Written By: Bill Syken

Many decades ago LIFE took a bold stance by suggesting that dogs in the city were better off than those in the country. Yes, the magazine actually put forward the idea that dogs thrived more living in cramped apartments than in places where they could frolic through fields and streams.

“Deprived of wide open spaces, they are just as happy and healthy as country dogs and live years longer,” declared a headline in LIFE’s April 3 ,1944 issue. The article used as its chief source a book called How to Raise a Dog in the City and In the Suburbs by Dr. James Kinney, which claimed that city dogs lived two to three years longer than country dogs. The story offered this rationale for the disparity: “City owners lavish more affection on dogs than country owners, not because city dogs are more lovable but because they are more often underfoot. A dog thrives as much on affection as it does on wide-open spaces.”

All these decades later, some still argue that city dogs are better off. A recent article on Vetstreet points out in the country, dogs there are more likely to roam unleashed, which means that they get hit by cars more often. Country dogs also encounter more types of parasites. And if a dog has some intestinal disease, the city owner is more likely to notice, because the evidence will be left in on a carpet rather than amid the bushes.

One counter-argument for country life is that dogs are simply happier there. According to a study reported on in Psychology Today, city dogs are much more fearful and anxious than their country cousins. The study found that city dogs were 45 percent more likely to be afraid of strange people, and 70 percent more likely to be afraid of strange dogs.

Also, the pictures of city dogs that LIFE photographer Nina Leen in 1944 to illustrate the story sometimes run counter to story’s premise—or, to put it more simply, some of the dogs don’t seem all that happy as they go on their walks in New York. The grumpiest-looking dog belonged to actress-model Joan Caulfield, whose West Highland terrier named Witty attempted to hide away in the hedges. Just about all the dogs that Leen photographed belonged to public figures, such as actors Frederic March and Ruth Gordon, but it’s not clear that they benefitted from the reflected glory.

Wherever you live, there’s plenty of evidence that owning a dog is good for the owner, both mentally and physically. In other words, what studies show most clearly is that people and dogs are better off with each other, and that’s true anywhere in America.

Actor Fredric March w.alked his cocker spaniel in the rain, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Joan Caulfield briskly walked her West Highland terrier Witty, down Fifth Avenue in New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Joan Caulfield reached deep down behind a hedge to extract her West Highland terrier Witty, while trying to take him for a walk in New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Joan Caulfield lifted her West Highland terrier Witty, out from behind a hedge, while trying to take him for a walk, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Artist Earle Winslow, with a painting under his arm, struggled to control his stubborn Irish setter, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Artist Earle Winslow (right) showed his painting to a friend while struggling to keep his Irish setter under control, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Artist Earle Winslow, with a painting under his arm, struggled to keep his Irish setter under control, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Model Mimi Berry walked her cocker spaniel, who carried a package for her, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Metropolitan Opera singer Lauritz Melchior with his wife and their Great Dane, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Sportscaster Bill Stern read a newspaper as his Chesapeake Bay retriever sniffed a sidewalk grate, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Ed Sullivan, then an entertainment columnist before he became a television host, brought his black Scottie dog to a fenced-in area on the street in New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Conductor Artur Rodzinski and his wife with their poodle at 57th St. and 5th Ave in New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Joan Roberts, wearing her costume for the musical Oklahoma, walked Goggles, her English bulldog, during the show’s intermission, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Joan Roberts, wearing a costume for the musical Oklahoma, walked her English bulldog Goggles during intermission, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actor John Boles coaxed his stubborn schnauzer puppy to jump a concrete barrier New York City ,1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Margaret Webster’s two Cairn terriers checked out a cat perched in the window, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

William F. Schlemmer, of Hammacher-Schlemmer, walked his Yorkshire terriers, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Comedian Jimmy Durante walked his Irish setter in Times Square, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Author Fannie Hurst enjoyed the jumping antics of her Yorkshire terrier Orphan Annie, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Ruth Gordon walked her black poodle, New York City 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Actress Cornelia Otis Skinner, clad in a sheared beaver fur coat, walking her dogs in New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Music conductor Andre Kostelanetz with his sheep dog Puff, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

This Maltese poodle/wire-haired terrier mix called Pooch was cuddled by its owner, former Metropolitan Opera singer Thalia Sabaneev, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Former Metropolitan Opera singer Thalia Sabaneev’s Maltese poodle/wire-haired terrier mix called Pooch was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine’s issue of April 3, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

A boy read newspaper comics while his leash-tethered mutt waited, New York City, 1944.

Nina Leen/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

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