Report From France

Bonjour! I am writing this entry on a train that has just left Paris and is heading for Toulouse, France. The wonderful people of Animalin, Catherine & Alain, invited me and some of our other Dog Star Daily bloggers to speak to French dog trainers at an educational conference hosted by Animalin in the City of Lights. I feel very honored to have been included in the three-day line-up of international speakers.

Dog Star Daily’s own Roger Abrantes flew in from Denmark to be there, and DSD’s Dr. Ian Dunbar came from California, as did the brilliant and talented Ms. Donna Duford of the San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

The conference covered topics such as: the importance of a harmonious relationship between veterinarians and dog trainers, therapy dog work, doggy dancing, K9 Games, training for shelter animals, and much more – not all of which I could understand because my French is unfortunately not up to par.

I truly enjoyed the conference especially the opportunity to speak with many of the attendees about life with dogs in France. The French most certainly love their dogs and it is wonderful to go to a place where you see dogs everywhere. In fact there are some on this very train! A few dogs were in attendance at the conference of course, but the real joy was seeing them in the brasseries, cafes, stores, parks, and rambling along the vibrant streets of Paris.

From what I gathered Parisian dogs are mainly purebred dogs, I only saw a few that I thought were mixes or crosses on this trip and that has also been the case on my past visits to Paris.

I saw what was probably a Beauceron/Malinois cross, a gorgeous dog that I know was a Cane Corso/Husky cross (because I was told by the owner), a Chow/Tervuren cross, and a few Golden Retriever and/or Lab mixes as well. The list of breeds I spied over the weekend included, Jack Russell Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, English Bulldogs, Keeshonds, many Belgian Malinois & Tervurens, a couple of German Shepherds, a Schipperke, a Cocker Spaniel, a West Highland Terrier, an Alaskan Malamute puppy, a very handsome Boxer, and of course a French Bulldog and a Dogue de Bordeaux (like Hooch from the movie). I am sure there were more dogs but those are the ones that really stand out in my mind.

Paris is a great city and very different than my home stomping grounds of Berkeley, California for sure, but there was one incident in particular that made me feel right at home.

Strolling through a park last Saturday afternoon I came upon the little Schipperke mentioned above playing with a little Dachshund/spaniel cross. It was obvious that both dogs were pretty young, but the Schipperke was definitely still under six months of age.

The two solid black dogs frolicked and ran all around the park, play-bowing and jumping on each other in a great display of appropriate play between two happy and well-socialized dogs.

Then came a moment that needed no translation, time to leash up the frolicking pup and go home. But alas, the owner could not catch that little Schipperke for anything! The little pup was having way too much fun to consider going home!

The owner called his pup cheerily and he would oblige and happily trot over to the man only to slip away like a slick wet seal when the owner reached for his collar to attach the leash. This happened time and time again and went on for almost ten minutes. I hope that poor guy didn’t have an appointment to make!

Now I don’t speak Canine any better than I speak French but I would put money on the dog’s thoughts. It was as if the pup was thinking, “Okay, I’ll come over to check in and say hello to you Dad, but I know what happens next when you pull out the ol’ leash, and I don’t want to go home yet, I’m in the middle of a game!”

It was comical on the one hand, but I am sure it was frustrating for the owner, who, to his credit, did not get angry or change his inviting demeanor. I too was frustrated because as the director of a large puppy training school and former puppy class teacher I know how easily the situation could have been resolved - or better yet, prevented in the first place.

You see, in puppy class one of the first things we teach new puppies at SIRIUS® is to like having their collars grabbed. And one of the first lessons for our human students is to practice reaching for their pup’s collar and rewarding the little one for being “caught” and handled. A reward can be anything from a cuddle, to a meal, a tasty treat, a game of tug or fetch, or in some cases the best reward is simply to let the pup go back to whatever he was doing before.

The key is to practice the collar grab and even the leashing up routine often without the negative consequences of being punished by ending the fun! It is our job to make sure the pup associates being caught by a human with wonderful consequences and not just be seen as a big bummer.

It is so easy to do and is a great case of how an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And it is a great way to communicate to puppies that handling and training can be fun, no translation required.

For more information on puppy training or teaching a dog to come when called please see the Dog Star section on the home page of this website.

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