I’ve had my sweet little dachshund, Molly, since she was eight weeks old and I was living in Florida. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore my “kleine Dackel,” and yes, she is sort of like my child (cue the eye rolls from my German friends!). So, when I decided to move to Germany, of course I had to take her with me, but not before having to complete a ridiculous amount of paperwork.
Molly proudly displaying her first registration tag in Berlin.
Getting Your Dog to Germany from the USA
As you are probably already aware, Germans love bureaucracy, and that certainly applies to dog ownership, too. Before I could bring Molly to Germany, I needed to visit a USDA-Certified Veterinarian, six months in advance of my trip, who gave her a 15-digit microchip, a new rabies shot, and yes, filled out several pages of paperwork. Then, within 11 days of my flight, I needed to visit a USDA office to have them look over said paperwork and stamp it. This all cost me approximately $200 if my memory serves me right (minus the cost of the train tickets and hours of travel I had to complete to visit the nearest USDA office, which was three hours away!). I also needed to book her on my flight in advance, which cost another $150 with AirBerlin.
Much to my surprise (and irritation), when I arrived at Tegel Airport in Berlin, nobody asked to see my paperwork. I approached a security guard, worried that I had missed an important step somewhere, and showed him my paperwork. He couldn’t care less, looked at me like I had ten heads, and told me to just go. So, after so much time and money invested, nobody was interested. How nice. But, I was relieved that the initial hurdle was over, and I’m happy that she is safe and with me here. Note: This was in 2015, and rules/policies/procedures may have changed, so do your research before planning to bring a dog to Germany to ensure that you have done everything properly!
Once Molly was in Germany, I had to register her with the local Bürgeramt (the Citizens Office) in my district of the city and pay the annual dog tax of €120.
Dog Behavior in Berlin
The dogs here are extremely well behaved and well trained. Many owners walk their dogs down the busy city streets without leashes, and the dogs obediently trot alongside their owners without any trouble. Dogs will sit outside of shops without being tied up and wait calmly and quietly for their owners to come out (check out this Tumblr that photographed dogs waiting in Berlin). Also, dogs usually don’t bark much here.
Molly could do none of those things when she arrived, and still can’t, despite having gone through two dog training classes at PetSmart in the US…
…but at least she has been a lot better than she used to be in regards to barking!
Dogs in Shops and Restaurants
Unlike the US, dogs are welcome in most shops and restaurants in Berlin, unless there is a sign on the door saying otherwise. Most restaurants will even provide your dog with a little water bowl while you eat. Dogs will generally sit or lay under the tables and are expected to be quiet (hence why I don’t often bring Molly to restaurants with me). I will often bring Molly shopping with me, as it is convenient to walk her and run errands at the same time. The only shops that always forbid dogs from entering are grocery stores or other shops that sell food, such as DM and Rossmann.
The veterinary offices function similarly to the doctors’ offices in Germany. My veterinarian generally doesn’t take appointments, unless it is for a surgical procedure, so you simply show up during their opening hours and see the veterinarian in order of arrival. This means that you will often be afforded the exceedingly pleasant experience of waiting for an hour or two with an anxious dog. My veterinarians are lovely, caring, and affordable, however, that I do not mind so much. The cost of care seems to be slightly lower here than it is in the US, so that is also a nice bonus.
Technically, you are required to have your dog on a leash at all times in Berlin unless you are in a dog park, but as you read earlier, Berliners don’t abide by that rule. The same applies to most public parks in the city. At our local parks, most dogs run around freely, off-leash, and because they are usually so well-trained, it doesn’t seem to cause any problems. The only exception that I’ve encountered in Berlin was at Tempelhofer Feld; when we let Molly run off-leash during my first trip there, we were approached by some security Polizei and told that she must be on a leash at all times in the park. Oops.
I know, it’s gross, but it’s worth mentioning: there is a serious dog poop problem in the city. For whatever reason, dog owners in Berlin often don’t clean up after their dogs, and there seems to be poo everywhere. We always clean up after Molly, but it is really unbelievable that so many dog owners are so lazy about this. At work, we planted flowers last week, and the next day, there was poo between the flowers, next to the flowers, near the flowers, poo everywhere around the flowers! It was disgusting and disgraceful. Yuck.
In closing, Berlin is a very dog-friendly city, and it is quite nice to have a dog here, once you can get over the initial paperwork hurdles. Hopefully, they will care enough to look at your paperwork after you go through all of that trouble!
Do you have a dog in Berlin? What is it like for you? Please let me know in the comments.