Dogs Unleashed!

Avignon bulldog

Both Steve and I have always been animal lovers, specifically dogs.  We have had our share of dogs over the years, and we often miss the wags and kisses that des chiens bestow on their owners and everyone else.  As well-behaved as we would like to think our dogs were, they don’t hold a candle to the dogs of Grenoble.

In Grenoble there are dogs aplenty.  They range from the ever-popular little French Poodles, Yorkies and Shih- Tzus to the larger German Shepards and dogs of indeterminate breeds with that wiry Irish Wolfhound look.  This is similar to dog breeds in the U.S.  What is so very different here is the mind-set of the dogs and their owners.  The smaller dogs are usually walking on leads, but the larger dogs are often untethered.  What amazes me is that the dogs follow their owners with little to no distraction.  The owners seem oblivious to their canine companions for the most part.  I neither see them glancing back to assure they are being followed nor calling and whistling  for their dog.  At the same time, the dogs seem uninterested in persons other than their owners.  They don’t come over to sniff you, and they don’t even wag when you speak to them.

Woman & dog on Jean Jaurès

One afternoon when we were attending  classes at CUEF, we stopped at “eve” (pronounced ev) – espace vie étudiants – to have a beer before boarding the tram for home.  There was a brown dog laying outside next to the café.  His owner was nowhere in sight.  We were surprised when this dog made an unusual move and  came over to greet us when we sat down at a table – perhaps he knew we were “americains” and was interested in a cultural exchange?  No matter, shortly afterwards, some  men emerged from the bar area with  their drinks  and stood about talking.  The dog became excited.  His owner was here!  We learned that the dog comes in the morning with his owner who works at CUEF in technical services.  The dog stays outside the café all day long waiting for his owner and never wanders away.  When the man appeared the dog began walking toward the parking lot looking over his shoulder for his master to follow.  The man would start walking, then stop and return to his companions and resume a conversation.  The dog would return to the man and look up expectantly.  The man would begin to walk away again, then return to his friends.  Back  and forth, back and forth, this poor dog just wanted to go home.  Finally, they left, the dog gleefully walking beside his owner.

Dog at eve waiting for his master

Likewise, when we are in the Grenoble center ville, we often see  unleashed dogs walking dutifully  behind their owners like a duckling with  its mother.  There are also homeless people who all seem to have dogs.  They station themselves near the tram stops and by the libraries.  Their dogs lie peacefully dozing beside them.  I cannot find any firm rules on leash laws in Grenoble; this issue is addressed as La bonne attitude or “do the right thing.”  I suppose that means know your dog and handle it accordingly.

An issue that also crops up with city dwelling dog owners  who live in apartments is “what goes in, must come out.”  Now, we have mostly avoided the occasional dog poop on sidewalks and curb areas (mostly is the operative word), but Grenoble has a solution to this unavoidable situation.  It is called  l’espace chien.  There are 145 wire-enclosed spaces covered with sand.  These are maintained and cleaned by city workers.  Dog owners are “supposed” to take their dogs there to relieve themselves. While many owners have trained their dogs to use these spaces, many have not – so watch your step.  Usually there are park benches outside of these areas where I have seen dog owners sitting and patiently waiting while their dogs enter the enclosure and leisurely use l’espace chien.

Espace chien ICI sign

Espace chien area

Dogs seem to be welcome almost everywhere in Grenoble.  I have seen them dozing under outside café tables, laying in front of florist doorsteps waiting for their owner within (you do have to climb over them to get in. Our own dogs would always find the most inconvenient place to lie as well), and tucked into the front baskets of bicycles.  Dogs are allowed to ride the public transport here.  They do not have to be service animals, but attack dogs are forbidden and  large dogs must be muzzled and leashed.

What is really nice to see is that le chien is truly loved here in France. In the almost 3 months that we have been here, we have yet to see a stray dog. As for le chat, we have only seen them sitting in windows. The stray cat seems to be non-existent. Maybe that’s because Le Chien est Roi ici!

Centre Ville dog following his master

Dog in café at night

des chiens: dogs
l’espace chien:
dog space
le chat:
the cat
Le Chien est Roi ici
: The Dog is King here!


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Catherine
    Oct 03, 2010 @ 16:45:43

    Lucky dogs! I’m glad that you are able to around so many dogs. Do you get to interact with any of them?
    I wish the dogs in Raleigh were so well trained and accepted. I wish my own dogs were trained so well. My older dog will follow me anywhere. My younger dog is a free spirit. However, I’ve recently discovered that if I hold up his brush he will come running to me.


    • steveandmo
      Oct 04, 2010 @ 22:02:53

      I saw a beautiful collie on the tram this morning. It just lay there while the tram moved, but became a little disconcerted when the flexible area also moved as we rounded a bend in the track. Wasn’t even bothered about people boarding and climbing over him (as is usual)!


  2. Lori Millette
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 20:22:21

    That is great – I love dogs and it is fun to see them hanging around like they are part of the crowd. Certainly a difference from America, especially Cary where all dogs (and cats!) must be on a leash at all times.


  3. Barbara & Jim Johnson
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 00:06:04

    Dear Steve and Maureen,

    We have arranged for Clifford (the very happy Boykin Spaniel from NC) to fly (first class) on Air France arriving in Paris as soon as you can pick him up. He is in desperate need of french training. And you are the folks to do it!

    We love your blog……


    • steveandmo
      Oct 05, 2010 @ 13:31:37

      Dear Barbara and Jim, We would love to have Clifford come and stay with us. Little Fifi next door heard about it and said she would be happy to become his petite-amie! I could already see him in a little béret. We know he wears hats so well!


  4. Jenny
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 22:37:47

    I find this fascinating….just what are the French doing to train their dogs? I wonder what the difference is. Maybe it’s wine. And those wonderful cheeses. I would behave myself if I knew that was my reward! Tell me, in France, is a French Poodle merely a Poodle? I suppose the same would go for the German Shepherd in Germany….oh, I could go on. : )
    Great posting. Great pictures!!


  5. steveandmo
    Oct 08, 2010 @ 14:41:12

    I can’t say what their deal is. All I know is that I saw a cute shar-pei this morning having a great time sniffing the side of a building… you got the picture? I watched as his owner actually crossed a street without waiting for him. He finally noticed the guy was way ahead and just trotted on to catch up. My dog would have sniffed for somebody carrying a baguette and followed them!


  6. Fabien
    May 10, 2011 @ 17:02:18

    Hello Maureen and Steve,

    Your blog is very good and it’s very interesting.

    Toffy Puddle’s saying “bonjour wouaff” too

    A bientôt !


    • steveandmo
      May 10, 2011 @ 17:54:43

      Bonjour Fabien, Mary et Phoebe,
      Je vous remercie pour votre e-mail. Je suis heureuse que vous aimez le blog!
      Nous avons apprécié la possibilité de parler avec vous le samedi. Je sais que Toffy Puddle est un bon chien et jamais désobéit!


  7. Trackback: Au Revoir, Grenoble (Sniff!) Vous nous manquez.* « A Year In Grenoble
  8. Mich
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 10:54:15

    I live in Moutier and travel often to Grenoble. Have you ever seen dogs on the buses in Grenoble? Big dogs in specific. I was able to take my dog on buses in Italy but I’m unsure of France.
    Love your blog by the way.


    • steveandmo
      Feb 10, 2014 @ 11:10:52

      Hi, Mich.
      Thanks for reading and for your comment. I have never seen a dog on a bus, but I have seen them on the tram. It seems they are welcome with the following provisos–

      “Les chiens d’attaque sont interdits sur tout le réseau. Les gros chiens doivent être muselés et tenus en laisse. Les petits animaux (chiens, chats), les chiens d’aveugle, les chiens de la Police et la Gendarmerie voyagent gratuitement.” See:

      Your big dog would have to be muzzled, I think, and I did see that generally on the tram.
      I’ll have to catch up on your blog. I took a quick look, and I love the pictures!


      • Mich
        Feb 10, 2014 @ 11:48:43

        Thank you for the speedy reply. I am familiar with taking a dog on the tram. People appreciated dogs being muzzled (especially big ones), but it is rarely enforced or followed. Buses are a different story. I like knowing if locals are casually taking their dogs on buses. Some cities are more tolerant than others. Its all about know what rules you can and cannot break when it comes to dog travel 😉

  9. Fabien
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 13:49:02

    I often take my small puddle with me in the bus, it needs to be on a lead. I never had any trouble or remarks. I don’t pay for him. Of course it doesn’t take a seat…



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