High up in the rural slopes of the Swiss mountains we have found ourselves enjoying the cleanest air that is becoming a little fresher each morning on our walk – Autumn is upon us – and, apart from the obvious gradient difference between NL and CH, the other difference is of the canine variety, or lack thereof. We have only come across a few old hounds making their way slowly up the steep incline on their daily walk with their humans which is in stark contrast to our daily doggy dash in NL. It could all come down to the remoteness of our current home and the vast difference in population figures, this far away from a major centre…
The discipline displayed by Dutch dogs is something to behold, in particular with their control over their bladder and bowels, Pavlov would be salivating!
Socialised animals are the best sort of animals to have as pets and none more so than Dutch dogs. The local wandelbos, of which there is one in every city/town/village, is the place of doggie delights. Here these furry family members are permitted off their leads, in designated areas, and allowed to run free to sniff, dig, fetch and caper their allotted 20 minutes to an hour and a half time with their human.
As non owners it also provides the daily, or thrice daily if one is feeling dog-bereft, time to smile indulgently at all and every breed of canine variety imaginable.
Mostly these hounds are well disciplined when it comes to exuberant jumping up and on other humans, though sometimes the urge becomes too much and I am in awe of how tolerant most humans are to having some stranger’s hound leaping joyfully at them in friendly greeting.
I have been on the receiving end of a few such greetings and can say with certainty that I was not as equally charmed by the muddy paws on my clean pants, or in taller breed’s cases, on my clean jacket!
The owners are not often too phased by their precious pet’s display of pleasure but then again, I suppose if you don’t want to be jumped on, licked to death or toppled over by a hapless puppy, then wandel in the “no dogs” side of said wandelbos…
At the risk of being somewhat lavatorial, back to the bodily functions of these dogs. It is a total mystery to me how the dogs in NL are able to hold both “numbers 1&2” in until their owners deem it necessary to take them outside to a patch of grass or road verge where they are permitted to do their business?! 99% of owners stand at the ready with poop bags (many now days are thankfully of the biodegradable variety) and tidy up after their beloved pets.
In the case of “off piste” in the bos, one either ignores the deposit (as seems to be the case with the few dogs in our CH neighbourhood) or, in the event that the deposit is made on the footpath, it can easily be flicked into the undergrowth using a twig or stick of which there are obviously plenty in such an environment.
Dogs in NL are required to be taken outside for a walk three times a day and this appears to be an unwritten mandatory requirement as all dogs live indoors, summer and winter alike. For this reason it is essential to have them well trained in the toilet department as most dogs are left at home alone whilst the family are away at work and at school.
The advantage of indoor dogs is that there is seldom any barking which makes for quiet neighbourhoods and happier neighbour relations!
The freedom of the wandelbos is where, for a limited time each day, dogs are allowed to be dogs and that means happy barking, larking, growling, snapping and snarling along with swimming, digging and stealing one another’s ball (note to new dog owners in NL: it is advisable to leave the ball and other precious toys behind as it is not always possible to retrieve these when snatched by other friendly hounds!)
All this love and attention that is lavished on the furry family members is evident in the fact that The Netherlands proudly claims not to have a single stray dog in their country.
Dog’s don’t come cheap in NL as owners are taxed on each dog, fines are hefty and rules are adhered to by those households that are deemed fit for the ownership of a dog since breeders are compelled to inspect residences before selling their pedigreed pooches.
There is one aspect of dog ownership in NL where I question the rights of the animal and that is the “walking” the dog by bicycle… The owner rides the bicycle and the dog runs alongside on a leash (pure cycling talent and dog discipline to achieve this!) In my humble opinion, no dog ever goes for a walk/run without stopping a gazillion times along the way to sniff, pee, sniff some more, socialize, more sniffing, etc. So, to see the hounds running to keep up with the bicycle, full stretch, tongues out, makes me decidedly uncomfortable, to say the least!
The Swiss mountains provide a more dog walk friendly environment, in my humble opinion!
As much as we miss our beloved hounds, we are thankful that they still have the liberty to run free on the farm of our friends, near to where they grew up, with the same smells, sounds, food and friends that they have known all their lives – what an upheaval a move of this magnitude would have been for them and for us – at least we get to reconnect with them on our annual trip back to South Africa and in the meantime, we were able to enjoy the daily doggie dose in the bos sans the responsibility for feeding, cleaning and exercising in any and all weather and now on the slopes of the mountains at a much more sedate pace!