendly and easy to approach even if they are stray dogs. However, they can be aggressive if they feel threatened; as such, it’s best to approach them with caution if you wish to feed them or give them fresh water. Moreover, their itchy hair and skin may not be the best for allergy sufferers, so if you want to help them, it’s best to call a professional for help with relocating them.  

Life Expectancy of Sato Dogs 

On average, most Sato dogs will have a life span of around 10 years but some may live longer or shorter depending on each individual dog. Generally, Sato dogs are hearty and healthy, but some may be prone to eye problems, heart disease, hip dysplasia, and other health problems. However, exercise, proper nutrition, and regular visits to the vet should be able to help them live a healthy life. 

How You Can Help Sato Dogs 

After Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the sheer number of Satos on the streets gathered media attention. As a result, many dog lovers sprang into action to help these poor animals and the people of Puerto Rico. If you’re looking for a great pet or want to see these beautiful dogs escape from life on the streets, there are plenty of ways for you to reach out a helping hand.

  • Zani’s Furry Friends: This non-profit organization works with Puerto Rican rescue organizations in their rescue efforts to provide these dogs with the right adoption team.
  • Sato Heart Rescue: This small rescue group works exclusively with the Second Chance Animal Rescue in Puerto Rico to find new homes for these beautiful dogs. 
  • The Sato Project: According to the Sato Project website, over 70% of their rescues have heartworm disease — they need your help to treat these dogs and find new families for them. 

While there are many ways for you to help these great dogs even during desperate situations, the best thing you can do is to help with spay or neuter costs. Even if you don’t want to take home a dog of your own, helping to cover these costs can help prevent unwanted puppies that will only end up in shelters or in the streets. There are a wide range of low-cost spay and neuter clinics that can make these procedures more affordable.      


If you’re looking for a loving dog, then the Sato can be a great addition to your family — this medium-sized dog has all you need in a great companion. However, there are many that need your help, so even if you don’t want to take one home permanently, you can always adopt or foster one to help it lead a happy life.