Prague Culture Shock - Dogs

A 12-part guide to the subtle - and not-so-subtle - nuances that make the Czech capital a more memorable experience

Dogs are typically said to be man’s best friend. Over the millennia, they have actually evolved to sense human emotions and distress. No wonder we love them.

In America, many people have dogs, but there's usually an obvious owner/pet relationship between them. They live outside sometimes, in a doghouse perhaps, or sleep at the foot of your bed.

In Prague, I've noticed a different sort of relationship.

Because most inhabitants of this city live in flats, and frequently very small ones, owners tend to live at close quarters with their dogs, and have to walk up and down five flights of stairs to let them go to the toilet at 6am in the dead of winter.

Czechs talk to their dogs, lovingly stroke them, and treat them like children. Many of my English students, when asked about their families, will say, "Well, I have a dog, two boys, and one wife. My dog is named..."

The flipside of this relationship is that dogs are incredibly well behaved in this city. I've seen a man walk into a store and shop for 10 minutes while his dog sat outside, unmoving, waiting for him to return.

Unfortunately, unless they're puppies (or "pyoopies," as one of my students pronounces it), Prague dogs won't usually allow you to pet them, so don't try until you've asked the owner if it's OK. I'm still wondering if my ring finger will grow back...

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