There are around ten million dogs in Germany, more than in any other EU country. Perhaps this is because owning a dog suits the local mindset, involving organisation, group activities and a healthy amount of red tape. Think owning a dog is all about fun and companionship? There’s a lot more to it than that – especially in Germany!
Have a dog yourself? We reached out to our international readers to learn about your experiences of having a dog in Germany – and we've now concluded that dog ownership can be a powerful factor in making you more 'German’. In partnership with insurance company Coya, here's your guide to how …
Being patient with bureaucracy
If you move to Germany with a dog, the hurdles that presents may be among your first experiences with German bureaucracy. Prior to arriving, dogs must be microchipped and have an EU pet passport, in addition to a rabies shot (and there are restrictions on how soon prior to arriving this can be given).
Most of the time, dogs arriving in Germany from another country will not have to go into quarantine – however, there may be some rare exceptions. It's always best to check up-to-date German government information websites.
As American expat Amanda Dawn told us, you need to “make sure your dog is registered at your local Bürgerbüro (municipal office), and pay the tax for being a dog owner and get their licences”. These taxes can vary widely depending on where you live – for example, in Berlin, you can expect to pay €120 per dog, in Munich, around €100.
You can expect to pay more for each subsequent dog you register. Your dog’s details will be taken, including their microchip identification, and you’ll have to pay a fee. Getting your paperwork is a rite of passage in becoming ‘German’ – and there will be no shortage of it if you have a dog!
More patience please – you're on probation!
Bringing a dog into your home isn’t as easy as heading to a pet store and picking a puppy in the window – the sale of dogs at pet shops is prohibited in Germany. To get a dog, you must adopt one from a shelter, a tierverein (animal society) or a licensed breeder.
This can be a long process, involving questionnaires, home visits and probationary periods of ownership. All of these groups are extremely keen on finding the right home for their dogs, and will tell you over and over again that this is not a step to be taken lightly. Again the German love of bureaucracy shines through – bear with it and give yourself a pat on the back once it's all done!
Knowing new laws (on keeping your dog fit)
Germans take veterinary health seriously – you’ll be amazed at how many vets you'll come across, especially in more rural regions with a higher percentage of working dogs. This focus on health extends to paying close attention to what dogs are eating and how often they’re walked. Don’t be surprised if a German tells you that your canine friend is looking a little tubby!
The German federal government is highly likely to legislate mandatory exercise for dogs twice a day sometime in 2021. The proposed 'dog walking law' has attracted ridicule – but Germans love to legislate what would otherwise be common sense.
Even if your dog is in great shape, you can never rule out an unexpected veterinary bill. Coya's pet health insurance covers 80 percent of the costs for unexpected, necessary surgical interventions on your dog – and the company's website and app are available in English, as well as German.
Socialising your dog – and yourself!
When we asked dog-owning readers of The Local about their experiences, the biggest response related to how having dogs made them more accepted among their German neighbours. As Laura Borrell, a Briton living in Berlin, told us: “One of my neighbours, who also owns a dog, said she might not have spoken to us when we first moved here, had it not been for our dogs! I speak okay German but my husband doesn’t and I think walking the dogs has opened up conversations for him!”
Madeleine Oliver, who lives in the Black Forest, has had similar experiences. She says: “There are quite a few dogs in our village, nearly all rescue dogs, two from abroad. We often walk our dogs together and when I am out and about on my own with the dog I chat with other dog owners I meet.”
Keeping in line with the German love of turning everything into a team sport, there are any number of dog walking clubs and teams for those who enjoy dog training –- but as Madeleine tells us: ‘“Third party dog insurance is mandatory, even if you don't visit a dog school”.
Protecting your dog and yourself with insurance
Germans love insurance. They’ll insure everything, from their homes and possessions right down to the smallest members of their family. Depending on your Bundesland (state) or Kreis (county), insuring your dog against any damage they might do, or any bites they might dish out may be mandatory – and this is for good reason. People in Germany are far more likely to hold you responsible for the actions of your dog, and no amount of talking will get you out of it.
Coya’s dog liability insurance is there to take some of the worry out of owning a dog. For a low monthly fee you’re covered against any physical or material damage your pooch causes to others – it’s like private liability insurance but for your dog. As some four-legged friends have the potential to cause considerable chaos, Coya covers you for up to 30 million euros.
Additionally, you'll be able to contact English-speaking representatives who can assist in a fast and friendly fashion wherever they may be, day or night. You can also access a stack of great advice covering everything from dog training to diseases.
Learning to negotiate with landlords
Finding a rental property with a pet can be a hassle at the best of times, but even more so in a country where most people live in apartments. Landlords can’t refuse to rent you a property because you have a dog. But there are a million other perfectly legal ways that they can do so – or so it can seem.
Funnily enough, you don’t have to disclose that you own a dog before you sign a lease – but you must let the owner know if you have a dog prior to moving in. This can lead to negotiations and counter-offers, where the German qualities of organisation and preparedness are crucial. Be prepared or prepare to fail!