What is it like owning a dog in various parts of the world?

Briefly, what it is like to own a dog in different countries -


New Zealand




When I visited Scandinavia I was told that almost all the land is free for everyone to walk on (apart from getting too close to houses) so dogs can spend most of their exercise time off lead "reading the newspaper" and exploring the environment. However, in the UK almost all land is owned, and walkers are not allowed to trespass or walk their dogs - except when walking along recognised foot paths. Many dogs in the towns and cities never have the opportunity to really run free to use their amazing sense of smell, and live a very frustrating life walking around the local park and streets.  Sally Hopkins

New Zealand

We have so much land that is un-owned and unexplored in New Zealand and it is OK for dogs to run free in these areas. BUT there are so many sheep everywhere, (wild and not wild) and loads of bird and reptile wildlife, and all are protected. So if your dog worries sheep, or kills the protected birds or animals, then the owner is prosecuted and dog may be put to sleep. It is unfortunate that some irresponsible dog owners have allowed their dogs to roam the countryside, fiorlands, forests, beaches and rainforests and kill wildlife such as our beautiful Kiwi's who cannot fly to get out of the way. So the wildlife has to be protected. Dogs are generally not allowed on most beaches and not allowed to walk around town centers or streets close to town centers. Dogs are never allowed on busses, trains or any public transport.


Owners are not allowed anymore than two dogs within city boundaries unless they have a special permit to do so, and its not easy getting the permit as you have to have a good record from your neighbours and your premises inspected a couple of times a year without notice. All dogs are registered with their city councils and must wear a current disk as proof of registration which is very expensive and many dog owners just cannot afford the registration costs for their dogs. Any dog found without a disk is taken to the pound and put to sleep if not claimed. If the owner claims the dog, then the owner is fined, since the dog has no disk on his collar. Dogs also have to be fenced and must not be allowed to leave the property without being walked on lead with owner. As from next year, it will be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped which is also very expensive in New Zealand. There are certain breeds of dogs that are not allowed in New Zealand as in some countries in Europe. So we do have very strict rules in my homeland but we have very little stray dog and puppy farm problems - its still there but not to the same extent as some countries.


But owning dogs here in the UK is so cool. I don't have to have a license or registration, they don't have to be microchipped, I can own as many dogs as I want without being fined, the council cannot come and take my dogs away if a neighbor complains, I don't need a permit to breed dogs. So much freedom for dogs owners here, its wonderful!


Chaining dogs to kennels or trees is unfortunately very popular in New Zealand and many kennels are old drums or metal kennels which get far too hot in the summer and too cold in winter. Most dogs are used for the purpose in which they are bred, ie a sheepdog is used to herd sheep and that's its life, a gundog is used for game shooting and that's its life. You don't see a lot of lap type dogs as they don't serve a great deal of purpose for the outdoor lifestyle of the people. Once a man came to me to purchase my Siberian Husky puppies. He wanted to buy them all as well as all my Labradors. I got suspicious and turned him down. But I rang the SPCA to have him checked out at the address he gave me. It was found to be a restaurant in Auckand and upstairs was a room full of puppies, they were on the menu!!!!! While the SPCA was getting a warrant to take the puppies, the owner of the restaurant hid the puppies so the SPCA could not find them. Scary for such a civilized country as New Zealand, or is it!!! -Nicole Mackie

Republic of Ireland

I live in the Republic of Ireland where the Counties decide if dogs are allowed on beaches. At a few touristic ones they are forbidden, on some very busy ones it's often that they are just allowed "under control" and dog wardens check on this and may fine you if your dog doesn't come back straight away.


At forests or parks you sometimes find signs that you have to have your dog on a lead. But locals told me, you don't have to take that too seriously.... Ireland is quite relaxed as long as nothing goes wrong. Dog licenses are really cheap € 12.70 per dog a year, and there is no compulsory microchipping (although dogs are required to have their details on their collar but not many people comply). In most villages you'll see dogs laying on the paving, running around the town or laying in front of their owner's shop. I hardly ever use a leash on our dogs. But since there are a lot of sheep as well, farmers are allowed to kill a dog who chases them. But if your dogs don't you are allowed to walk almost everywhere. (Some farmers in tourist areas hate that!) One bad thing is that a lot of countryside dogs do chase cars. It's really dangerous - specially the very popular Jack Russell Terriers which you can't even see if they are too close to the car. But a very good thing is you hardly ever meet an aggressive dog. Unfortunately there are very few dog trainers and behaviorists. And the general attitude towards dogs is quite old fashioned. Other popular breeds of dog in Ireland are the Border Collies for herding and Greyhounds for racing. Most Greyhounds are put to sleep if they are not good enough for the races anymore - it is very sad. - Christine Kiefer


One of the most memorable trips I ever made, while lecturing abroad, was working in Athens, Greece. The attitude to dogs over there (in the older generation especially) is either one of extreme fear (due to the "old days" of rabies), or mind-blowing ignorance. It is quite normal practice to chain a dog to its "kennel" (usually a metal drum cut in half) all its life and expect it to act as a watch dog if anyone approaches the property. The "Kennels" become baking ovens in the heat of the day and the dog can only move to the full extent of its chain. But this is not the half of it!! The State openly puts poisoned meat not only around the towns but in the countryside as well - this means that not only strays but enormous numbers of pet dogs die terrible deaths from eating this tempting food - life expectancy for pet dogs is very low indeed. Therefore all modern positive dog training methods which we are promoting over there must be adapted so that there is no food on the floor to set a deadly precedent.


I was talking with a young dog trainer who is struggling to run a rescue centre in Athens. She was telling me it is quite usual to have dogs found tortured to death, or hung for "fun" and men betting on how long the dog would stay alive. Such unimaginable cruelties done through ignorance and a very different culture... When I explained that we had "Animal Police" (RSPCA) and laws to punish cruelty to animals in the UK she just couldn't believe that such a thing existed - it was so emotional to see her reaction - she had never dreamed that such things existed! It does put things into perspective doesn't it?  - Sally Hopkins


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