An expat survival guide to owning a dog in Germany
Germans love dogs - fact!
I have to admit, I’m hesitant to write about a subject so close to the average German’s heart. While cats, hamsters, gerbils and birds could mostly be described as “mere” pets, I would definitely say that dogs are closer to being considered family members here in Germany.
The German dog obsession
Indeed, Germany is a dog-crazy country, to the point of obsession - a true canine paradise. I can say this with absolute certainty, having observed dog owners here on many occasions. It would be safe to say that, in Germany, some dogs have better lives than many people in developing countries.
But don’t take my word for it - take a look for yourselves. All you have to do is to go to a website that sells them, such as DeineTierwelt or eBay, and see the level of information that dog sellers request from potential buyers - your jaw will drop.
Buying a puppy, or sitting an exam?
For example, let’s take the most popular breed in Germany, a pedigree black labrador. The advert states that a proud mother-labby is expected to give birth in a few months. Potential buyers need to send an email and include their personal information - as in, write who they are and what they do.
In addition, they need to explain their current living situation, where they live, and how much space they have. They should also state why they think they would be a perfect fit for their new family member. Not to mention the fact that they would need to part with a few thousands euros to obtain the new-born.
Dog ownership: 50-50
It might seem mad to you - it certainly does to me - but here in Germany people seem more than willing to oblige: they wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow at these requirements. In fact, in recent years, the demand for dogs has gone through the roof. According to the website Statista, almost nine million households in Germany have a dog, and no fewer than 1,3 million have two dogs. Compare that to the 9,3 million households that do not have a four-legged friend.
Most dogs in Germany have their own passports; they are also microchipped and vaccinated shortly after birth. Furthermore, all dog owners must have pet insurance and pay dog tax for a bargain price of at least 90 euros per annum.
Once you’ve become a proud dog owner, paid all your taxes and gotten all the documents, it’s time to register your puppy with a dog trainer. Although this is not obligatory per se, you’d be well advised to do so - how else are you going to get your dog to follow all the German rules?
“Unleash your Dog!”
In most public places, dogs must be leashed, unless there are specific signs that tell you otherwise. There is an exception to the rule: you can get an actual written exemption for your dog called the “Gehorsamsprüfung” (obedience test) if you have proven that your dog is well-behaved and does not pose any danger to other members of the public. That’s an actual thing!
And from what I’ve seen here in Germany, dogs are model citizens, following the rules better than some humans. I’ll never forget the time I crossed the road on red and, out of the corner of my eye, saw an older gentleman with his dog on the other side of the street.
Both were waiting patiently for the green light and - you might think I’ve gone barking mad, if you’ll excuse the pun - I swear the dog was giving me a dirty look, exactly the same look of shame and disbelief that I was getting from her owner. They were probably thinking that I should be on a leash myself.
Who leads the pack?
If you see a dog being walked outside, you’ll inevitably witness their owners following obediently behind, picking up their poop. Although such a spectacle is completely normal in the Bundesrepublik, and indeed in many other countries, it does make me wonder: “who really is at the top of the food chain?”