Ah, Germany. Country of Lederhosen, Würste, Sauerkraut, beer, and a language that I always thought sounded really hard and awful but have come to quite enjoy learning, listening to and occasionally speaking. Well, I enjoy it except for the grammar and word order and changing the adjectives and the cases and the three damn words for “the” and “a” that change depending on who/what/where/how.
But okay, maybe there’s more to Germany than leather pants, sausages and beer. Maybe. Very direct people, and an orderliness that I can’t decide if I love or hate. But what’s it like travelling here with a dog?! The German language sounds angry, but does that anger apply to dogs, too?!
If you haven’t already, make sure you check out my post on what it’s like travelling with a dog in general. And look, I haven’t seen all of Germany. I won’t even claim I’ve seen a large part, so my experiences could vary from state to state, city to city, but these are my observations on Germany’s dog-friendliness so far.
Of course most of my time with Loki is spent in the great outdoors so I’ll start with hiking. Hiking seems to be a well-loved German past-time, and throughout the country you’ll find a lot of forests with very well signposted trails. Almost too well signposted, with some posts bearing a plethora of signs for different markers. Isi assures me you can never get lost in Germany. I usually ignore the signs because I feel too overwhelmed by all of them so I’m pretty sure I could prove her wrong. German tracks are well-maintained and you can assume that if you’re on something that doesn’t look like a track that you’ve done something wrong. It can be a bit of a challenge to find fun single-tracks instead of wide gravel roads, but it probably depends where you go. Tracks are well-frequented by Germans no matter what day of the week or whatever the weather (busier on weekends of course) so you’re always likely to come across somebody while you’re out for your hike.
So far, dogs have been allowed in every walking place we’ve been. Sometimes there are lead restrictions, either quite obviously posted on a separate sign-post, or on the general large information board. If the area is a Landschutzgebiet or Naturschutzgebiet (like a protected nature area), they should be on lead. That being said, even when I’ve been in these places, I’ve seen dogs off lead so it seems as long as your dog is polite and well trained, nobody will care. Even if Germans love rules, they don’t seem to mind people breaking this one (I told this to Isi and she said: “Well, is it REALLY a rule!?” so I guess that solves that one). Loki recently developed an initially-cute-but-now-annoying idea that people coming toward him on a trail would throw his stick for him. He was right 90% of the time which of course reinforced his belief. Most hikers who come along aren’t at all annoyed or peeved off at a little collie blocking their way, and will usually laugh and smile and say something that I don’t understand and then throw his stick. All fun and games till one guy threw it off a rock hill. There have been a very very small number of people who have just ignored him completely.
From my experience, people and dogs in Germany are really pretty respectful of one another. Every time someone has seen Loki on a lead, they’ve leashed up their dog, too. Not once has an out of control dog come bounding up to Loki if he’s on lead. There is, according to Isi, a bit of an unspoken understanding that “complicated dogs” (her words, not mine) are on lead, and other dogs would be allowed off. All dogs Loki has met have gotten along well and have been polite and courteous. Even though Loki is socially awkward and usually says hello then yells at them to leave him alone. Most dogs have kind of looked at him strangely then gone about their business. Dogs here seem much better socialised than dogs in Australia. You will often meet dogs hiking while you’re out.
Life in Town
Right, but what if you don’t want to hang out in the forest all the time (I don’t see why not, but sure, maybe you want to actually visit a town or something, I guess). In my experiences so far, Germany has been one of the most dog-friendly countries. Dogs are allowed in restaurants and most shops, with the exception of supermarkets and malls (though, that being said I’ve seen dogs inside the mall here in Karlsruhe MANY times, despite the “no dogs” sign on the door. Is this another rule that isn’t really a rule??). I once tried to take Loki into Germany’s equivalent of K-mart and was stopped by some burly security guards at the door. What?! Anyway, I didn’t want to buy their stupid clothes, so their loss. According to Isi, it’s really very normal to tie your dog up outside a shop or a grocery store and not worry about them being stolen while you’re gone. Honestly I can’t get over my absolute paranoia that I’d come out with my groceries and Loki wouldn’t be there but apparently it’s really normal and okay to do that here.
Dogs will generally be allowed in hotels and accomodation here in Germany as well but of course it’s worthwhile to check before just showing up. One thing I have noticed is that nothing is for free in Germany. Water, power, toilets, parking… if you want to have your dog with you at a caravan park/camping platz, expect to pay 3-4€ per dog. I suspect then that there would be a charge for dogs in hotels, too.
Loki has been allowed on one of the tourist ferries to a hiking place (as of recently they have to wear a muzzle on that ferry). He wasn’t allowed to be wet to travel on the ferry. You can guess how well that worked out for us! (Luckily he was pretty much dry by the time we got back) In general they’re allowed on trams and trains but you have to buy them a child’s ticket. Tourist attractions are a bit more restrictive especially if they’re indoors. Being outdoors at tourist places (cathedrals, castles, etc) is totally fine and normal – at first I thought “Well, yeah duh, of course,” but then was reminded of the weird looks I got for having my dogs outside the Sydney Opera House. Similarly, outdoor events like the light-show at the castle or the Christmas Market are totally okay for dogs.
It’s really easy to find pet stores in Germany. Most towns have at least one of the big “chain” pet stores (Fressknapf, Futterhaus, Kölle Zoo and Denner to name a few) and they’ll have a variety of foods to choose from. Initially I was feeding Loki dry food and thought it was difficult to find a no-grain, low/no chicken food for him. But most of the foods are pretty well labelled with the percentage of meats, proteins, fats, etc., I’ve just begun feeding him raw and Germany is great with their selection. As with many things German, I’ve found that they have BARF down to a formula, with oils and grains and a humungous shelf and 10 meters of freezers stocked with pretty much every kind of meat from every part of every animal. It’s all a bit much for me, but I like their gumption.
It’s also pretty easy to find vets throughout Germany (look for a Tierarzt) and because they’ve gone to university, you can expect them to have a pretty good level of English. My most recent visit to a vet (with Isi as translator) ended in Loki being diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection with swollen tonsils and lymph nodes. He was given two injections in his back leg, sent home with two kinds of medicines pre-mixed in syringes for him to swallow, a bunch of pills, and the advice to get him to drink chamomile, fennel and honey tea and for him to wear a scarf. All this because he reversed sneezed a couple of times. The response to our visit was way above and beyond what I would have expected from a vet back home, which would have been more along the lines of: “Here’s some antibiotics, make sure he rests.” I especially liked the advice about the scarf.
So that’s it! Most people in Germany while out in public will pretty much ignore your dog, and they don’t like rude, untrained dogs that get in their space, though they do seem to find it cute when Loki harasses them on a hiking track. It’s really easy to get around with a dog and totally find to take them hiking and to outdoor attractions.
Are there any other aspects of Dog-Friendly Europe you’d like me to cover that I’ve forgotten here? Have you had any experiences of travelling with your dog in Germany? Let me know!
Ps. I’m sorry for all the awful German stereotyping I did at the start. It was somewhat just to get a reaction out of Isi. (It worked.) Sorry to any other Germans I offended because of this post. Please don’t kick me out of your country.