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Monday, January 28, 2013

Traveling With A Reactive Dog? 6 Reasons To Visit Norway

If you have a reactive or aggressive dog it can be difficult to find travel destinations. Like it is with our Viva. We can't just travel anywhere and visit any place. Even when a place is labeled "Pet Friendly", it might be the opposite of what a reactive dog like Viva would need.

When you are "reactive pet travelers" like us, you might want to consider a visit to Norway. If you like hiking, it is the perfect country to visit with a reactive dog. Imagine enjoying the beautiful sights of the fjords and mountain sides, the northern lights, the wild-life. All while you know your pet is enjoying it just as much as you do.

Here are 6 reasons why Norway is a "Reactive Pet Friendly" country. And if you indulge me with a totally unrelated subject, I also grasp this opportunity to showcase how Norway positively reinforces responsible pet ownership - in italic text:

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1. Reactive Friendly Leash laws

Dogs must be leashed from April until August in the whole of Norway, to protect life-stock and wild life. Some areas even require a leash the whole year round. Our experience is those laws are not just window-dressing, we never met an off leash dog on our hikes.

For us reactive pet travelers it is a gift. We don't have to worry about meeting off leash dogs on the trails. And because we use a long leash with a harnass, we still have plenty of room to move and romp about. 

Several signs continously remind you of the leash laws, not by just stating "Forbidden...", but with an explanation why it is necessary, and closing with a friendly "Takk" (Thank you) for being a responsible dog owner. Now that's positive reinforcement ... for dog owners. Clever Norwegians.

2. Please Trespass!


You'll never find a sign "Private property - No trespassing" in Norway.

They do have private property though, you didn't end up in a communist country, but they also have a law called "Allemansret" ("every man's right"), that allows you to hike through - even camp and forage on - private property.

That means you can always frind a trail or a camp spot, where you can enjoy some privacy with your reactive dog, or maybe to avoid the busier trails and find your own path.

Also here you can find these positive reinforcement signs where the property owner asks for some consideration of dog owners for his life-stock, like we met on one of our hikes as you can see on the picture. What a wonderful thing, that someone allowed me to take my dogs through his land with sheep and thanked me ahead for my consideration. 

3. Off Leash Dog Early Warning System

There are of course restricted areas where dogs are allowed off leash. Not just the obvious dog park, but you can also stumble upon them while hiking. We came across a small island which was used for dog training and therefore, dogs could roam free.

No need to worry though that you will just run into them, these places are clearly marked and they are not too big. You can just follow another trail around it. 

I really enjoyed the sign explaining their could be off leash dogs ahead. It even explained for people what to do if they would encounter such an off leash dog. "Do not run. Remain calm and avoid eye contact. Do not pet or talk to the dog." Yes, it can be that simple to act on some bite prevention. Kudos, Norway.

4. Thank You So Much

This is just my observation, but I found Norwegian dog owners very empathic towards us reactive pet travelers when I compare it to Denmark, where we live.

When we meet other - leashed - dogs on the trail I always moved slightly off the trail to let them pass on a distance, so Viva would not get upset. And many times, people thanked me for it! "Takk so mycket" (Thank you so much) they shouted, "my dogs doesn't like other dogs". We gave a smile back "Same over here, you are welcome!".

When we went swimming in a fjord, a woman was approaching with her dog to join the fun. When I warned her Viva is probably not friendly, again I received a big "Takk" and a smile. She then just enjoyed Kenzo and Viva's swimming activities from a distances, while we had a talk about Hovawarts. Compare that to the cold shoulders and shouts we usually receive in Denmark...

This is a positively reinforced Valhalla! It is not only written on signs, the Norwegians practice it too!

5. Spacial Crash Sites

There are a lot of camping sites and cabins for rent. And you won't have to look far for a location where there is enough room between you and the next dog owner.

We really enjoy this room and space. Viva doesn't get upset by barking, or growling, neighbors.

I don't have any numbers on it, but my best guess is that 30% of all facilities have a "Pet allowed" policy. 

No special signs here unfortunately, just the usual scoop your poop! Applying positive reinforcement on poop-scooping might be a bridge too far, even for those inventive Norwegians.

6. Dogs Are Pets

Compared to Southern-European countries, the feral or stray dog is virtually non-existing. Norwegians keep their dogs as pets, and don't let them roam free. Actually there are not that many dogs in Norway at all. Only 0,7% of all dogs in Europe reside in Norway.

The probability of running into a feral or stray dog are therefore the lowest you can get in Europe, and that is good news too for us reactive pet travelers.

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I hope you consider Noway, I am sure you'll love it as much as we did. If you like to read more about our Norway trip you can find it here. And if you do, here is a sentence you might need: "my dog is not friendly" in Norwegian is "hunden min er ikke vanlig", pronounced as "hoenden min r ik venli". And you probably receive a "Takk so mycket!" in return.
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8 comments

  1. Interesting- in the USA leash laws are completely disregarded by 80% of the people which makes walking my reactive dog very difficult at the best of times. Here in USA laws are make to be broken and no one has respect for leash laws ever. It is a sad state of affairs.

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    1. Not much better over here in Denmark, or other European countries for that matter, either. Was gladly surprised Norway takes it seriously.

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  2. Sounds wonderful, I have a very reactive dog, we are working on it with a trainer and I have read alot of good books but this sounds wonderful.

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    1. Glad to hear that Doreen! There is a lot that can be done, and happy to hear you are serious on making it happen and getting a trainer involved.

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  3. On the whole, the leash law is respected in Norway, yes, but it depends on where you walk. People respect wildlife and livestock. And if there's a chance of meeting sheep, or there are much wildlife or people around, people usually leash up their dogs. On the other hand, you have common walks were people rarely leash their dogs. But the mountains are a place people usually do. Never know when you're going to meet a herd of rein deer.

    And we don't have strays in Norway. If you meet a loose dog, you can be sure it has a family somewhere.

    I'm glad you enjoyed Norway. I certainly do;)

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  4. I doubt I'll ever get to Norway with my dog, unfortunately, but it sounds and looks like a lovely place to explore!

    I didn't realize there was a stray or feral dog problem in southern Europe so I am intrigued by that. It's not a problem I associated with European countries. Perhaps I am just sheltered but I've not really noticed a large stray problem in Canada either, and I've lived in multiple parts of the country. I can imagine it would be quite stressful to live with a reactive dog in an area where stray dogs are common. I worry enough with local wildlife.

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    1. Never say never. And on the strays, there are big differences in Europe on that. Especially South and some Eastern-European countries, there are a lot of strays.

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