One of the most important figures in dog training made his groundbreaking behavior discovery in Saint Petersburg, Russia and in more recent times, the former Leningrad was known as a heaven on earth to stray dogs. We learned a little about both those chapters in the city’s history as well as exploring some current canine connections as we continued the adventures of The American Canine in Europe.
We spent three days in this coastal city. While there are still numerous remnants of the Soviet era, it is also filled with gorgeous architecture harkening back to its heyday in the nineteenth century. Originally founded by Peter the Great, it grew from a small fishing village to a metropolitan mecca, and was home to some of the most influential writers of the day.
As a dog trainer, this city holds a special place as the home of a researcher whose work forms one of the pillars of science-based training, Ivan Pavlov. The Nobel laureate’s work, originally looking at the digestive system of dogs, shed light on what would become the key part of the theory of classical conditioning. Today, a statue honoring the scientist stands outside the Pavlov First St. Petersburg Medical University. A memorial dedicated to the subjects of his experiments sits further back on the school grounds. (We did not get a chance to see the statue and this is not my photo.)
Dogs, of course, played a big part in the day-to-day lives of St. Petersburg from the beginning and that is reflected in art. St. Petersburg is a city rich in artistic history, maybe most notably in the Hermitage. From the first hall we visited and throughout the exhibits, we saw in painting corners, in statues, and even in the ornate trimwork, signs of how our best friends spent their lives entwined with ours throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. There were even a pair of working dogs manning the guardshack outside the museum.
Out on the streets were fewer signs of our canine companions.
Until just a few years ago, the city was also considered a heaven on earth for stray dogs. News stories came out about how street dogs in the urban areas had even learned to use public transit to get around.(https://www.ranker.com/list/russian-dogs-learned-to-ride-public-transportation/justin-andress)
However, in a brutal move, the Russian government cracked down on loose animals in the months leading up to the 2018 World Cup. (https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/may/29/russia-stray-dogs-world-cup-cull-sochi-yekaterinburg)
As a state policy, the Russian government denies the euthanasia policy, but there was not a stray dog to be seen during our visit. It was a cruel and ironic twist for an event which had a canid cousin, the Eurasian Wolf as a mascot.
Speaking of the wolf, we had one more stop during our European adventure. We traveled to a country which recently adopted the wolf as their national animal. That’s coming up in a future installment of The American Canine.
Until then, get out there and do something with your dog!