Dear Dog Lady,
Over Christmas vacation, pending the TSA exam, I plan to fly to Paris with my girlfriend. I will leave my dog Ollie with a neighbor. But I’m going to a dog-friendly city where I understand dogs are allowed into many cafés, stores and restaurants. I don’t speak French, nor have I ever been to France before. I’ve been told the French are unforgiving with Americans who mangle their language. What about the dogs? Isn’t the best way to connect to the people through their dogs?
A: Dogs do understand a universal language of love, but Parisian dogs must be approached with caution. Oh, it’s not about the dogs, it’s about the canine culture in Paris, where it is not considered polite to approach a stranger’s dog without asking permission. The French take their dogs as seriously as their language.
Vacationers who have left their dogs at home and miss them mightily tend to want to chase furry behinds down the street. It will be challenging not to do this, but resist the urge. In Paris and in many other places, such a forward advance toward an animal on a leash is considered very rude, even dangerous — if you frighten the dog and the owner.
To approach within dog visitation range, you must first acknowledge the human holding the leash. Try a friendly “Bonjour” to break the ice. If you sense the dog keeper is receptive to your patting the dog, here’s a handy phrase to remember: Tu as un chien adorable. Puis-je pet votre chien? (Loose translation: You have an adorable dog. Can I pet your dog?) Have a treat handy — a smidge of liver pate in your pocket, perhaps. Remember, in Paris, the dogs speak French — oui, oui, ouf, ouf. Even the dog will appreciate your extra effort to communicate in its native tongue.