Monday, November 28, 2011

Dog Culture: Europe vs Iceland

Monday is here and I had to stay at home with baby Magnus as he was pulling his ears like crazy last night. Today he seems a lot better so I'm crossing my fingers that he may be fit for daycare tomorrow. If not I have a nightshift so I will at least be able to go to work. My fiancé is having meetings all week, his PhD instructor is in Iceland this week to work with him.

Home Sick
Bella and Magnus taking a look at a box of sweets. 

I finally got around to uploading two photos from Berlin. Not because they are of superior quality but rather as they are dog-themed. Living in Reykjavik, Iceland, I am always a little sad returning back from a trip to abroad. In Copenhagen and Stockholm this summer and now in Berlin, I always see such a mature dog culture in the cities.
I say mature because the dog culture in Iceland consists of bans and more bans. We have leash laws which do make sense. It isn't so long since dogs were prohibited in Reykjavik city because of diseases. Today that has changed but there is still a really restrictive list of rules to go by if you get a dog. In short, they are not wanted anywhere. You can walk a leashed dog in most places, except the main walking streets in the city. There are a handful of locations within the city that allow dogs to be off leash. Not in malls, not in stores, not in public transport. If you own an apartment rather than your own house, you need 2/3rds of your neighbours to agree that you can own a specific dog. Yes, they must agree before you get the dog. Less than a year ago you needed 100% of all the other apartment owners to agree, nevermind if it's for no reason other than they don't like you or if the owner of a single apartment in the building happens to be a bank (they never give permission as a standard procedure).

The difference between Icelandic dogs and dogs I have seen in other European cities is vast. Icelandic pet dogs are neurotic and run to sniff whatever passerby they meet. Barking is frequent, many bark at both people and other dogs. They pull their leashes a lot and are generally overexcited.

And why wouldn't they be? They live pretty isolated lives within the walls of their homes. They can't be taken by foot to the stores, it's not allowed to take them in and it's not allowed to leave them tied outside. Of course it's also a liability issue as many Icelandic people think dogs can be approached and petted wherever, whenever.
Another factor is that Iceland has become very car friendly as opposed to the frequent use of public transport in many large European cities. So either dogs go for a leashed walk in their neighbourhood or are driven to some place where they can be let loose, usually that means going somewhere outside the city where no one is.

It's a very big contrast to the dogs I met in Berlin. I met a few in the trains, I saw many in shops and they were also in parks or on the streets. Many were on leashes and some were off leash. I was impressed that most people didn't seem to care there was a dog there and didn't approach them. The dogs were calm, even when meeting other dogs. They were close to their owners and paid attention to what was coming. I didn't see a single neurotic looking dog during my 7 days there and we saw a lot of dogs in public. Below is a picture I took inside an expensive mall in the basement where there was a gourmet food shop. No fuss, no excitement, just a calm dog waiting for his owner.

Dog in LaFayette

Another thing I noticed was how much fewer pedigree dogs I saw than here in Iceland. No Border Collie types. I'm actually not sure why they are so common in Iceland, they make horrible pets if you consider the fact that over 75% of all dogs I see being rehomed are Border Collie mixes with the most common description being "needs a country home".

I think the two gentlemen below summon my experience of European city-dogs:

KaDeWe General

Maybe someday Iceland will stop thinking of dogs as feral creatures that ought to live in the countryside. I often think about what I, as a dog owner, could do to move in that direction apart from the obvious responsible dog ownership I try to practice. Maybe someday I'll find the answer to the question.

1 comment:

  1. Fingers crossed for you your laws relax sooner rather than later. Off lead the dogs are in a more natural state to meet and greet and so much less problems. Bodies great off lead but a bit of a shocker on lead.