Cultural Wednesday: Canine Companions

This last weekend I dog-sat probably the best behaved dog I’ve ever had the pleasure to host. His name is Gir and he is from America. We took long walks along the river. We cuddled in bed. We adventured to Pohang. We had an overall fabulous time.

During our time together, I came to notice things I’d never really considered with much attention before. Like how Koreans treat their dogs. And it reminded me of my time in Germany, when I paid attention to such things.

Let’s do a compare/contrast.


Dogs are companions, but also animals. They are not necessarily treated like beloved children. Often, they are not allowed on the furniture, or really held as if they were babies meant to be coddled. But dogs have rights. In fact, Germany has many laws regarding the treatment of dogs.

First, not just anyone can buy a dog. You must have approval. It means there aren’t fickle pet-owners who return or abandon or own too many dogs or pets. It also means more bureaucratic paperwork, but ORDNUNG.

Second, there are requirements regarding how dogs must be treated. For example, you can’t simply let your dog out into the backyard a couple times a day like some small child, you monster!  Germans believe a dog should be walked. They must also be trained. In a country densely populated with a multitude of public transport, dogs can’t be chasing squirrels all willy-nilly on the metro. They also must be socialized to handle people and distractions.

Dogs, all-in-all, are respected animals that deserve a good home and a good life, but they are not children either. You can let your children out in the backyard all you want.



Small dogs are companions, all dogs are food (the outrage, I know). Many Korean people are truly terrified of ‘big’ dogs. And I mean medium to large, like Labrador to Great Dane. Most pet dogs here are toy-sized with curly fluffy fur and so-ugly-its-cute faces. And yes, many Koreans eat dog meat. This practice exists today, but the concept is changing. People are beginning to regard dogs as pets rather than food, but the change is slow and steady, like that tortoise who won that race once.

Pet dogs are treated like children here, otherwise. They are coddled and catered to and allowed to run the house. They are often not trained at all, and many are mean or vicious toward people or animals they don’t know because they haven’t been socialized. While walking Gir, I was scared to let him near other dogs because I thought, NO, YOU HELLHOUND, GET THEE AWAY FROM GIR, THE ANGEL-DOG.

And Koreans don’t understand why this is wrong yet. Mostly because they don’t have access to the information. Most of that information is in English or other foreign languages on the internet. Korean resources are limited in both availability and knowledge.



We lay somewhere between the extreme spectrum represented above. We do not have the GERMAN ORDNUNG requiring government approval to own a dog, but we also respect dogs as animals, having passed the point of harvesting them for food.

There are things I’d love to adopt from Germany, though. The idea that owners should be held accountable for how they treat their dogs, to the point of what quality care actually looks like, is appealing. As well as ridding shelters and stores of customers who will adopt a dog only to return it a month or two later.

We have a lot of shady practices—dog-fighting, puppy farms, over-housing. Though, at the same time, many of those things are already illegal.


What do you like/dislike about the different ways we treat dogs?




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