Wau-Wau! Wuf-Wuf! What’s that sound? It’s a German dog of course, or at least that’s a free lesson on how you’d say bow-wow or woof-woof in German! If you’re a dog owner or rely on a service dog, it can be stressful figuring out if you can bring your furry best friend with you when you head abroad.
Good news for all you Germany-bound dog owners; Germans love dogs and the country welcomes most puppers! The history of dog culture is deep-rooted in Germany. These four-legged friends have been essential members of German families and contributing members of the German society for centuries, which makes sense considering that Germany is the original home to over 20 well-known breeds, from the adorable Dachshund to the unmistakable German Shepherd.
As well as being furry siblings and children, over the years Germans have used dogs for protection, guard duty, combat, rescue, bomb disposal, catching criminals even laying phone cables! It’s also worth noting that Germany pioneered “seeing-eye” guide dogs for the visually impaired.
So, is dog culture different to the U.S. or other counties? Are the dog laws different? You betcha, and you came to the richtig place to learn all about service dog laws in Germany, dog ownership laws in Germany, dog breeding laws in Germany and more!
1. EU Pet Scheme; Passport and Vaccinations
When traveling to Germany, you’ll no doubt know that you’ve got to get your paperwork (and vaccinations if you’re there for a while) in order before they’ll let you in the country – the same is for your dog! Germany is part of the EU Pet Scheme, which means that if you want to bring your pet pooch or service dog into Germany, you need to get a pet passport. These documents prove ownership of the animal and have records of their essential vaccinations (plus it’s kind of cute for a dog to have a puppy passport). Make sure you get these vaccinations and documents squared away before you leave!
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2. Legal Breeds in Germany
Another thing to check before your dog packs their suitcase is whether or not the breed is legal with Germany. Rightly or wrongly, the unfortunate fact is that certain breeds are illegal to own or bring into Germany on both federal and state levels. Luckily, there are a few exceptions to this rule and these prohibited breeds can be brought into Germany if:
- The prohibited breed is not staying in Germany for longer than four weeks (intended for tourists).
- The prohibited breed originates from/was born in Germany and is being returned.
- The Prohibited breed is a security/watchdog, service dog, guide dog, or rescue dog.
Be warned! You will need to provide all the same pet passport paperwork as well as additional info to prove that the doggo is a good boy, such as a pedigree certificate, or good character certificate.
3. Where are your papers?
Dog ownership is more than just having a loving furball at your feet – it’s a HUGE commitment and no one understands this better than the Germans. If you intend to adopt and own a dog in Germany, be prepared to pay a yearly dog tax, pay dog insurance fees, and you must have them chipped.
Failure to adhere to these means no dog for you. The spaying and neutering of all dogs (except by registered breeders) is also a legal requirement – consider saying that last bit reeeally quietly around your dog!
4. Dog Leash Laws in Germany
When out and about with your doge, they must be collared and you must keep them on a leash whenever you are in public streets – letting them off the leash can land you with a fine. When in open public spaces, you can take your pal off the leash, but you must re-leash them if someone approaches the pair of you. Violating this law catched a fine of up to €5,000.
“But I see dogs in Germany off the leash all the time!” You say, to which we reply; “Yes, because those dogs are good boys and because the owners are good boys too!” Notice that ALL of these unleashed dogs have little green tags in their collars; that means they and their owners have gone through the necessary steps to allow the dog to walk unleashed.
In order to walk around with your dog in public spaces without a leash, your dog must first be 15 months or older and you must own a dog handlers certificate or Hundeführerschein. In order to obtain one of these you need to attend a dog training school (don’t worry, they’re EVERYWHERE in Germany), pass a written theory exam of dog ownership and commands, before you and your puppy pal complete a practical exam to demonstrate that your dog understands and follows commands to the letter.
Once you’ve completed these exams, you can apply for the Hundeführerschein. Once you pay for it you will get your certificate and the “green tag” (or grüne Plakette) to affix to your dog’s collar.
5. Clean Up After Your Dog
This should go without saying no matter where you are in the world, but you must clean up after your dog if they lay some dog eggs. No matter who you are or if your dog is a pet, working dog or service animal, you are legally responsible for your dog’s doodoos, and leaving poo on the ground isn’t just antisocial, it’s also illegal that can land you a fine of up to €5,000.
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6. Don’t Cage Your Dog All Day
It’s pretty common here in the U.S. for some dog owners to put their pets in cages while the owner is out of the house. There might be good reasons behind this, like protecting the home from a bored dog or protecting a bored dog from getting into stuff that could harm it.
In Germany however, it is considered animal abuse and is illegal to keep a dog caged up for more than 5 hours at a time and illegal to keep a dog chained up indoors for any amount of time or reason. Also, note that leaving a dog on a balcony is not a good alternative to leaving them caged up – German law views this as equal to caging the animal.
If you’re heading out and have to leave your fuzz-buddy caged for more than 5 hours, plan to have someone let them out of the cage before or at the 5-hour mark to let them stretch their legs, have a bite to eat, and take care of “business”.
Germans take this law VERY seriously. Breaking it could land you a fine of up to €25,000. That is not a typo.
7. Wuf! Dog Barking Laws
There are a few rules when it comes to serial yappers. If your dog is outside, you must be sure to limit any barking or whining to the absolute minimum, during what are considered “quiet times” (1-3pm and 10pm-6am). Outside of these quiet times, any continuous barking must not exceed 10 minutes, or more than a total of 30 minutes over the course of a day. If your dog is a barky boy, consider keeping them indoors.
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8. Everyone Loves a Dog in Uniform
There’s a pretty common stereotype that Germans go ga-ga for a good uniform. As well as informing the world of your affiliation, they can make the wearer look pretty dashing too! It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in Germany, all working, guide, and service dogs must wear the appropriate uniform. A brightly colored vest or tabard with the dog’s role written on the side will be required.
You will also need to carry paperwork with you at all times confirming the dog’s working or service status and a doctor’s note stating your requirement for such a dog. If you can find one, it’s handy to find a vest or tabard with window pockets to slide this paperwork into.
9. Get the Correct Collar
The exceptional training that every domestic dog in Germany undergoes has made behavioral collars virtually nonexistent – in fact, many have been outlawed because they are considered either cruel, ineffective compared to training or both.
If you use a shock collar, prong collar or choke collar to moderate your dog’s behavior, lose it before you go to Germany. It will be confiscated at the border and the German border guard (who, being German, is almost certainly a dog person) will think you’re a bully.
10. No more than 5
In Germany, it is illegal to own more than 5 cats, dogs, or ferrets (as if someone can survive with any less than 16 ferrets – whatever, the Germans seem to cope). The reasons behind this are noise and animal cruelty laws; too many dogs will likely result in too much barking as well as poor pups pitted against each other for your undivided attention.
If you have a lot of dogs and want to bring them to Germany with you, be aware of this law and that you will be limited to bringing no more than 5 with you – although considering the amount you’ll need to spend on vaccinations and a pooch passport for one dog, you’ll probably want to keep that number low anyway!
11. Dog Bite Laws in Germany
In Germany, all dogs, trained or otherwise are legally considered unpredictable, their behavior subject to change from good boy to bad dog in the blink of an eye. The owner of the dog is legally and financially liable for any damage their dog commits, especially bites, even if the owner has tried to control their dog correctly and the dog has no history of violent behavior.
If your dog bites someone (or their dog), they will ask you for your name and contact information and you will have to financially compensate the injured party for any medical and travel expenses incurred due to the bite, in addition to monetary compensation for any damaged clothing or property, and compensation for pain and suffering.
Serious biting incidents will be reported to the police, and your dog given a doggy criminal record. Failure to pay up will land you in court, paying a heck of a lot more than you would have originally, and maybe having your dog taken away.
If your dog has more than one record of violence in Germany, the injured party has grounds to sue and the animal may have to be muzzled in public from then on, if not taken away.
Most German dog owners will have this, but if you know your dog is a biter or excitable, get yourself animal liability insurance (Tierhalterhaftpflicht) to help cover any costs from a potential bite.
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12. Where can/can’t I bring or leave my Dog in Germany?
As mentioned at the top of this article, Germany is super dog friendly, so pet dogs are widely accepted in most establishments and service or guide dogs in every establishment. The major exceptions are grocery stores, butchers (go figure), and restaurants with open kitchens, where no dogs are allowed (there are some exceptions for guide and service dogs).
Bear in mind that every business is different and has the right to refuse the entry of your doggo – keep an eye out for the “no dogs allowed” sign (Kein Hund erlaubt). Well-behaved puppers can be tied up outside businesses that don’t allow dogs, but for no more than 30 minutes.
You can take any dog on public transport, provided you follow the rules. If you have a small dog, you can take it on for free, however, it must be in a carry case in order to travel with it on public transport. If your dog won’t fit in a carry case you’ll have to buy it a ticket (normally for half the price of an adult ticket), have the animal on a leash, and with a muzzle.
No matter if the dog is big or small, contained or not, they have to stay on the floor – those seats are for humans only! There are exceptions to the payment rule for people with guide or service dogs, or holders of weekly, monthly or annual transit passes.
Your dog is allowed to take car rides with you too, so long as you buckle up big dogs or carry cases with small dogs inside. Violating these dog seatbelt laws is the same as violating human seatbelt laws in Germany and German traffic police are very serious about both.
Try not to leave your dog in a car for long, especially during hot months; even with windows rolled down, it can be a death sentence for the dog.
Although it’s common to see dogs on beaches, and children’s play parks in the U.S., it is illegal to bring dogs to either for hygiene and safety reasons.
BONUS: Future Dog Walking Laws in Germany?
What about potential future dog laws in Germany? There is currently a drive to introduce legislation in Germany to make it a legal requirement for ALL dog owners to ensure each of their dogs gets walked twice a day, with a total walk time of no less than one hour per day. One wonders if there wasn’t some political pooch pushing for extra walkies!
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