I have the strongest desire to tell you about what it is like to go to the South of France with your dog. Maybe there’s someone out there who doesn’t dare because he’s heard funny prejudices about how the French deal with dogs. I was also told a very strange story.
When we wanted to travel to France with dog for the first time, we heard frightening stories. One of them was that the French police considered every dog with visible muscles to be a fighting dog and simply confiscated it. We were somewhat confused, because after all we knew French people who had a dog of their own and could not combine the warnings with our experiences. So we drove there without further ado.
However, we were a bit tense, refreshed all vaccinations at the vet as a precaution and meticulously made sure that we always had the EU vaccination card with us. And what happened? Nothing!
With dog to Southern France
Don’t let hearsay or scary news stop you! There are rules to follow – just like in any other country – but apart from that it’s great to enjoy life with a dog in the south of France.
Our dog ain’t the easiest character. He had a rather difficult start in life and before he came to us at the age of three months, he had already been in two other stations. A dog means lot of work! Sure it is nice for children to find a puppy under the Christmas tree, but to tie him to a tree in the forest, when the holidays are over, is a bad thing… Now he has been with us for over five years and feels safe enough, which costed us a lot of convincing.
Nevertheless, he loves everyone – and everyone loves him. But the Southern Frenchmen take the term “animal-loving” to a whole new level! Wherever we are, he gets hugged and stroked, gets treats and good words – it’s a lot of fun to watch. And it decelerates me. On some days I’m traipsing unmotivated through the forest, waiting annoyed for the dog that sniffs here and there. That is no pleasure either for him or for me. Sometimes I only notice it because of my irritability when passers-by stop me because they want to greet the dog and talk to me about him. Then I use this as an invitation to take a deep breath and downshift so that we can have a nice walk together.
Sylvie and Philipe, the fruit and vegetable dealer in our village, always give him one (or more) of the discarded apples.
They even cut them up so that he doesn’t have to bother with the biting… We can always bring him to the Coup de Fourchette, too, even if the small restaurant is crowded. In the forest, in the city, on the market, in the restaurant – everywhere we are greeted joyfully and warmly.
The French dogs
We think we can make out two types: the yard dog and the lap dog. The Southern Frenchmen don’t seem to do anything else with their dogs. Pet obedience schools are rather rare. The dogs react accordingly. The yard dogs get almost a heart attack behind the fence or at the leash and the lap dogs actually also, only for other reasons. The dog always looks up to me with a questioning look, but I can’t explain to him either why his fellows make such a fuss. We simply hurry on quickly. He hasn’t found any friends to play with, but that’s also due to him and his story.
In public space with a dog
In the city there is a leash duty – of course. During summertime, dogs are not allowed at the beaches – same as in our country. Also in the south of France there are dog beaches. But above all, there are also hidden bathing bays outside settlements. Officially dogs are not allowed there either, but no complaint, no redress… In order to understand what I mean with this, I might have to give some background information:
The French disobedience
French disobedience has a long tradition and the French are proud of it. They like to bend the rule extensively and can talk about it excessively if they get caught. This relaxed manner was something that impressed us very much and taught us a lot. And by no means everyone does what he wants, because at the same time the neighbors pay very close attention that you don’t kick over the traces. But all unwritten laws have a fragile balance. The easiest way for us foreigners to find out about customs is by observing the locals and asking questions. A big, underlying principle is: if nobody is bothered, just do it, but still behave cautiously.
Bathing with your dog
So if you are in a bathing bay with your dog, don’t take it too easy and let your dog romp through the water between all the other guests and urinate in every bush. Sit in a shady corner, take a bath with your dog on a leash if there aren’t so many other people in the water (oh, and he should absolutely not shake himself in the middle of other people’s towels) and behave calmly and inconspicuously overall. Just polite.
But since it is generally much too hot for your dog during the day, you are only at the beach when it is empty anyway.
Sightseeing with your dog
You love your dog, so you’ll take good care of him. I’ll say it again anyway: In summer it is much too hot for him! No matter if on the beach or in the city, whereas in the city you have to add the hot asphalt on which your dog can burn his feet.
Don’t do this to him!
Go out with him in the morning and evening, but leave him in air-conditioned rooms or in the shady garden during the day. Our dog sometimes thinks that it can’t be that hot outside the shady tiles, and he needs urgently to get out now. Then all good persuasion does not help. Latest at the gate, he recognizes that we are right and wants to go back.
Best travel time with your dog
I would say the best time to travel with your dog to the Côte d’Azur is from mid-September to mid-June. In the meantime the thermometer hardly falls below 30 °C and especially at night it doesn’t cool down properly. With such heat each of our walks leads to the sea and after a few days the dog gets a rash, because his fur can’t dry properly with all the bathing.
I personally like the Côte d’Azur best in September/October and May/June. During this time it is warm by day, the dog and I can swim together without disturbing other people, you can sit outside in the evening and sleep well at night. Excursions and sightseeing are also possible, because the dog doesn’t pant too much, and I am not always prospecting for water and shade.
Travel experiences with dog
Our route is 1,500 km long, and we spend the night halfway. The dog loves to go by car. (He even gets all jittery when he hasn’t been in the car for a week. Sometimes we let him take a nap in the car then and after that he’s back to his old self again.) The overnight stays are rarely nice. None of us can sleep well in a strange environment. Sometimes we are lucky and find a place where the dog doesn’t walk in circles all night – who knows why! Feng Shui, water veins, magnetism – I have no idea! But often he is too restless to sleep. That’s why we have started to book hotels with carpeting. You know how annoying claws are on laminate…
The next day there are three knocked out figures sitting in the car, one of them already lying on his side and snoring at the first traffic light.
We stop about every two hours and have a little walk around the parking lot. So far we were allowed to take him to the service areas in all countries we drive through (D, A, I, F). When we stop at our parking lot on the evening of the second night and open his door, he runs off and waits excited in front of our door. I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to France as soon as we start packing the bags.
With a dog at the Côte d’Azur
I can only repeat it again and again: for me this area is the best vacation area for four-legged friends. It is generally said that Denmark is the best country for dogs, I can’t confirm that. I would say that our dog was bored in Denmark, much too flat and uniform. We also had a house without a fence, which is usual, but that’s why we always had to be careful with him. In France, he can go in and out at will. He even slept on the terrace one night! Our walks lead across country, through rivers and up mountains. A lot of fun for the three of us.
98% of the restaurants welcome the three of us. Well, we don’t get the best table, but we would have chosen the quiet one in the corner anyway. He is also allowed in almost every shop, only very rarely there is a prohibition sign at the door, but these are mainly grocery stores and bakeries. Clothing shops, perfumeries, bookshops and garden centres are no problem at all. In some parks and gardens like the Botanical Garden in Èze or the Val Rahmeh in Menton we were allowed to take our dog with us (low season), but not in all.
Now I just let a few more pictures speak for themselves, then you can convince yourself that a trip to southern France with your four-legged friend is a good idea.
Where do you prefer to go with your dog? Or have you already experienced the Côte d’Azur? Tell me about it!