Paris: a city of dog lovers

Besides in bark parks, our dogs in the US must be leashed at all times and kept out of most public places. When I moved back to the US about 10 years ago, after spending most of my life in Europe, the laws regulating dogs struck me as very restrictive. Most people I’ve talk to about this subject have voiced concerns that, in the absence of such regulation, dogs will create problems to the general public, get into fights with one another and quickly become a nuisance.

Dogs in ParisOn the other side of the Atlantic however, in many European countries such as France, dogs walk off leash in parks, are free to play with one another and can be brought into stores and restaurants. There is a general more casual attitude about dogs in public places. In fact, there are no bark parks as there is no perceived need for separate, fenced in play areas for the dogs.

There are few areas in the country, or even in the world, with more tourists than the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysees in Paris. Yet, on this spring afternoon, many owners were walking their dogs off leash, allowing them to play, run and sniff around, even in the presence of a group of armed policemen. Laws in France require dogs to be under close surveillance of their owner and less than 100m away (328 ft), but allow them to be off leash.

TheseDogs in Paris Restaurant European dogs must be better socialized and trained than American dogs, you might think. Not so! In fact, as I was walking the streets of Paris, a few days from my conference (, I couldn’t help but notice the dogs as they were running freely, yet ignoring most of their owner’s calls. Statistics on abandonments and euthanasia are very similar on both continents revealing that there too, many owners struggle with understanding and coping with the responsibilities of owning a dog or with their behavior issues. Many don’t consult with trainers and just teach basic manners to their dogs the best they can. But for those who choose to let their dog off leash, being able to get them back one way or the other is still necessary or they’ll end up at the pound.

So why don’t European dogs create more problems? For the most partDogs in Paris Park, it just comes down to common sense. No owner likes drawing attention with a dog that may cause problems. When the dogs aren’t social enough to be trusted around others, or may have barking or aggression issues, their owners simply don’t let them off leash. How embarrassing would it be for anyone to be sitting at a restaurant, with a dog that could lunge and bark at any given time? So naturally, the reactive dogs are kept on leash and in less popular areas of the cities. If the dog creates problems or accidents, the owner will be held responsible, be fined and required to pay for the damages.

Different countries have chose different ways to handle the dog population in the cities, but it sure is nice to watch young children and their dogs play freely in the park under the casual watch of their parents…

Jennifer Cattet, Ph.D.


Dogs on the run in Paris

Dogs in Paris Metro

Dogs in Paris Park

Jennifer Cattet Ph.D. has been working with dogs for over 30 years, as an ethologist with the University of Geneva (Switzerland), a trainer and a behaviorist (in both Europe and the US). As Director of Training for a service dog organization in the U.S, she supervised and taught offenders in the training of service dogs. Today she's the owner of Medical Mutts (, a company dedicated in the training of rescue dogs as service dogs for conditions such as diabetes, seizures, PTSD, autism, etc. She's also part of a research team working on understanding the ability of dogs to detect changes in blood glucose levels through scent. Jennifer also works with Smart Animal Training System on the promotion of reward based training and the development of technology to support it (

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Posted in Dog behavior, Educational, Positive Animal Training
3 comments on “Paris: a city of dog lovers
  1. This reminded me of how dogs and people interact and enjoy the public places in Austin, TX.

    “On the other side of the Atlantic however, in many European countries such as France, dogs walk off leash in parks, are free to play with one another and can be brought into stores and restaurants. There is in general, a more casual attitude about dogs in public places.”

  2. bcrothers says:

    Great article! My experience in large Bark Parks such as Marymoor Park ( ) outside of Seattle WA has been that dogs on leashes tend to cause many more problems than ones off leash. It’s been explained to me that a dog on a leash has territory that needs defending and more importantly, a food slave to defend.

    Let the dog off leash and all of a sudden he/she just wants to go play with the other dogs. Or sniff in the woods/grass or play fetch in the river.

    The dogs who are aggressive? They don’t get brought to the park. At least not a second time.


  3. wesnews13 says:

    In the USA we say that dogs in restaurants are a health risk, right? So a few questions 1) is there any evidence of a higher risk of disease? And which disease would that be? There are not many that dogs get that will be a problem for humans. 2) Service dogs ARE allowed in restaurants(and hospitals!) that because they have been sanitized? ..I think not. 3) if reducing disease in a restaurant is the concern isn’t the biggest risk other humans?

    “Fear is the enemy of logic.”
    FRANK SINATRA quoted in The Way You Wear Your Hat

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Paris: a city of dog lovers"
  1. […] dogs are everywhere, in restaurants, parks and public places, on or off leashes (See blog: ‘Paris, a city of dog lovers‘). I’ve heard many comments over the years about how well-behaved European dogs seem to be. […]

  2. […] Paris: A City of Dog Lovers (I don’t agree with some views here) […]

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