Are Parisian Dogs Better Behaved?

Bonjour! There are so many interesting things to see when walking around Paris, from the art nouveau signs on brasseries and cafes, to the lovely architecture and, annoyingly enough, those amazingly well put together, thin, chic French women. (How do they pull that off with all those baguettes and pastries around? But I digress…)

Although I’ve seen some amazing sites in Paris, one that has really struck me as a dog person is the sheer number of off-leash dogs walking calmly alongside their owners. Now, keep in mind these are Paris streets; narrow sidewalks wind sinuously through the city, as manic drivers fly around blind curves with the assumption that pedestrians have the reflexes to get out of the way fast enough. Yet at least a third of the dogs we’ve seen have been off-leash, from tiny Yorkies to the ubiquitous French bulldogs, all the way up to the many Labs and Goldens.

Each time I’d see an off-leash dog walking perilously close to a curb, my throat would go dry in expectation of impending disaster. But strangely, those dogs not only didn’t dart out into the streets, they had amazing focus on their owners. I’m guessing many were simply raised from pups walking the streets of the city, and had to learn the hard way that taking their eyes off their owners, even for a moment, could result in a panicked feeling of being lost and alone. Of course, we aren’t seeing the dogs who didn’t fare well with this particular exercise.

I’d never suggest allowing a dog off leash in a busy urban area, but it does bring to mind the importance of doing off-leash exercises with very young puppies. Taking a pup to an enclosed park, letting him off leash, and then walking around, hiding behind a tree or bush now and then, teaches the pup the importance of keeping track of where you are. I know; as a kid growing up in New York, my mom used to take me along on shopping trips to large department stores. She’d get so involved in whatever she was looking for that she’d wander off, sometimes leading to an embarrassing announcement that there was a lost redheaded child at the security office. But you know what? It taught me to keep an eye on my mother, just as dogs learn quickly that they must keep track of the whereabouts of their owners.

So are Parisian dogs better behaved? Nah. They’ve just been raised in a way that teaches them the importance of keeping their eyes on the prize. And although we may not ever want to walk busy city streets with our dogs off-leash, we can certainly start with on-leash reliability and progress to off-leash obedience, because dogs should be able to do that. The better trained the dog, the more freedom he can be allowed.

Bon soir from Paris!

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