Europe contains 44 separate countries with their own cultures and social expectations. These differences don’t stop at language and social differences; how Europeans train, treat, and socialize their dogs is far different from the US.
Dogs in public in the US are frequently met with strangers talking and waving at them, getting in their face without permission, even interacting this way with service dogs when they’re working and require little direct distraction. In Europe, dogs are always out in public, mostly off leash, behaving well and are rarely phased by the things around them. In their puppyhood, they’re socialized and desensitized to distractions by being brought out in public and observing the other dogs who are setting the example of good behavior.
Critical to the development of these obedient behaviors is their interactions (or lack thereof) with humans. In public, people don’t acknowledge the presence of dogs or interact with them in the ways people from the US do. Children aren’t encouraged to pet unknown dogs, which can be stressful for anxious dogs. By reducing stressors for the dog, they are more likely to be well-behaved and less distressed by unwanted attention or loud crowds.
Unlike the US, dogs are very welcome in most public spaces, including restaurants and shops. Because their behavior is under control and they aren’t reactive to most of the action happening, they are even off leash. They are treated similarly to how service dogs are treated in the US. These public spaces are meant to be calm and comfortable for everyone, including dogs. Since people give no reinforcement to dogs, their negative behaviors are minimal and don’t require correcting. Interacting with each other’s dogs isn’t a typical practice and isn’t seen as some sort of initiation to socialize with the owner.
As Americans, we may enjoy the fun interactions we have with dogs that are not our own. European dogs may come off as less friendly than the ones in the US and lack the silliness we’ve come to love. But there are ways to balance it out. Telling strangers that they can’t interact with your dog is perfectly acceptable and required to maintain low stress and over stimulation in your dog. Positive reinforcement and rewarding them for good behavior is a great way to train your dog and keep it well-behaved. When it comes to children interacting with them, we should be teaching those children to invite the dog to interact instead of forcing an interaction and risking a possible bite. Early socialization can desensitize the dogs to distractions and things that may overwhelm them. Bringing them around other well-behaved dogs gives them an opportunity to observe what good behavior is. But all dogs are good dogs, no matter where you live.
For more information on how the dogs differ, check out these great articles!
Written by: Lynn Moynahan