Every week, a lovely woman named Rosie over at Eco Gites of Lenault in Normandy hosts a pet-focused linkup called Animal Tales and for months I haven’t been able to participate due to my lack of pet posts. Today I’m changing that…
I’m obsessed with dogs. I fully admit that! Having a dog is something that completes me, and as an adult, I’ve only owned a dog in France. On the surface, having a dog in France is very similar to what you’d experience in the USA. There are all different breeds, you can get your dog from a shelter, rescue, breeder, or pet store (;-() just like the USA and veterinarians are widely available. Also, the French love their dogs as much as Americans do.
But let’s talk differences between having a dog in France versus the USA.
Differences with having a dog in France vs. the USA
As with everything I write here, the points below are my opinion based on my experience of seeing 8 or so vets (including ER visits outside of regular hours) and specialists over the past couple of years.
Veterinary care in France
Veterinary care is cheaper overall
One of my favorite things about having a dog in France is the cost of care. I think just about every single aspect of vet care — from surgery, to meds, to lab work, to wellness visits and vaccines — is cheaper in France. Like human healthcare, pet care costs are extremely reasonable and I never hesitate about bringing my dog in if something seems out of the ordinary. Even emergency vet visits on Sunday will not leave you broke. I find affordable pet care to be the case across the board regardless of specialty. Compared to the USA veterinary costs, France is a steal! (but it evens out when you realize how much your gas costs, taxes, etc.)
Vets often examine your dog in front of you
In the US, I remember taking my dog to the vet with my family and then having the vet take him to “the back” to clean his ears, give him vaccines, and any other procedure he was getting. In France, veterinary care seems more transparent and the veterinarian will often take care of the pet right in front of the owner, sometimes asking the owner to assist if a vet tech isn’t available.
I think this helps alleviate your pet’s (and owner’s) anxiety since the animal will stay put on the table with you instead of being whisked away to some place unknown. You get to see everything firsthand. The vet has administered vaccines, clipped nails, cleaned ears, emptied anal glands, taken blood and done full exams all in my presence. I like seeing what’s happening.
Medicines aren’t available at the vet (aside from flea and worm treatments)
I remember getting medicine for my dog in the US and most of the time the vet’s office would prepare the little bottle of pills right there in the office and have it available when you came in to pay and pick up your dog. It had the dog’s name and address and instructions printed right on it. The cost was often a shock too. In France, the vet will give you your dog’s prescription and you can go to the regular pharmacist to get the box of pills (at a reasonable cost). Exceptions would be flea and tick meds which you can buy from your vet’s office and a short supply of antibiotics. We’ve been given those in a little paper envelope.
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Dogs are welcome
As long as your dog is on the smaller side and well-behaved (doesn’t bark or act like a fool), you can walk into places without people batting an eye. Any type of store that sells or handles food is a no-no (grocery store, for example) although my neighborhood bakery doesn’t care if I grab a baguette with my dog. I’ve taken Dagny to the post office, restaurants (both inside and outside seating), pharmacy, tabac, realtor, H&M, Sephora and more. Most small businesses don’t really care if your dog is by your side and I really like that aspect of having a dog in France!
Doggy daycare/home boarding isn’t popular
Something that struck me as a major difference between having a dog in France versus the US is the lack of daycare and boarding options in France. I don’t know how French people manage without having the mainstream option of private pet boarding or daycare. Some people take their pets on vacation with them and there are kennels where your dog will stay in a cage or small space while you’re away, but sites like DogVacay don’t really exist. Aside from a few services in major cities and a handful of people offering pet services here and there, dog walkers, daycare and in-home pet care haven’t become a cultural phenomenon. So do French people just leave their dogs home all day? Leave them out in the yard? I haven’t really figured that out yet.
Dogs seem to wander more
I’m not saying everyone lets their dogs wander around off-leash but in general it seems people are more blasé in France about random dogs just walking around — some probably have owners and others are stray. I saw this firsthand in Corsica and it made me nervous and sad for the stray dogs. Every couple of months when Dagny and I are out on a walk, we’ll encounter a lost dog that usually has a collar and is clearly someone’s pet except I’m the only one to ever stop and try to help it.
This is the complete opposite of what would happen in my suburban NJ hometown. Back home, if someone was driving and saw a dog all alone walking on the sidewalk, they’d go out of their way to stop and try to help it. In France? People just mind their own business and I guess have better things to worry about. Is this true of every French person? Of course not. And I get not all people are dog people, but I find it strange that I’m often the only one to care about getting a loose dog to safety. If 10 minutes out of my day would help a dog to not get hit by a car, why wouldn’t I stop to help? I get it’s a different culture but as the more evolved species, I feel we have a right to help other living beings if we’re able to.
Picking up after your dog isn’t commonplace
France is known for its dog poop problem especially in larger cities and this is one stereotype that rings true. But on the flip side, I see pet waste bag dispensers more and more in French parks and fellow dog owners with waste bag dispensers on their pup’s leash, so people are working to make a difference. We’re not quite there yet because even after a day in France, you’ll see there’s no shortage of dog poo in parks and on the street. Gross.
Smaller selection of specialty pet food brands and products
Forget finding specialty products. Sure, you can find a niche brand here and there but the selection is nowhere near what it is in the US. Take Dagny’s raw food diet as an example. In the US, we have Primal, Nature’s Variety, Stella & Chewy’s and more that provide commercial raw diets that you can easily feed your pet. None of this exists in France. Finding specialty grain-free treats, or venison treats, or organic treats, or some other specialty thing? Hard. And if you do find what you want, is it a reasonable price? Probably not. The pet industry is much smaller in France!
6 Life lessons I’ve learned from my dog >>
No proof of rabies vaccine required for your municipality
Something I found kind of weird when I moved here is that you don’t need to register your dog with your town’s health department and show proof of a rabies vaccination. Back in NJ, each year we had to produce proof of our dog’s rabies vaccine and pay a small fee to register him with the town. With France being pretty tax heavy (like a TV tax, come on!) I thought for sure I’d have to pay a fee to the city to have a dog. But nope. Even from a statistics perspective, knowing how many pets live in a certain area might be useful info for the town to have, but it seems like none of that is recorded in France.
Do you have a dog in France? How does it compare?
Our. French Oasis says
We have had dogs in both the USA and France, there’s really not much difference as far as I can see, vets are obviously much cheaper here. One thing that I think is a total myth is people seem to believe the French don’t care for their dogs,that they leave them out in kennels and neglect them. Hunting dogs do often live outside, but I truly believe the French love their dogs just as much as Americans.
Absolutely, agree that the French love their dogs just as much as Americans do (or any nationality for that matter). There are of course people of every nationality that neglect their dogs or leave them out in kennels but has nothing to do with the nationality. Thanks for your comment 😉
My vet here in the US does examine my dog in front of me. My vet offers a prepaid health/wellness plan each year. The cost for one dog is $405. If your dog has health problems it helps a lot to have purchase their plan. I was in Paris last month and only saw one dog poop on the sidewalk. I see more where I walk my dog here LOL ! And I will hand out bags to those people I see not picking up after their dogs too…
That’s great to hear, Jackie! I’m sure the dog is much more comfortable staying with you. I really like the idea of a wellness plan. I think that’s a smart way to run a business and can give the owner peace of mind. I was just in Paris and I have to say the poop situation seemed to be better than I remembered. I see more out here in the suburbs as well! And nice to know I’m not the only one handing out poop bags to strangers!
Barbara Bilder says
Here in Dinan, Brittany, people do pat Ttention to straying/lost dogs. My Alfons has escaped several times. he has a rag and is microchipped. SeverL differentpeople have called me to tell me they have Alfons. He is now wearing a GOS device for added security. He is always looking for anescape route. Sometimes people leave the gRden door open.
So happy to hear that! Restoring my faith in the French when it comes to loose dogs. 😉
Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault says
Yay – great to see you again, Diane and Dagny – we’ve missed you! I love this post comparing dogs in the US to France. A couple of things that are different here in Normandy from what you say though – our vet has all the medication you need but it is overall a farm animals vet so I don’t think busy farmers would want to have to go to the pharmacy as well as the vet. Vet care is MUCH cheaper than in the UK with the exception of our cat’s renal care food that is much more expensive so I buy that “back home”. I also like the fact you are there in the consulting room with your pet. That partly happens in the UK but for some things the dogs were taken out the back. Our vets do not have any veterinary nurses so they need you are certain times to hold your dog and even at times help with procedures.
Thank you for joining up again with #AnimalTales and give Dagny a big cuddle from me.
I can tell you there aren’t many differences between owning a dog in South Africa and in Dubai. Both countries have a dislike of dogs in general. In SA it’s a fear, In Dubai it’s religious, there is little open space to walk dogs off lead. In SA due to wildlife and security issues and in Dubai, just because and it’s too hot for most of the year to go out during the day. In SA all pet products and medicines were purchased in the supermarkets, in Dubai it’s from the vets, that’s about the only difference and that it’s far more expensive in Dubai
I am moving with my dog from Los Angeles to Avignon in April and I am trying to figure out what I am going to feed him over there. We currently give him Primal Raw Nuggets, but I see in you mentioned you can’t find any of that kind of dog food over there. Do you have any recommendations for a good, healthy brand that we can find there? Thanks!
Hey there, if you’re open to kibble there are some good quality brands like Orijen that you can get on zooplus.fr or wanimo but unfortunately for those of us who feed raw, there’s no commercial brand like Primal or Stella & Chewy’s that exists in France. (Unless it’s really new and I just haven’t come across it) If you don’t want to buy online and ship it to yourself (probably not worth it if you have a big dog due to cost), you may want to transition your pup to a high-quality kibble because there’s really nothing equivalant.
Best of luck w/the move!
Great read Diane! I’m still learning about the differences between having our dogs here vs in New Zealand. The vet thing is interesting – back home our vets would always administer shots, check dogs over etc in front of us, as they do here. It surprises me that this isn’t the case in America! I love that the dogs are welcome most places we go, although I haven’t dared take them shopping! They’re far too big & boisterous. And don’t even get me started on kennels – the few I’ve visited have been more like prisons with a measly 2×1 hr breaks in an outdoor ‘pen’ during the day. Hence, we’ve having to drive a 3-hour round trip to find a boarding kennel that is more like what we’re used to back home :-/
Thanks Nadine! There may be vets in the US that regularly treat the dog and do shots in front of the owner but growing up in NJ, our family vet (and other vets I’ve seen in the US since) did not. They would always go “in the back” for anything involving needles. So my personal norm was not the same as in France but maybe some vets do everything in front of the owner. You have Golden Retrievers, right? I remember reading one of your posts that had pics — going to go take another look.
Yes, the kennel situation is terrible! I think there’s a real need for pet sitting, especially in smaller markets where dogs need walks and care but there’s no established business. Maybe I should get on that. Wish I lived closer. I’d take care of your dogs. My dog is extremely submissive and gets along w/everyone. 😉
Renee Claire Spencer says
The lack of quality boarding is an interesting and concerning aspect of bringing out pets to France… we are moving with two cats and a medium size dog in June. Nadine – where in France have you found the boarding which is worth the 3 hours drive? We have gone further for our fur kids so, it is not a daunting prospect (though I was hoping it was going to be different! )
Happy to have found this forum! Many kind thanks.
Pamela Moffatt says
While in Nice, for boarding, I would consult fellow dog owners and my local vet. I’ve had friends who kept my dog with theirs and also had good referrals from my vet for folks who do in-home dog care. (They keep the dog at their home, you provide food and bedding). You can meet first so the dog and the “nounou chien” can get acquainted.