, Salem, MA

December 21, 2012

Ask Dog Lady: Traveler hopes to connect with the French through their pets

Ask Dog Lady
Monica Collins

---- — 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.

Dear Dog Lady,

I am the owner of 9-year-old sibling mutts. My dogs love to ride in the car, so I often take them for short road trips. If we will be gone for more than an hour, I bring a bowl of water so they can drink in the car. They always ignore the on-board water. When we get home, they lunge at their water bowl and drink huge quantities of it. I feel guilty because they are clearly water deprived. My question: Why do my dogs ignore their on-board water, making me feel like a really bad mommy?

A: Your dogs ignore their on-board water to torture mommy, didn’t you know? Just when you think dogs are going to behave the way you want, they don’t. Oh, these creatures definitely have minds of their own.

Good for you to bring the water; bad for you to fret about why they’re not drinking it. After many years of hovering, Dog Lady has come to the inevitable conclusion that dogs hate to be smothered. If you fixate on getting your pet to do something he or she doesn’t want to do, good luck bending the canine will. Obviously your mutt-sibs are well-hydrated or they wouldn’t turn up their noses at the car water.

Otherwise, your guys like to drink at home — the best way to explain it.


Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Follow the “Ask Dog Lady” fan page on Facebook. Write your questions to