Dogs and Dog Training in Germany

I just got back from a week and a half in Germany, and from presenting at the International Symposium on Canine Behavior, sponsored by Animal Learn in Aschau, Germany. Three hundred people attended, and it was clear that Germans love their dogs as much as we do. (If not more… as is the case in much of Europe, dogs were allowed everywhere.) It was a joy to see dogs happily off leash in Munich’s equivalent of Manhattan’s Central Park. I asked several dog walkers about the dogs being allowed off leash in a city park, and they said, “Oh yes, of course, the dogs can be off leash. It’s a park, isn’t it?” They were shocked to hear that many city parks in the states don’t allow dogs off leash.

 

My favorite “look-where-they-allow-dogs!” moment came at the top of the highest mountain in the German Alps, the Zugspitz. It’s about 10,000 feet high and can only be reached by cable car or train. We took the cable car up and I spent the last half of the ride rocking back and forth like some terrified caged animal (which, come to think of it, I was). The trip is basically straight up along an icy rock face, and so high above the lake and valley below that your limbic system is screaming YOU ARE GOING TO DIE… The alternative, the train, rockets straight up through a tunnel carved into the mountain by god knows what. All this is to say that the top of the Zugspitz, overlooking 360 degrees of endless vistas of icy peaks, is the last place I expected to see yellow snow. But there it was, a bright yellow patch of snow at the base of a railing.

It couldn’t have been from a dog, I thought. And besides, this IS Europe after all, where people are a bit more casual about bodily functions. (We had been in the sauna at the hotel the night before when two veterinarians entered, naked, and said “Oh, hello, you must be Americans!” It turns out we are the only ones who wear bathing suits into the sauna.) But would a European man really be so bold as to urinate right smack in the middle of an overlook, full of tourists and photo takers? My question was answered when I turned around to find a lovely little beagle happily sniffing the ground beside his humans. I didn’t ask if he came up on the train or the cable car, but I wished I’d traveled up with him, I could’ve held on to him for comfort!

The Symposium on Canine Behavior was very interesting. I got a chance to chat with Turid Rugas at length, which was the first time we’ve had time to do that and it was most enjoyable. I also got to spend some time with the Hungarian researcher Adam Miklosi, who has been doing a great deal of work on “social learning” in dogs (ie, can dogs learn how to solve problems by watching humans). It’s fascinating work, and I encourage folks to learn more about it. I should pass along that his group (he is in the lab begun by Csanyi, who wrote If Dogs Could Talk) is sponsoring an International Conference on Canine Cognition in Budapest next July. You can go to http://csf2008.elte.hu for more information.

The trip also included a warm and friendly meeting with Gisela Rau, who works with the Kynos, the German publishers who have translated The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog. They are coming out with German versions of many of my booklets in spring of 2008, and I have to admit that is very exciting. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that one’s words are traveling around the world! Next August I get to go to Sweden to present a seminar there, and am looking forward to many of my booklets coming out there as well. Traveling to Europe and all over the world is indeed exciting, but as I’m sure Ian and others agree, there’s one thing that’s better: Dorothy was right—there’s no place like home.

 

For more information on Patricia McConnell please go to: www.patriciamcconnell.com