Category Archives: Guidance

Top Ten Resources to help you with your dog

Before the internet, how did anyone survive? In this modern age, there are many listings for dog trainers in your Yellow Pages and with all the television programmes you can find, you’re sure to find one that addresses exactly what problems your dog has and will help you with a DIY approach to dog training. With the wealth of material, how can you ever hope to navigate what’s out there and make the best use of it? Here are my top ten go-to pages or Youtube channels to help you and your dog.

  1. No potential puppy owner should ever even think of adopting without reading the wealth of free stuff from Dr Ian Dunbar (also listed on Your Puppy pages) Dog Star Daily is the best thing you can spend a couple of hours doing before you get your new puppy. He’s also an expert on dog aggression and on classical and operant conditioning (using rewards to help train your puppy or dog positively. There is no reason at all not to pass a little time on this site, since the free downloads are arguably better than any book you could buy. A puppy training course and Dr Ian Dunbar and you’ll need little else to help you raise a well-rounded and confident dog.
  2. If you’re looking for great online video tutorials, you need look no further than Zak George’s Youtube Channel. Pair this up with Ian Dunbar and you won’t need much else. From house-training to crate-training, play biting to walking on the lead, introducing cats and dogs, teaching your dog to sit, to teach recall and basics such as ‘stay’ and ‘leave it’, Zak George offers helpful and positive advice.
  3. Another great Youtube channel is that of Kikopup, whose gentle and positive style will help you deal with unwanted doggie behaviour as well as showing you a range of more advanced behaviours that will keep your dog thinking. You don’t have to stop with the basics!
  4. If you’ve got a ‘fraidy cat and you’re looking for something to help you work on your dog’s nerves other than tranquilisers, will be a lifesaver. There are lots of great free resources on the site, as well as resources worth splashing out on.
  5. Dr Sophia Yin may not be with us anymore but her work is pivotal in training. A ‘cross-over’ trainer, who used to use punishment to teach dogs, she became a powerful advocate for positive training. She often worked with dogs with severe behavioural problems. Her books and tutorials are an absolute gift for anyone who wants to build a better relationship with their dog. And if you want to know why I won’t be posting a link to Cesar Millan on here, Dr Yin’s explanation will make it clear. You only have to watch the first two minutes of the Tough Love video to know why I feel as she does. Besides, we all know that it’s cats who have bested us, surely.
  6. If you’re British, as I am, you’ll appreciate the fabulous Nando Brown and his Mally, Fizz. His videos are more video diary than polished Zak George step-by-step demos, but they’re funny and give you plenty of understanding of dog behaviours and training tips. His Facebook page is a great way to pick up on tips and thoughts.
  7. Grisha Stewart is my final recommendation for training channels. She’s got some great life hacks and tutorials for the everyday stuff like taking pills (because a bit of cheese doesn’t always work) and clipping nails.
  8. The Family Dog ladies are brilliant if you’ve got children who need a little education around dogs, and they do great work to help prevent dog bites, many of which involve children and dogs. Their Kids’ Club videos are brilliant if you are trying to tame both dogs and children. It’s not just about how to pet dogs and how to behave around them, but sensible tips to help your children build great relationships with your dog.
  9. For all your doggie needs in France, you’ll find and have got you covered. is also a site with lots of animal goodies. You may need a prescription to buy some of the items if they are things you would usually buy via your vet.
  10. When it comes to illnesses, PetMD is your one-stop shop. It may be based in the USA, but it is as relevant for doggie diseases on the continent for the most part, and for all doggie ailments and illnesses. Especially in France, if French is your second or third language, you may not feel comfortable asking about the details of parvovirus, demodetic mange or piroplasmosis. You’ll find details on PetMD that is written by experts for non-experts. It also has great emergency advice, though nothing as good as giving your vet a call.

If you’ve got further ideas for things you feel should be included, why not drop me a line and let me know what you’ve found useful, or leave a comment on the Woof Like To Meet facebook page?

Fearful dogs

Adopting a fearful dog is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of rescue, but also the most challenging. From the very first moment you set eyes on them, you may be drawn to help them. However, much of what we want to do – comfort and protect the dog – can be overwhelming and frightening for the animal. Frightened animals are more likely to attack than any other emotional state if they feel they have no way out. Helping them cope with the first few days and keeping them safe are your only priorities. Sadly, far too many fearful dogs run away in the first moments of life in a new home, and a percentage of those dogs are found dead or are never found.


Debbie Jones is a dog trainer who works with fearful dogs and has written an excellent book that will help you understand the rehabilitation process. Best of all, Debbie will give you lots of hope that you can turn your nervous Nelly into a dog that can enjoy life without medication or without fear.

Whilst you won’t find any answers here, there are a couple of aspects to be mindful of when adopting a fearful dog. The first aspect is that any dog can be fearful given a change in circumstances. You think of your home and your love as a wonderful gift for a dog: you are rescuing it and it seems bizarre to think that for many dogs, this is a terrifying experience. The shelter has often been a constant, where routines stay the same and where they have little interaction. Believe it or not, interaction can be the most fearful thing. Hands are no comfort. The house is a corner that they can’t escape from. For this reason, a gentle hand, a kind heart and a warm home might not be what you think it should be.

The second thing to bear in mind is the new collar. Most people don’t like their dog’s collar to be too tight. Even if you do the ‘two finger test’ to ensure the collar is tight but not too tight, many dogs can get out of it. Many dogs are fine in a collar or with a lead on it if they pull forward, but if they back up, they can easily get out of it. The same is true of a harness. A slip lead may seem like a cruel choice, but a lead that maintains pressure is the best thing for a fearful dog at the beginning. Fearful dogs can take advantage of a slackening off, so two leads – a harness lead and a slip lead – will ensure that you don’t lose your dog. Catching a fearful dog is virtually impossible and many will take to the hills to find a place they consider space.

The third thing to consider is transport. Many fearful dogs are on super-alert in a car. It may be the way they were dumped, the way they were picked up. It’s a tiny, enclosed space where they cannot escape. Not surprisingly, some new owners open a car door and the dog is off before they can grab the lead. A secure harness is absolutely vital.

Bearing these last two aspect in mind can certainly help keep your dog from escaping. When it comes to fight or flight, flight is a huge risk for fearful dogs. Fight is the other. Be very conscious that you are more likely to get bitten by a dog who is cornered, so picking up a fearful dog, closing in on them or otherwise making it impossible for them to run away can end badly. Space and security once in the home are vital.

If the journey goes well and you manage to keep hold of your fearful dog until you get them home, many people assume the worst is over and find their dogs have absconded in the first twenty-four hours. Don’t ever assume your dog won’t climb or dig, or even just plough through a fence. The garden is their exit point and if you leave them unsupervised, you may find they find a way out. This is especially true if something happens whilst they are in the garden: unexpected sounds can set off a flight-or-fight response.

On average, it can take up to eight weeks for cortisol levels to drop back down to normal after a stressful event like moving home or getting in a car, so patience and watchfulness are vital.

Many dogs form quick bonds once they understand their new routines and new owners, but two things can bring old feeling to a head: being alone and being out on a walk. We think walks are great fun and that dogs enjoy them. We tell ourselves that we all need exercise and that we enjoy the change of scenery. This is not especially true of a fearful dog. Every noise is a potential threat and every movement brings fear. And although your fearful dog might not be bonding with you easily, it does not mean that they are happy to be left on their own. This can set off feelings of abject panic for those left confined in a house from which they cannot escape. Many dogs will injure themselves in their attempts to save themselves.  Be prepared for a long journey to overcoming separation anxiety, especially if your dog is an only dog.

If your dog is incredibly fearful, please enlist the help of a behaviourist or your vet. Medication and behaviour modification can make a huge difference. Most dogs will make good progress with calm, patient and gentle guidance. Indeed, one of our most scared hounds managed to get away from her owner recently, following a scare out on a walk. With two frantic days of searching, we feared the worst. Yet one day, Illia came walking back down the road to her home. It is massive progress when a fearful dog will do this, although we are lucky she wasn’t hit by a car or injured in any other way. Many fearful dogs just disappear and are never seen again. That’s the sad reality of not being quite vigilant enough and thinking love is enough to cure their ills. For Shanna, Nutella, Jordan, Indy and many other ex-refuge dogs, sometimes they get lucky and we find them again. Sometimes they don’t and we are left with the sinking feeling that they have been killed in one way or another.

Regulated Dog Breeds

For ex-pats who bring dogs into France, the laws concerning specific breeds can be a nightmare, especially where staffies are concerned. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT) or staffie is a breed loved by English people, yet can cause you legal issues in France unless you have all the breed paperwork. Even then, you may find yourself in a paperwork minefield. Outlined in this post are all the laws regarding regulated dog breeds in France, including information from Staffie Rescue Association.

In France, two “categories” of dogs exist. The first category is known as the “Attack Dog” category; the second is known as the “Guard Dog or Defence Dog” category. The laws are strict regarding these dogs. You have many obligations and there are certain requirements in order to own a dog of either category.

Category 1

This category is mainly concerned with dogs who are not registered on a genealogical record. In France, this is called the LOF or livre des origines françaises record, and it records the lines of all breeds. Category 1 dogs conform physically to the ‘standards’ of the following dogs:

  • Unregistered Staffordshire Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier, often known as Amstaffs or Pitbulls (NB this does not include SBTs, but this comes with a strong proviso)
  • Boerbulls
  • Unregistered Tosa

Please note that whilst the French call a Boerbull a ‘mastiff’, this does not mean that all mastiffs are banned. Indeed, most mastiff breeds are not category dogs at all. The Boerbull or Boerboel is sometimes called the South African Mastiff. These are not restricted dogs in the UK and it is feasible that any mastiff that a qualified vet deems as being a boerbull may be subject to the consequences of the conditions. If you import a mastiff into France, please note that if you do not have pedigree paperwork for it, you may be facing a long legal battle to keep it. Even if you have UK paperwork for a mastiff, you may find that the French vets are unwilling to accept it and that you have to go through the processes connected to Category 1 dogs.

The same is true of SBTs. In the UK, the breed standard has become so polluted and focused on size and strength that a pedigree SBT may be categorised as a Category 1 dog in France. Your UK kennel club paperwork may not be worth anything if your SBT is particularly large. Indeed, all the Cat 1 dogs at the refuge are dogs that would happily pass breed standards in the UK.

Japanese Tosa are a restricted breed in the UK. Here, they are subject to heavy restrictions.

What are the conditions for keeping a Category One dog?

  1. You cannot buy, sell or give away a category one dog. If your SBT or mastiff has pups in France with a non-LOF dog, these are considered Category One dogs. You cannot import these dogs.
  2. You must have a permit to keep Category dogs. This involves two things. The first is a training course for the owners. From this, you will receive a certificate saying that you are capable of handling a dangerous dog. You must have this certificate before you can apply to keep a category dog. The course is seven hours long and must be delivered by a state-certified dog trainer. There is a theoretical and a practical test. Your dog does not have to be present as part of the training and the certificate is relevant for any category dogs – not just one. The second aspect of this permit is for dogs aged between 8 and 12 months and must be done periodically once they reach this age. They must undergo a behavioural evaluation by a qualified vet who has a licence to assess behaviour. The vet will send a copy to the mairie of the commune where you live. Dogs are judged on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being ‘no particular danger’ and 4 being ‘high risk of being dangerous to certain people or in certain situations’. This evaluation must be redone periodically depending on their position on the scale. You are responsible for the fees of the 7 hour training course and the vet’s behavioural assessment of your dog. Once you have these two elements, you can apply for a permit. Please note that having both of these elements does not mean your mairie will automatically grant you a permit. You must own a permit for each category dog in your possession. You must also supply a copy of their identification details (i.e. a passport or ICAD form), a copy of their rabies jabs (compulsory vaccination every year), a copy of the behavioural assessment, a copy of your own handlers’ certificate, and a copy of your home insurance indicating you are insured for a category dog. For dogs in category 1, you must also have the dog sterilised and provide proof of this. If you move to a new commune, you need a new permit. As long as the behavioural assessments, rabies vaccinations and insurance are all up to date and you do not move to a new commune, your permit will remain valid. If you do not have the permit, your dog can be taken from you and put in a public pound or euthanised. You will also be fined 750€ for each dog without a permit. 
  3. You cannot take your dog into public places, other than on public footpaths. That means you are heavily restricted as to where you can walk them. You cannot take them to cafés or on public transport, or any other public place – other than the footpath. You also cannot live in shared accommodation.
  4. All Category 1 dogs must be sterilised.
  5. All Category 1 dogs must be muzzled and on a lead in public. They may only be walked by an adult.
  6. You must have your dog chipped or identified by tattoo.

Category 2

This category concerns pedigree Tosa, Rottweilers and Amstaffs who have genealogical paperwork from LOF. Please note that the Rottweiler is not a restricted breed in the UK, but it is in France. You cannot import a rottweiler into France without following French regulations. Mixed breed dogs who resemble Rottweilers are also category two dogs.

To keep a category two dog, you must have the relevant paperwork and you must muzzle your dog in public. They must be walked at all times by an adult and cannot be let off lead in public places. The same rules apply as for Category 1 dogs, except sterilisation is not compulsory. Given that any accidental litters from a pedigree dog are automatically considered category 1, though, it is advisable to get your dog sterilised if you cannot absolutely guarantee this condition.

People aged under 18 are not allowed to own a dog of either category. Those with criminal records are not allowed to own category dogs. Even a suspended sentence means you cannot own a category dog.

Things to note:

  • Although Rotties are not category dogs in the UK, they are here.
  • Although your staffie may have UK kennel club paperwork, it may not be acceptable if your dog conforms physically to the size and shape of an Amstaff, which many UK pedigree staffies do.
  • SBTs without any paperwork are considered as category one dogs.
  • You need paperwork to prove your dog is included in the French LOF. This is called a Certificat de Naissance.
  • You also need an identity card for your dog. This comes from SCC (société centrale canine) or ICAD (identification de carnivores domestiques)
  • Do not buy an SBT in France if it does not have a Certificat de Naissance from LOF. It is illegal to do so.
  • The only things that stop your SBT being considered a Category One dog are its inclusion in the LOF database and its Certificat de Naissance.
  • If you want further information about SBTs, or you would like to adopt one, please contact the Staffie Rescue Association who can also provide you with a list of good breeders.
  • If your SBT has pups with a dog not included in LOF as a SBT the pups will automatically be considered category one dogs.
  • The Dogo Argentino is not a restricted breed in France, but it is in the UK, which has implications for those who wish to move back to the UK.

For dedicated and keen enthusiasts, keeping a category two dog is straightforward. Although you may not like the muzzle and lead restrictions, France has much more freedom than the UK, except for rottweilers. The rules regarding SBTs are clear and most staffie lovers would be surprised to see how small French-bred SBTs are in comparison with their UK relatives who have unfortunately suffered from unregulated overbreeding over successive decades in the UK.

Your puppy

Many people are surprised to learn that shelters have puppies. After all, how could such a cute little thing be abandoned so early in life?!


The truth is that many puppies at the refuge arrive mainly as the result of two things. One is the accidental breeding of a litter. The other is simple over-production. As the recession continues its stranglehold on French life, many people turn to a breeding female as a cash machine. If you don’t chip, vaccinate or have to sterilise your dogs, people think it costs nothing. This is untrue, of course, and all dogs sold or exchanged in France are legally required to be chipped. In 2016, laws will come into play to make it even more difficult to become a black market puppy breeder.

Simple common sense would suggest that the market is already flooded. Countless litters of puppies are abandoned at the refuge once they are weaned. That in itself says there’s no money in breeding, especially when many of the dogs are pedigree dogs of small sizes.

So, simply put, there are often puppies at refuges if you are really after a very young dog.

We get the older ones as well, when buyers realise that puppies take a bit of work. You have a short period of six to eight weeks in which to teach them crucial life skills which will make them impossible to live with if you do not.

The first thing we ask of all potential puppy owners is if they have the time and the patience to train a puppy. Even if you were to go to a daily puppy training class for these eight weeks, you would still need to ensure that you are available for sixteen or seventeen hours a day. A puppy is not for the faint of heart.

The second thing you need is bags of energy yourself. This is why we ask older adoptants to reconsider their choice if they want a puppy.

Puppies get in to everything!

There are many things you can do to ensure that your puppy becomes a happy, well-adjusted adult dog. Here are the top ten vital things to teach your puppy in the first six weeks. This is taken from the work of Dr Ian Dunbar, whose website Dog Star Daily needs to be your constant bible for the next couple of months. Bookmark this site as it is the definitive guide to raising a great dog. DO NOT get your puppy without having read his free guide, “Before You Get Your Puppy.” As he says, “If you have your heart set on raising and training a puppy, do make sure you train yourself beforehand.”

I would add that a small number of our adopted puppies are returned weeks, months or even a year after they are adopted, having had no training and having already developed behaviours that will make it hard to find them a home. If you take a puppy, you take an animal at the point in its life where it WILL find a home easily. If you bring it back, you have stolen that animal’s chance of being easily adopted. That’s why puppy training is serious business. Socialisation is crucial, and you can read more about why it’s so important in this article from Dr Jen.

So the ten things your puppy needs you to teach him:

  1. Bite inhibition. The only reason, other than palliative reasons, that the refuge will ever put a dog to sleep is if it fails four bite tests. I used to think, with my own puppy, that bite inhibition was just part of good training. Now I think it is the fundamental part of good training. That means bite inhibition with humans and with other animals. It is your job to take a little land shark and turn it into a dog who doesn’t sink its teeth into everything. For dogs, their mouths are their hands. And we know toddlers grab and touch everything. Dogs will do the same. Here is Dunbar’s post about bite inhibition. You may also find this video from Zak George helpful.
  2. To be used to being touched all over. In your dog’s life, someone IS going to grab him, touch his rear, pull his tail. Most likely it’ll be a child who doesn’t know any better. That’s why it’s vital your dog is desensitised to being touched all over. Regularly touch their paws, massage them, look in their mouths, their ears. Get him used to being clipped if he is a dog who will need clipping, or brushed. Dogs need desensitising to brushes and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how hard it can be to brush children’s hair. It’s worse for dogs because children do eventually grow out of the super-sensitive stage. Dogs will just keep reinforcing the negative experience and each time will be worse. Get them used to the shower, the vet and having nails touched.
  3. Not to jump up. A puppy wants to be up near you and near your face so he can see what’s going on. But a 5kg puppy doing it is very different than a 30kg dog doing it. Nobody likes dogs jumping up, and for many people this can be very intimidating. The easiest way to teach your dog to stop jumping is to teach them when you want them to jump. Many people with smaller dogs bypass this step, as they do with biting, because it’s rarely as dangerous as a big dog doing it, but it is still vital.
  4. Sit. It’s not just a party trick. Sit is a gateway training activity. From this point, you can teach other commands such as “down” and “paw”, but you can also teach “stay”. Teach your puppy that “Sit!” means “I’m waiting for our relationship to start up and I’m excited to go!”
  5. Not to pee in the house. Most dogs who live in a house have to learn this one. It’s a skill we are pretty good at teaching because it’s important to us. More importantly, it’s messy if we don’t. You can find further information about house-training here. Although it is aimed at older dogs, it is as true for puppies. Remember they have small bladders and no real understanding of the messages their bladders are giving them about being full. Accidents will happen, but you need to be constantly focused to ensure your puppy has as few as possible.
  6. That people and other dogs are not a threat. Early socialisation is vital and you need to start after the first set of vaccinations at eight weeks. Make sure that the dogs you are interacting with have their full set of vaccinations or do not come from an environment where there is a high risk of contamination. You should ensure your dog has met a wide range of people before twelve weeks of age, including “children, men and strangers”. You can read more about that in Dunbar’s follow-up document entitled “After you get your puppy.” You also need to allow your dog to play with other dogs and learn when bites hurt, how dogs initiate and end play, how dogs socialise, what is acceptable in the dog world. A dog with great dog-on-dog bite inhibition will be much less likely to resort to teeth in a fight and will settle doggie disputes in painless ways.
  7. What to do when they are left alone. You absolutely must teach your puppy that being left alone is not a punishment nor any real cause for concern. You may not like to have periods when you leave your dog alone when you are together, but it is vital that your dog can occupy himself without resorting to destruction or anxious behaviours. Crate training is a crucial part of this process, but you may prefer to confine your dog to a room instead. Having the right things to chew and plenty to keep them occupied, like Kongs, and removing access to other interesting things to chew or destroy is absolutely vital here. You can teach your dog to settle and to be calm, and these are vital in ensuring you can leave your dog without anxiety.
  8. To walk on a lead. Puppies don’t take well to leads at first and will happily follow you all over the house, so you don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about them running off. In those first few weeks, you may even feel confident walking your dog without a lead, as puppies are like velcro. At the four month stage, the world will start to become more interesting and unless your dog has been trained to come back, and their recall is proofed, you may find it impossible to keep them from investigating the neighbourhood instead of walking to heel as they used to. Walking without pulling is easy to teach to a young puppy. It is not easy to teach to an adult dog.
  9. A perfect “Come!” – great recall is essential. Great recall is also very much dependent on situation, as dogs don’t generalise well. Just because they will come in the house or in the garden doesn’t mean that they will apply the same rules on a walk. Proofing those “Come!” commands is a vital factor to ensuring you can let your dog off the lead and still be in control.
  10. Teach him to get used to collar grabs. Whilst we may not want to ever grab our dog’s collar, it’s the situation in which 20% of bites happen. Teaching them that you touching their collar is a good thing with treats and positive reinforcement is absolutely fundamental if you want to be able to keep your dog safe.

There are many vital things to consider when adopting a puppy, which is why I said it was not for the faint of heart. All of these ten things – and more! – are vital within the first few months of a dog’s life. Following a great programme like Dr Ian Dunbar’s will help you get the best out of your dog in a force-free, positive way which will encourage your pup to make good choices rather than to obey because they are afraid. The things that our parents or grandparents might have done to train a dog, such as rubbing its nose in its urine or tapping it with a rolled-up newspaper are techniques which belong firmly in the past. The sad thing about punishments is that they are very effective at training a dog. Sadly, they do not help train a healthy or well-adjusted dog with whom you can build a trusting and confident partnership.

If you are in any doubt whatsoever, seek the advice of a qualified professional and be prepared to pay for this.

WLTM puppy wp featured

House training

One of the worries many people have about taking on a shelter dog is in house-training it. The good news is that many dogs, including those who have been in the refuge for years, never go to the toilet in the house. Older dogs have bigger bladders and stronger habits. Many dogs wait until they are out of the enclosures before they will go to the toilet, and even in the refuge, they are ‘clean’ because they have been trained to be. It can be very hard for some dogs to break those habits. As someone who has had many foster dogs through her home, I have a few tips for you and a great video.

Toilet training is about creating good habits, and you can start those before you even get home. The great news is that it is much easier with adult dogs who know when they want to eliminate.

Adult dogs often go where they have already been. Uncastrated or castrated male dogs are often keen to go over the top of previous sites to reinforce their scent. They’ll also go where female dogs have gone to ‘over-mark’. Female dogs, on the other hand, can be very lazy and use scent much less. It can be much more difficult to housetrain a female – and that can be for medical reasons related to sterilisation, or because they are less interested in marking territory.

The best thing you can do to encourage a dog to urinate then is to take it to a spot that other dogs have been and wait until they go. You don’t need to use praise with a dog who eliminates outside because they might think you are rewarding them for eliminating rather than for eliminating outside. As Dog Rescue Carcassonne say: “- Giving treats for toileting in the garden, again the dog is being rewarded for what he did not where he did it. Whilst this is not going to be as big a problem as the reprimand, the clever dog will learn to do lots of little wees and never fully empty their bladder. The insecure dog may wee indoors to appease you if you get cross about something else because they know that this is something that pleases you and gets rewarded.”

Make sure as you leave the refuge that the dog has eliminated, especially if you have a long journey.

When you arrive home, you may be keen to get them inside, but keep them on the lead and walk them around the garden until they do their business. Make sure you stay outside for another ten minutes or so because you don’t want to reinforce that doing their business marks the end of your time outside. You don’t want a dog who holds on just so he can enjoy the garden more! A lead will ensure you can keep them in the spot that YOU want them to go, and you can check that they’ve gone properly.

When introducing them to your home, keep them on a lead for the first thirty minutes or so and if they show the remotest leg cock or lady squat, distract them, move them away and take them outside. Walk them all around your home and only when you are happy there’s been no cocking or squatting, let them off the lead. Watch them for the first hour or so to make sure they are not wandering around happily doing their business. If they do, distract, move them away and take them outside again. If a dog never pees in the house, they are never likely to. Once they’ve gone, however, it can be impossible to stop because no matter how you try, that place will still smell of pee and they will want to go again in the same spot. If they do go, a very strong smelling cleaner and some fabric spray can mask it. Bleach is essentially ammonia and the smell resembles that of urine – so no bleach!

Remember that although dogs do not generally like to urinate where they sleep or eat, they may do it where other dogs sleep or eat – thus, they might do it on another dog’s bed or near another dog’s food bowl. Not only that, dogs don’t have a real concept of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ as we do. In the house, there are ‘familiar places’ and ‘unfamiliar places’ and not all are pee-proof in a dog’s mind. Generally, the less you use a room, the more likely it might be to attract a dog’s attention as a spare toilet. Keep doors shut and supervise your dog’s movements – watch for the signs they might be about to go. Good management is crucial.

After this, treat your new rescue like a puppy. Take them outside the very first thing in the morning. Wait until they’ve done their business before going back inside, even if it means standing outside watching them in the pouring rain. Take them before and after eating. Take them if they’ve just stopped playing. Take them if they’ve just woken up. Take them before bedtime. Don’t be afraid to remove all water sources after 9pm for a couple of nights and take them out before bedtime. Empty bladders are less likely to stimulate the need to pee.

Dog poop generally comes just before or after each meal. If you feed twice a day, expect them to go twice a day and expect it to be within 30 minutes either side of regular mealtimes. It can take up to a month for their bodies to get used to a new food regime, so be patient and supervise them until you know they’ve gone.

Remember, it’s on you to supervise, not on the dog to tell you. Accidents happen because you’ve not been quite vigilant enough, so don’t be cross at the dog. Do not punish the dog or rub their nose in it. It’s up to us to teach them and accidents – though frustrating – are to be ignored.

The tough thing to work on can be when the dog is alone and unsupervised in your home, especially if you have to go out or work. A smaller, enclosed, secure space is better for this, especially if it is a place they regularly sleep or eat in. Many dog trainers recommend a crate for this very reason. As it can be very hard to stop a dog going indoors once it’s started, crate training can help with that.

This video from Zak George talks you through some of the best practices for toilet training, including crate training. Be aware – crates are not for all dogs. As he says, “crate training will never be acceptable for some dogs.”

Finally, if you are having real problems, especially if your dog seems to be trying to pee and not able to go, take them to the vet. Real struggles to keep it in may be related to a medical issue, not a behavioural issue.

Further reading:

Dr Marty Becker

Lost animals

If you have lost your dog, do not despair. The large majority turn up quickly and most turn up within hours.

First, it is worth waiting for a short period of about half an hour wherever you last saw your dog. Many dogs, even on unfamiliar territory, have the ability to retrace their steps. If your dog has escaped on a walk, they may well make their way home if they are within 10 km or so. If your dog has escaped from your home, they will probably have their bearings and be able to return.

The main problem with waiting for dogs to return to you is that they may encounter dangers out in the real world, or they may become a danger themselves. The only time when you may feel there is little point waiting for your dog is when your dog is very fearful or timid, or if your dog is relatively new. If you can, enlist family members or friends to stay at home or where you lost sight of the dog whilst you organise a better search party.

When you are happy that the dog can get back in at your home or that there is someone waiting where you lost sight of the dog, start to do an initial tour of the area on bike or by car, using wider and wider circles but coming back frequently to where they ran from. If you see people, ask them if they have seen your dog. Remember to look near bins and houses, and to listen out for the Midnight Barking. If your dog passes a garden, the dogs there may well bark and let you know where your dog is.

Circle back on yourself and then expand outwards again. Intercepting your dog as early as possible means that they are less likely to run off beyond their limits and get lost.

Stop at shops, houses or businesses and ask them to keep an eye out for your dog. Leave them a mobile phone number.

Ask if a friend can supervise an online campaign and start to print out leaflets to hand out.

Contact ICAD with your dog’s details and make sure your contact details are up to date. You can also allow anyone who finds the dog to contact you directly.

Keep an eye out on and chien-perdu to check if anyone has found your dog.

Publish an announcement on these sites and also on Facebook along with a couple of good-quality photos. Don’t forget to put in as much detail as possible. What you might describe as a Parson Russell terrier may well be a ratier to somebody else. Leave out a little detail so that you can ask the finder to verify the dog. You would be horrified to learn how many people will take advantage of you at a time like this. You may, for instance, want to withhold the collar colour or a distinctive patch.

Many dogs turn up overnight. They are hungry and tired, their adventure is over and they come home. Fearful dogs will need a different approach as they will need you to continue looking for them. It is likely they will ‘go to ground’ because they are scared.

If your dog is still missing after 12 hours, print out posters to post on lampposts, in letterboxes and to give to neighbours where the dog went missing. Check with vets within 20km, with the emergency services and with the fourrière (pound) to see if your dog has been found. Use your Yellow Pages to ensure you cover them all. Even an elderly dog can cover ten miles in a day. If they are picked up, they may be driven to a vet or fourrière that is further away.

Tell your post delivery person, local bakers and local merchants who drive about. They may well see your dog or speak to someone who has. Share your dog’s photo everywhere but don’t give up hope. Most lost dogs manage to make their way home safely. The more people looking for them, the more likely it is that they will be found.



Found animals

What to do if you find a stray dog in France.


  1. If you can easily catch the dog with no threat to your person, check if the dog has a collar tag and call the owner if so.
  2. If the dog has no collar or you cannot safely catch the dog, report the dog/take the dog to the mairie of the commune in which the dog was found. In lieu of this, you may also wish to try a local vet or the gendarmerie. N.B. please do not take the dog directly to the pound (fourrière) yourself. If you cannot easily trap the dog yourself, contact the mairie or the emergency services directly.
  3. Assist in sharing announcements locally and online. Posting signs in the neighbourhood and leaving details with local post office workers/police officers/bakers or delivery vans can also work. Local vets are also an option.

From stray to shelter

It is quite common in France to see a wandering dog. Please bear in mind that you are under no obligation to try and catch a dog. Not only that, you may find yourself with injuries from dogs who may not wish to be caught or may be aggressive with strangers. Many dogs are very capable of returning home without intervention and it can be tricky to know if you are picking up a stray or if you are interrupting the morning constitutional of a dog who walks himself. If the dog is moving cheerfully and purposefully, it probably knows where it is. It is worth keeping an eye on this dog from a distance. If the dog is slow, approaches you, seems lethargic, distressed or injured, or is out late at night or on a busy road, it is worth intervening. A collar is often a sign that the dog has caring owners who would like it back, especially one with a tag. Dogs without collars are statistically more likely to have been abandoned rather than straying.
If you are having any trouble catching a stray dog, but you are sure the dog isn’t likely to find its own way home easily or safely, there are options you can take.

Your first port of call for any animal found straying on public land is to contact the mairie of the commune. Only the maire or his staff have the power to seize or order the seizure of a stray animal. The emergency services can act in their place if the mairie is shut. Usually, once notified of a stray, they will send out an employee of the commune who is charged with the apprehension of stray animals. Sometimes they will contact the pound (fourrière) for assistance, or may ask the chasse association or a local vet. Once the animal is picked up, the maire calls the local pound who have responsibility for stray animals and the animal will pass to the local pound. Please do not try to capture a dog who seems very timid or very aggressive. The pound staff are very skilled in handling dogs and could save you from a nasty injury.

If your mairie are a little reticent in helping, you may find your local chasse master or mistress is a great help. They may be able to help you or lend you humane traps. You may wish to contact the fourrière to borrow a humane trap but bear in mind that few are big enough for dogs larger than a labrador. Your local vet may also have traps.

If you manage to catch an animal that is straying, your obligation is to take it to the mairie of the commune in which the animal was found. You may also want to take it to a local vet to see if they have a tattoo or electronic chip registered to a particular owner, but please understand that the vet may or may not know the legal proceedings if the animal is not registered. Some have good relationships with the pound and may be able to bypass the normal channels, but you are under no obligation to take the animal to the vet. Some vets have an agreement with their local mairie to handle stray animals. You can also take the dog to your local gendarmerie or police nationale, who are often equipped with microchip readers. If the animal is injured a local vet can administer the necessary first aid.

This system is a well-established one and most mairies will not look surprised if you turn up with a dog. Some have special holding areas or kennels particularly designed to keep the dog safe for the short period before the pound arrive to pick up the dog. The maire may also know to whom the dog belongs and may reunite the animal with their owner.

Once the maire has received the dog, most have a contract with a particular pound for collection of stray animals. The dog will pass to the relevant pound. Departments in France have a legal obligation to have a pound to deal with the stray animals.

At the pound, the staff will try every available method to find the owners of the dog. Their first check is for a collar with a phone number, a chip or tattoo. They also have access to national databases and other sites – tools that are much further reaching than those of your local vet. Please bear in mind that sticking a found dog on Facebook will no doubt be a useless undertaking for many older French people and just because a dog isn’t on Chien Perdu doesn’t mean it does not have owners looking for it, albeit in more ‘old-fashioned’ ways.

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you find a dog who is very skinny, it is not necessarily mistreated. It may be old, ill or have been so scared of people that the only way it has allowed itself to come in close enough proximity to be caught is because it is so weak. A healthy, well-nourished dog may hide for weeks and only seek contact or be found when they are too weak to run away. It is also worth remembering that the dog may have travelled a very long way in pursuit of a deer or another dog and can turn up in a pitiful state when lost. Do not keep the dog yourself: this is theft.

You can also be of great assistance by running a publicity campaign online and in your local area to help the pound relocate an owner. Check on Chien Perdu and put up an announcement in ‘chiens trouvés’ if the fourrière haven’t already done so. Contact Pet Alert for your department on Facebook. (e.g. Pet Alert 16) and for neighbouring departments. Check the refuge website (do a search for ‘fourrière’ or ‘syndicat de la fourrière’ plus the number of your department) e.g. fourrière 87 and keep an eye on their website/other social media. Mostly you will find that the fourrière will carry out these activities but you can assist if not. You can also contact ICAD although the fourrière will also do this.

A very useful thing to do is running local campaigns as the fourrières do not have the ability to do this.

What to do if I would like to adopt an animal I have found

For many reasons, people form an emotional bond with stray animals but please remember that the animal does not belong to you, even if unidentified or if paperwork is out of date. Just because the dog is not chipped does not mean there is not a family looking for it and many ‘unidentified’ dogs find their home again. Another reason the dog must pass through the pound is to enforce the laws about animal identification and they can impose a fine on anyone who allows their dog to stray or who has not tattooed or chipped their dog, or kept their records up to date. A final reason is that the pound is the liaison with the state veterinary services who keep an eye on disease. All stray animals must be checked by a vet after 90 days of their arrival in an animal shelter to ensure they have not shown signs of contagious diseases like rabies.

So what happens at the pound?

First, the pound check for owners. They may also be in touch with a large number of other associations and agencies who can help to trace owners or find homes.

Then the pound are responsible for checking the health of an animal.

The animal has a minimum stay of 8 days whilst efforts are made to trace owners. During this time, if you have become attached to the animal, you may ask that their time is spent with you instead of at the pound. You can also make it known that you would like to adopt the animal if its current owners are not found.

After their time in the pound, there are a number of things that can happen. Please remember that departments are under no legal obligation to re-home strays or to have an animal shelter that can rehome animals. Some ‘animal shelters’ are extended pounds who can keep dogs alive until they run out of space. This could be as short as one day or as long as ten years. Some have a relationship with a refuge/SPA (société protectrice animaux) who will attempt to re-home the animal. Some refuges have a policy of euthanasia. Others do not. If you are worried about what will happen once the dog has spent its eight obligatory days in the pound, please ask the pound. This varies from department to department. Do not assume, however, that it is instant euthanasia or that the staff in pounds where euthanasia is a sad necessity are happy to carry out this work.

If the animal passes into a refuge, its chip details will be re-registered, or it will be chipped for the first time. It will also be vaccinated. Its 90-day health monitoring will continue. If the dog is adopted in this time, its new owners become responsible for the 90-day health visit. If the dog is still at the refuge, the refuge staff are responsible for this health check-up.

In the pound, the dog may accumulate fees and fines for their owners. Firstly there is a fine for allowing an animal to stray. Secondly, each day there is a fee for their upkeep. Finally, there is a fine for having a non-identified animal. For this reason, a stray can quickly accumulate many fines and fees and an owner may choose to surrender the animal rather than pay. Some owners are never found. In these cases, the dog passes over to an animal shelter, where one exists. Animal shelters have their own policies and practices for rehoming. Please remember that animal shelters (refuges/SPA) and pounds (fourrières) are legally different entities, even though there is often a strong bond between them and a collaborative approach to the animals in their care. Some pounds and refuges are on the same site which makes it confusing. Although refuge staff can be helpful and redirect you, please understand that there is not much use in contacting your local refuge and that you need to be in touch with the maire.

Your first stop off point is always the mairie of the commune in which the dog was found, who will direct you further if necessary. Unless you choose to intervene further, this is the first and only visit you need to make.