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Black in Berlin: German Dogs Are Too Well Behaved, I Like My Pets American

photo courtesy of Kolenda Kennels

Germany might be the most dog friendly place in the world.

The local attitude towards pets is one of the first observations people make after arriving in Germany. As a former dog owner I was even shocked at how the term “man’s best friend” manifested itself here in Berlin. Fur-babies are permitted everywhere, from buses, trains, subways and trams (with a valid ticket, of course). Dogs rule the malls (sometimes peering at you from the next changing room stall), government offices, move theaters, museums and restaurants. The only place they are not permitted in are places like groceries stores and some bakeries. Occasionally you may see a sign that says “dogs must wait outside” and there are convenient pet racks to tie your little friend up outside.

Initially, I felt some sort of way about not having as many human only spaces but after observing the dogs here I have gotten over it. Dogs in Germany are much better behaved than the average dog in America. This may stem from the traditionally disciplined culture of German, where order must be found in every aspect of life. There have been times when I didn’t know a dog was in the restaurant until the owner was getting up to leave and the dog surfaced from underneath the table. Most dogs just chill at the owners feet until they are ready to go, no barking and no begging for food. Some dogs are so well trained that they go around the city without a leash. In parks or on the road you see dogs jogging along side their owners on bikes or inline skates. I am always surprised at the obedience of the dogs here in Germany. I once tried my best to distract a dog waiting outside a cake shop for his owner. He was not remotely interested in me or other dogs who walked by he stood there waiting and he wasn’t on a leash. He wasn’t even on a lead, he sat there in place until his master gave him the command to leave.

Foreigners often joke that Germans have replaced children with dogs spending significant time and money on training and pampering. In Berlin, a fellow black American decided to monopolize on this phenomena and in the spirit of enterprise started her own dog massaging service. You read that correctly, she massaged dogs for 50 minute increments and made a killing. As responsible and caring Germans tend to be towards their pets, the always subversive Berliner is a negligent owner in regards to cleaning up after their pets. I think it varies depending on the district but the amount of poop land mines is enough to put anyone off dogs. Since there isn’t much grass on the sidewalk dogs just stop and poop right in the middle of walkways. I think this has something to do with dog owners having to register their dogs with the local authority and having to pay a dog tax. Some folks feel they pay enough that the street cleaner should pick up the poo. Even if the local police ticketed for this offense, Berlin is a poor city and doesn’t even have enough people to clean up snow or enforce a smoking ban so chasing after lazy dog owners is pretty presumptuous.

In my nearly three years living in Berlin, I have observed that cultural differences are not limited to humans. The dogs in Germany may be more obedient but I do not find them to be especially friendly, regardless of breeds. They are very engaging with their owners but I don’t see as many wagging tails, which may be a side effect of all the obedience training. I don’t know about you, but robot dogs are not my first choice. I prefer the goofy pets that don’t always listen but gives kisses and sniffs to everyone they meet.

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