Parlez-vous francais, Fifi?

Parlez-vous francais, Fifi?

Thank goodness for Holiday Barn… While planning a trip overseas, we don’t have to worry about our dog. He will be spoiled well at the ‘Barn while we’re away. It’s our first trip to Europe… first trip anywhere overseas and we’re so excited. Sure, we’re going to miss our sweet boy, but we decided the trip might be too much on him and he’d be happier at Holiday Barn. We considered taking him with us… His 15-pound size is “airline approved”. In canine-friendly Europe, he could go with us into cafes, hotels, and shops. Wouldn’t it be fun if dogs in the US had that same kind of freedom? Why are we not as pet-friendly as our European neighbors?

Are Dogs from Europe and Dogs in the US Really all that different?

People who visit Europe often talk about how different dogs are in the US compared to Europe. Apparently, dogs are very much a part of everyday life… walking everywhere with their owners, off-leash, no barking, no jumping, no begging. Dogs appear to be less stressed, very well socialized and generally relaxed. True, we have some very well behaved dogs in the US, but unfortunately, bringing a group of strange dogs together does not always produce a “harmonious” outcome. It’s not always “bad” behavior exhibited in public, it’s just what we consider “typical” dog behavior …having to check out other dogs and other people… pulling on leashes… demanding attention… not to mention the possibility of an aggressive outburst. These kinds of things add “stress” in a public gathering. Dogs living in Europe are said not to care about another dog or another person. They are focused only on their owner and socialized relative to their environment.

First-hand Observation

Former Holiday Barn Trainer, Melanie, moved to Ireland a couple of years back and tells us what she has observed:

“We have been lucky enough to travel all over Europe and of course, being a dog trainer I notice all the dogs. I think the first thing I noticed was that there wasn’t much barking. I could be walking through a busy Piazza in Florence or a square in Belgium and see more than a dozen dogs being walked yet, no barking. Not to mention the dogs walked quietly by their owner’s side, rarely did a dog pay attention to another dog or human they passed.”

Are we really such bad doggie disciplinarians in the US? That may be accurate in some instances, but the lifestyle is an even bigger issue. Dogs in Europe are simply raised that way. They start walking around people and other dogs as young pups. Puppies learn to behave in public by observing the way other dogs conduct themselves. Their constant exposure causes them to become desensitized to the presence of other people and dogs. Also, people tend to leave other’s dogs alone in Europe. Children are taught not to reach out and pet another person’s dog. We know that dogs are alarmed by a stranger suddenly forcing themselves upon them, touching them, or getting in their face. We are so guilty of that here in America… just look at the problems we see of people inappropriately trying to interact with service dogs or working dogs. As we teach our dogs to be better citizens, perhaps respecting their space and presence will improve their conduct as well.

Behavioral Issues

Do we have more behavioral issues in the US? Melanie says,

“It is not as common to see as many behavioral issues. I volunteer at the Dublin SPCA and even most of the dogs coming through the shelter seem to be more balanced than the average dog in the US. Obviously, there are dogs with structural and behavioral issues but it is not nearly as common.” Why is that? “I think most of this stems from early and consistent exposure. Dogs are walked on a much more consistent basis compared to dogs in the US, therefore they are exposed to so much. They learn to be calm in what could be considered a chaotic environment.”

Overly spoiled?

Here is an interesting observation by Melanie:

“Although dogs are very loved and well taken care of I think there is still an overall understanding and respect that a dog is not a human. Yes, dogs are spoiled, yes, they are pampered but not to the extent that I see it in the states and in all my travels not once have I heard a dog referred to as a furbaby or a child. As simple as it sounds, I think because there is not such a high level of humanization of dogs, the dogs are able to just be and that alone produces a different balance.”

What should we do?

Do you think we will ever get to the point of complete dog freedom as seen overseas? If we become more conscientious pet owners, we can certainly start the ball rolling. Enroll your dog in professional training early, then move on to off-leash training, and consider getting his/her Canine Good Citizen certification. Dogs should be able to live more freely. The better trained, better socialized, exercised and mentally stimulated he is, the more freedom he can enjoy.

Not all bad

Here’s another thing to consider… Upon returning to the United States after living several years in Germany, one man says he prefers his dogs to be American. He says that dogs in Germany may be more obedient, but they’re not particularly friendly. They don’t interact and you don’t see a lot of tail wagging. He says he prefers the goofy pets we raise in the US… they may not always be perfectly disciplined, but they love to give kisses, greet other people, do silly things and make us laugh. Let’s not lose that American spirit!

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