The intrigue of the impeccably mannered London dog

Camden and Regent's Park area
This vicious, vicious guard dog at a pub in our neighborhood.

As I mentioned, we are living in London for the summer and the girls are enjoying summer camp at my parents’ house. (I don’t think they’re going to want to come home with us in August. They like it there more than their normal life with us, I think.)

Deprived of my two misbehaving monsters, I have become unaccountably dog crazy here in London, and I am particularly intrigued by the observation that 90%* of these city dogs are unbelievably well behaved. Like, stunning composure.

Field notes on the London dog

  • They spend a lot of time off leash in the giant, gorgeous parks. Most amazingly, to me, the vast majority of them exhibit almost NO interest in other people. I kept waiting, desperately, for an unmanned dog to come running up to me, seeking pets, but
  • Despite all this off-leash time in parks, I have yet to see a dog fight. I am sure they occur, but partly because the dogs get to be off leash, all of that leash tension is absent.
  • They exhibit a great degree of patience. Tethering dogs outside stores seems like common behavior here, and the dogs are amazingly self-controlled and quiet while they wait for their people. They also continue to show no interest in people walking past them (again, to my personal/selfish chagrin).
  • They are very quiet. Much like their British owners, I suppose, these London dogs have assumed that stiff upper lip and seem to always be full of decorum and composure.
  • Popular breeds, according to wholly anecdotal observation: Long-haired chihuahuas, border terriers, Jack Russell terriers, English cocker spaniels, long-haired dachshunds, French bulldogs, and miniature schnauzers. (I have seen exactly two Alsatians, both long-haired, and they were so beautiful I kind of wanted to cry. The trend for long-haired dogs seems quite pronounced here.)

I saw a French bulldog on the Tube the other day. His owner deposited him under her seat and he just put his head down and didn’t move for 15 minutes, until she told him it was time to get off. A marvel!

While walking in Hyde Park, this whippet and border terrier, below, were tearing around and playing with each other. They were so engaged that they actually collided with my husband’s legs but didn’t give him a moment’s thought.

Hyde Park and Kensington

(I have also never seen a whippet off leash before, in an unfenced area, so this was interesting. He did seem to be wearing some kind of shock collar, however.)

Along with making me miss my boorish American dogs, I continue to be enchanted by these London pups and their good manners. I keep wishing that we could have raised Pyrrha and Eden here, but I’m sure it has as much to do with the place as it does with the standards society sets for dog owners. For example: In London, you best have a well-behaved dog if you want to bring it out in public, else it disrupts the sanctity and composure of the urban space and brings shame on your good name. In America, caution to the wind! Let dogs be dogs. And don’t let anyone tell you what to do; land of the free, home of the brave, et hoc genus omne.

(*The sole example of a badly behaved dog I have seen was a leash-reactive miniature schnauzer outside our local pharmacy. He was straining on his leash, aggressively, toward a little cockapoo, and his middle-aged owner was yelling, “NICE! NICE! BE NICE!” Which was somewhat sadly/hilariously ineffective, of course. She let the schnauzer rush up to the cockapoo and in a split second, he tried to snap at the cockapoo’s face. She jerked him back on the leash and yelled, “BAD BOY! NOT NICE!” And they continued on their way. So, not every  London dog/dog owner is perfect.)

Hyde Park and Kensington

Have you observed dogs in other countries? What do you think? Are there cultural standards for dog raising? Is there any chance Pyrrha and Eden could one day be as polite as an English dog?

10 thoughts on “The intrigue of the impeccably mannered London dog

  1. I think it takes time to develop a culture where dogs are expected in public, and the majority of dogs are well-behaved. Dogs are individuals and I think some of what you are seeing is people who live in a major metropolitan area selecting dogs that are more likely to cope in those environments. Even that more dogs are on the small-ish side says something in terms of practicality for things like riding The Tube. I’m a big supporter of making good dog ownership more visible – the peer pressure and the visibility help to create an environment where dog owners raise their game in terms of training and socialisation. Enjoy your holiday in London!

  2. Your observations are quite similar to mine, although in the opposite direction. Having lived in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany with my dog, I noticed on a recent trip to the US that there were many dogs, they were overall very friendly with people but I didn’t see a single one off leash even in big-ish parks or on trails. Which is a shame as I think my dog gets a lot out of his off leash walks where he can sniff, play and chase all he wants and I enjoy catching up on local gossip whilst the dogs play. Compared to the dogs we met in Germany (where you can take your dog into virtually any hotel/restaurant/shop), my UK-grown terrier-mix isn’t overly well behaved (he’ll sit or lie down but needs regular reminders) in pubs/shops which I blame on lack of exposure. Compared to the Netherlands where there is less (officially anyway) off-leash space, dogs in the UK are, in my experience, better with other dogs.
    I also observed the tendency to have smaller dogs in the UK (compared to what I saw in the US (aussies galore)), probably largely due to the fact that flats/houses here are on the small-ish side and indeed easier to ride the tube or busses.
    And if you miss doggie cuddles, just go up to some owner, tell them they have a gorgeous pup and can you say hi (yes, I did this a couple times when I was in the US). Just like in the US, people here love nothing more than talking about their beloved pet and most dogs will be all over you once the off-leash fun is over anyway and they are on their way out of the park.

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