Sweden’s dog culture: a story of equality and lagom

They say you can tell a lot about people from the way they behave towards the animals. Sweden is no exception. You can tell a lot about the Swedes from their love and affection for their petsDogs are particularly popular in Sweden and have been such for hundreds of years. From dog sledging to living with them under the same roof.

There is even a Swedish proverb that suggests that “one should not judge a dog from its fur”. Right! We agree! But we can tell that the Swedes treat their dogs equally. How Nordic! They too have rights (really?) and their owners have obligations too.

Are there any Nordic values behind the Swedes’ “vov-vov”* affection and respect?
* this is the sound of a dog barking, according to Swedes

How are pets (dogs included) protected in Sweden?

Sweden is a dog paradise. Or better, a paradise for dogs. Or both. Dogs and pets, in general, are protected by law and any act of cruelty on them is considered an offence. Also, they all have a set of fundamental rights:
  • to be provided with sufficient water, food, care and space
  • to live in an environment that promotes their health and allows for natural behaviour
  • to travel in the transport means, in a way that provides shelter and protection

Are there any bonus rights for dogs in Sweden? 

Sure! The Swedes treat their dogs as family members so they cater to their needs more or less the same (or similar) way they do for their kids. By law, dogs in Sweden must be allowed to be taken out for a walk at least every 6 hours. What? Well, this is why dog daycare centres have sprung around the country, so they can take care of the dogs while their owners are at work. There are plenty of pet sitters too. Smart!

If the dogs are kept indoors, they must have a view of a window, that allows sunlight. Cool! And they are allowed to travel by bus or train, given they are on a leash or in a carrier. More and more Swedish companies allow their employees to bring their dogs to the office so yes, commuting safely is a priority.

When out for a walk, dogs must be on a leash (even in parks) unless it is a forest or any other open space. But still, you have to keep a close eye on them there, as well. In some parks, there are specific closed areas where dogs are allowed to be free and yup, interact and socialize with other dogs. Remember the law we talked about above? So lagom: to train body and spirit!

How can you treat dogs like a true Swede?

Swedes treat dogs like they are equal members of their family or household. The sense of equality is very strong and no Swede regards dogs and pets in general as just animals that need to be fed and that’s it. Their schedule can be centred around the dog’s needs. Really! Listen how!

The dogs go to work or on holidays with their owners. Daily walks out of the house are also in the daily plan. More than once. Remember? Every 6 hours! Thank God Sweden has a loooot of outdoor space. Nature is just a couple of minutes away (parks are all around) or a little longer drive to the nearest lake or forest. Don’t forget! There is the “Allemansrätten“, the universal freedom to roam anywhere in the country. Dogs are entitled to it too.

There can be weekly training sessions too. Speaking of training, this is something that has paramount importance. The Swedes find it very odd if one’s dogs are simply left in the house or yard playing. The proper thing to do is to train them, even become members of clubs and associations and take part in competitions. Go for it!

It does not feel right not to say anything about lagom though. Well, there is lagom with dogs too. The Swedes believe their dogs must be healthy and agile as well as mentally balanced. All dogs in the country take intelligence and personality tests and their results are registered in a nation-wide database.

So, Olaf, Odin or Max (find your Swedish dog name here) live a happy life. We’d say “wow” but “vov” sounds more appropriate!
Photo: Alexander Hall/imagebank.sweden.se