Bringing up Chien

The French LOVE dogs (literal dogs not all my figurative dog-talk).  Dogs can go on the train, on the tram, in a restaurant…just about anywhere that doesn’t have a sign indicating

No dogs allowed!

No dogs allowed!

otherwise.  A dog being out and about in public is so prevalent that at my favorite restaurant they even have a “dog’s menu” underneath the children’s menu.

As a life-long dog lover I embrace this; I like realizing that there is a canine friend at the table next to me in a restaurant or having a large furry beast relaxing under my feet on the train, it’s charming and friendly.  In the U.S. we are dog-banners; I’ve seen a dog get kicked out a post office line before…I mean, the POST OFFICE for heaven’s sake…what is the dog going to do that could possibly be more unpleasant than what your postal worker will do?  (har har har – I slay me) 

Could this difference in policy actually be a difference in behavior?  While I have seen no evidence whatsoever to convince me that French children behave better than children of any other nationality (sorry, I’m sure I’ll get skewered for this since it is all the rage…but there it is…kids are kids the world over and I see just as many crying, screaming temper tantrums in public here as I have in any other country I have lived in) I WILL say that their dogs are appear to be more attune to social etiquette.

A friend was recently visiting from the U.S. and commented on the fact that the canines

Doggie public toilets

Doggie public toilets

about town seemed to be much better behaved.  They sit patiently if left outside a “magasin” without barking or putting up much of a fuss, while giving imploring looks they do not incessantly beg at restaurant tables, and they typically manage to “do their business” in the “espace chiens”* set up around town for this express purpose.

And so, the question is: Are these better behaved dogs or are they just French?  Let me explain by going into dog psyche for a moment.

A French dog is out and about in town with his owner.  This is the dog’s internal dialogue.

Pfff…look at that stoopeed bichon on a leash…so degrading.  I mean, you know, you should learn how to walk if you want to go out in public. 

“Hey Cotton Ball – yeah, you with the leash – it is not hard, you know, just walk with your human.  You are embarrassing us all!”

Well, it is hardly a wonder, huh?  The owner is wearing tennis shoes and MON DIEU picking up the poop off the sidewalk!  If my owner did this I would run away; I would rather live on ze street zen with a human who would disrespect themselves so.  It would be too shameful.  Picking up poop…it eez disgusting, non?  I don’t walk on leashes and I manage to get to a toilet when nature calls, huh?  I’m not a barbarian or an American…ha…Americans.

The owner stops in front of a bakery and leaves the dog waiting outside with another one.  Our narrator dog stops and looks around for a minute.

A la la la la…what is thees barking fool next to me? 

“You know, we are just waiting outside the “marche”; relax Kujo!”

More barking.

“Hey – Timmy hasn’t falled down a well, Lassie!  Have some dignity.”

Pfff…I would never behave in such a way.  I don’t need to bark all the time and act like I am having a heart attack of excitement each time my human returns.  …Rideeculous.  I have standards, you know?  I know how to comport myself in public.  I-

“OOOH!  My human, bonjour, bonjour, salut, salut, salut!!!!!!!!!!”


Last week I was walking back home from the bakery with my baguette in hand.  As some bakeries prefer, the baguette wasn’t even fully enclosed in a wrapper but just had a wisp of paper for me to hold it around the middle.  As I was walking back to my house the baguette was down by my side…you know, about dog height…and a dog came walking by with his owner.  The dog didn’t so much as turn his nose in the direction of my baguette.

It made quite the impression on me that the dog didn’t even make an attempt; there was no tug of war with the owner pulling him back from trying to devour my baguette.  I thought to myself what a well-behaved canine he was but then again, the dog was French so maybe my baguette was just from the wrong bakery.

*The Espace Chiens are set up around the city and are little sandy or dirt pits (sort of like sandboxes) with some fencing around them for the dogs to do their business.  Yes, that is right, in France dogs have their own public toilets…gotta love it.  Furthermore, while these “espaces” are used regularly there is still a prodigious amount of poo on the sidewalks.  When you walk around France it is best to keep an eagle eye.

18 thoughts on “Bringing up Chien

  1. i can’t believe the doggie menu came after the kiddie one. but they do prefer the smaller dogs…my big golden girl causes nervous glances. maybe it’s just her american upbringing though and not her size. Aidan


    1. Of course, I have to respond to my friend Aidan and agree, our Goldens are not exactly the same as the wee rats on legs that I often see around. And yes, they speak franglais and yes (sorry Aidan but you know Clementine would too), they will try to get that passing baguette.

      Thanks for the laugh as always, NK. I just came back from Grenoble for two days but it was crazy, non-stop assisting Remi at a photo shoot in a lab. We did go out with the researchers for dinner at Mei Shan on the Avenue Alsace Lorraine–OMG it was crazy, crazy good.


      1. Hello!! You have a Golden too?! ARGH – jealousy! We are in an apt. so no dog and it makes me weepy on a regular basis! Haha – glad to know that they are nice healthy goldens who will try to attack my bread. 🙂 BLRUG – next time you are Grenoble way I would love to meet up for coffee (coffee=wine)!


    2. Haha – I just couldn’t believe they had a doggie menu – too cute! And true on dog size – it is so rare to see big ones around here; I guess since so many people live in apartments! Goldens are the best – so charming and sweet!


  2. Oh, so true. With my sister the owner of the three worst-behaved American dogs ever, I’ve often wondered what sets the sage French dogs apart. Forget books on bringing up your children as the French do (and I’ve also encountered enough French children to know that this is a tenuous premise at best), I want books on how to train your dogs like the French do.


    1. haha, right? They really are such zen little canines. I think it must have to do with being out and about in town so much and in public places…I guess for that to be acceptable that training must be more stringent? Don’t know but if someone writes it I will definitely read that book!


  3. Well my son has been attacked twice by dogs here. Not seriously but very unpleasantly. Both were off the leash and made a dash for him despite the fact that he was doing nothing to attract them.

    The French don’t clean up after their dogs either which is disgusting. The amount of dog poo around is quite revolting and costs a fortune to clean up by local authorities. Not everywhere has those dog loos, so the dogs just go anywhere, especially those who’ve escaped from home. It’s a recognised problem too:

    As for dogs in restaurants, sorry but I hate that – it’s really unhygienic. I’ve had dogs sniffing round my legs before now and the temptation to give them a good kick is almost too much.

    So not a great dog fan here but I have not noticed a remarkable difference in behaviour between the British dogs I’ve met and the French. There’s a big difference in dog owners though.


    1. oh dear! Maybe it is just my Grenoble doggies that are well-behaved! The poo thing used to drive me crazy but now I find it rather amusing in the sense of the French thumbing their nose at authority…then again, I’ve never stepped in it (yet…fingers crossed!)!


  4. Bonjour from Seattle. Interesting article, and I agree with your comments. I was recently in New York city for a few days and came to the same conclusions: Smaller dogs; better behaved; more mellow, and more patient; especially as they wait outside shops in the streets (New York is not Paris and canines are not welcome in public places, as you know.) Suburban dogs (I am thinking the ever popular Golden Retrievers or Lab mixes like mine,) tend to be larger; more hyper; and have not learned to adapt to a busy city environment. So, en fait, this may not be so much a “French trend” as an urban trend… Many French people live in cities; in apartment buildings; and the dogs – who get to follow them everywhere daily – are used to following the rules… Just my two cents. This being said, I have seen some pretty wild French dogs out there, and some pretty wild French children as well 🙂 Thanks for a fun article! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)


    1. Salut!! Thanks for reading and your input! I agree that the smaller/apartment-trained dogs are just more used to being in indoor spaces and their behavior is adjusted accordingly. It can be tough to take a dog used to a big backyard and expect him/her to behave on a tram, for instance. Nevertheless, these are all wild generalizations – but made for some funny bits to add to the post! 😉


  5. French children are paranoid, not well-behaved, it just looks the same to the casual observer… but I digress. Obviously there are regional doggy differences in France – I get what you’re saying, on the whole, but if I leave our Cocker Spaniel outside the supermarket I get dirty looks from the dog-loving manager, and once I even got a phonecall (my number’s on her collar) when I tied her up outside a shop in town. People treat me as if it’s abandonment, not natural behaviour. However, many, many dogs ARE abandoned here. Two large (and somewhat) scary hunting dogs hung around our town for a whole summer, until one of them must have been hit by a car. It’s rather upsetting.


    1. WOAH! I can’t believe that someone actually called you – that is crazy AND reminds me of this hilarious Portlandia sketch (please enjoy:

      But in all seriousness I don’t think there is actually some huge difference between dog treatment, etc. between the countries – it is just a few things that I noticed and thought would make a funny post. 🙂


  6. It did make a funny post 🙂

    But there might be something in the theory. Lots of French people think the British attitude to animals is funny because we (or some of us supposedly) love them as though they are people and therefore do ridiculous things like refuse to eat horse (unless it turns up by accident in our Value burgers, but that’s another story). They like to have pets (especially small, yappy ones) but to them, a dog is a dog and not some kind of human in fur-ball form. Maybe this attitude does rub off somewhere – after all, isn’t dog training all about showing them who’s boss?


    1. YAY – I’m glad you enjoyed!

      I do think some of it has to do with the basic treatment – as you sort of say, perhaps the dogs are “mollycoddled” the same way that us Anglos do. Who knows?! But it is a rather interesting topic and just one more of those every day little things that makes me giggle every once in a while.

      Now let’s talk about that horse meat in value burgers…haha 😉


  7. I was walking around town today, and I saw one of these things for the first time (the espace chien)! Then it dawned on me, you live in Grenoble! I’m currently in Grenoble visiting new frenchboyfriend’s family (have yet to introduce him to the internet community, haha) and we’re here till Thursday. Are you around? I’d love to meet up for a drink! (I looked for your email buuut I couldn’t find it. Hit me up at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s