How to adopt a dog in Germany?

A complete step-by-step guide

    For many dog-lovers, a house simply isn’t a home without a wagging tail waiting at the door. Many Germans would agree as Germany is a nation of hund-lovers!

    Adopting a dog requires careful research and planning to make sure it all goes well. A dog is a big responsibility, so before diving in and choosing your furry forever friend, it’s essential to make sure you’re ready and understand exactly what’s required.

    If it sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry, it will all be worth it in the long term. There’s nothing quite like bringing home a tiny bundle of fur and watching them grow into a loving companion who loves to rocket around the dog park!

    Before the Adoption – Take Your Time

    You may be excited about getting a puppy. Still, it is important to take your time and carry out the necessary checks. You’ll also need to make sure that you and the dog are right for each other, and that they will get along with everyone else in the household.

    For example, if you’re hoping to take your dog on long hikes through the countryside, you’ll need a breed that loves exercise. Not all dogs have the stamina for lengthy walks; some pooches are much happier with a short stroll around the park.

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    Adopting a Puppy

    Lots of people opt for a puppy, but it’s easy to under-estimate the work involved.

    Puppies are almost unbearably cute, but they have a lot more needs than an older dog. All puppies will need a lot of input to be properly trained, and you’ll have plenty of accidents around the home along the way. You will have to feed them every few hours at first, and they’ll disrupt your sleep while they’re young.

    Every dog takes a while to settle in, but a puppy is just a baby and needs you to be their parent while they mature.

    Adopting an Adult Dog

    You could avoid such intensive training by opting to adopt an adult dog. You’ll find plenty of adult dogs in rescue shelters waiting for a new home, so this is an excellent idea.

    However, it’s essential to check the dog’s background, including the reasons for being re-homed. Often the dog isn’t at fault and is homeless because of circumstances beyond their control, but be alert for signs that there have been behavioral problems in the past. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt them, but be very sure you can offer what the dog needs before taking them home.

    Adopting a Senior Dog

    Senior dogs are harder to re-home as most people want a younger pet. Still, if you open your home to a geriatric pooch, you might be surprised just how rewarding it is.

    Older dogs are generally well-trained, and they’re often more laid-back. Just like humans, wisdom comes with age and senior dogs tend to be much more chilled. There can be challenges; an older dog may find stairs hard or be less mobile, so a willingness to create the right environment is essential.

    Adopting a Dog with Disability

    There are some dogs waiting for adoption that have a disability. German rescue shelters have a no-kill policy, which means if a dog can enjoy a good quality of life, they won’t be put down even if it’s hard to find them a home.

    Adopting a dog with a disability undoubtedly takes more work, or maybe a little extra planning, but it can be extremely rewarding. The rescue shelter will typically cover all their medical costs for the rest of their life, so it shouldn’t work out to be any more expensive.

    Introducing Animals

    Your new dog may not be the first animal in your home – the more, the merrier! If you already have a dog or have other animals in your household, it’s essential to introduce your new pooch slowly to ensure the union is a success.

    Your existing pets may not be as thrilled as you are to have a new companion, so taking things slowly rather than just launching them all together is key to acceptance.

    Expect Life to Change

    If this is the first pet joining your family, you can expect life to change in ways that you may not have anticipated.

    Your life will revolve around your furry friend and you will have to consider them in every decision you make. You can’t suddenly go away for the weekend or stay out overnight when you have someone at home who’s anxiously awaiting your return. If they’re still a pup, expect broken sleep and long hours training them.

    It may sound like a lot of hard work – and it is. But it’s rewarding too, and knowing that there’s always someone there waiting to shower you with love, no matter what is an unbelievable feeling.

    Dog-proofing Your Home

    You’ll need to make physical changes to your environment to keep your new pet safe. You may think your home is fine, but a little pup will find all kinds of ways to get into trouble that you never thought of before!

    The best way to successfully dog-proof your home is to get down to their level, crouch down on the floor and look around. What do you see? Plug up any small gaps; your puppy will love to wriggle into the tightest space and may get stuck!

    You should also use the baby-proofing accessories on the market, such as plug socket covers and catches for your cupboard. Don’t forget to check houseplants too; some are toxic to canines. When you bring your dog home, you’ll just want to focus on getting to know them, so you’ll be pleased you did all the prep in advance.

    Adoption Fees

    Adopting a dog from a rescue is an ethical and kind decision, and it will be cheaper too. However, this doesn’t mean there won’t be any fees at all. A rescue shelter will charge a sum for the adoption of all pets; this covers their care, vaccinations, micro-chipping and also spaying or neutering.

    As an example, in the Berlin tierheim, you can expect to pay up to €205 for a dog, between €65-85 for a cat, €20 for rabbits and for other small animals between €5-25. These prices may vary slightly between shelters.

    Dog Liability Insurance

    There may be other costs that you’ll encounter while owning a dog, but paying out for a liability claim shouldn’t be one of them.

    Germans take the subject of liability very seriously and expect people to pay for any damage caused, regardless of whether it was accidental.

    This includes damage by your dog, and it’s why dog liability insurance – known as Hundehaftpflichtversicherung – is compulsory in many districts. In the few states where it’s not strictly enforced, it’s highly recommended as otherwise, you could end up forking out for a big bill in the event of a mishap!

    Even well-behaved dogs can cause damage; it’s simply not worth risking being without dog liability insurance, regardless of where you live.

    Other Changes to Your Life

    Bringing a dog into your home will change your life in so many ways, both practical and emotional.

    You’ll discover just how much hair a single pup can shed and how difficult it is to keep your home completely fur-free!

    You’ll also enjoy more exercise and fresh air, and that can only be a good thing. Having a dog forces you to change your lifestyle for the better.

    Finding the Right Accommodation

    Looking for a property to rent is usually about your priorities, but when you have a dog, you must make sure that they can be accommodated too.

    German law doesn’t permit landlords to enforce a blanket ban, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t stipulate reasonable restrictions. This means not everywhere will allow you to keep a dog, particularly complexes with other neighbors close.

    Even if they permit it, there may be rules which make it untenable to stay. You must check very carefully before moving in; if you have a breed of dog that’s deemed to be dangerous and included on the Listenhund, this is especially important.


    A dog allergy isn’t always evident in advance, and you may not realize that you or a member of your household is allergic to dog hair.

    If this is the case, it will be catastrophic for your adoption and will probably end in heartbreak as you’ll have to take the dog back to the shelter. No-one wants that to be the outcome, so it’s essential to check carefully in advance.

    If you have always dreamed of owning a dog, but someone in the house is allergic, there are some breeds that they may be able to tolerate. Described as hypoallergenic, these dogs may be suitable for someone with a mild allergy. However, you’ll still need to check for a reaction before adopting it.

    An Overview of the Process in Animal Shelters

    Rescue shelters in Germany are known as a tierheim, and they have robust processes in place to make sure that animals are matched up with the right forever home.

    They’re not interested in just shipping the dogs out; they want to make sure they find the right owner for everyone. This means that you won’t just be able to rock up and take a dog home; you should expect to make two or three visits before the adoption goes through.

    The process may involve a visit to your home; you can ring the tierheim and check their procedures in advance. You can also expect the staff at the tierheim to ask lots of questions about your life and intentions. Subjects covered may include everything from your working hours to the size of your garden, plus plans for the future.

    Read our Guide to German Animal Shelters.

    Arranging Introductions

    Germans are very serious about getting adoptions right, so you’ll have whatever time you need to get to know your new pet first. This includes everyone in your household – such as any existing pets.

    For the adoption to be a success, everyone must be on board. Bringing your existing dogs along to the shelter for a meet-and-greet is an essential step and shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Spend Some Time Together

    You won’t be pressured into taking a dog home until you’re sure that you’ve made the right decision. To reach this point, you’ll be able to spend time with your chosen dog at the tierheim, getting to know each other first.

    Many shelters, such as Berlin tierheim, have extensive grounds, including own dog parks, so you can go for a walk together and see how you get on.

    There’s no need to rush; you can take all the time you need to be sure that you and your new dog are a good match.

    Ask Your Own Questions

    Although the tierheim staff will have lots of questions for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions of your own.

    You will have plenty of opportunities to ask for any information you need, and you shouldn’t feel reluctant to ask whatever you want.

    Subjects you might want to cover include the medical history of the dog and the circumstances that led to them being at the shelter.

    There’s no need to feel awkward about asking; this is essential information that could help you decide whether the dog is compatible with the circumstances in your household.

    Once you’ve made the happy step of bringing your new dog home, you must make sure you comply with the legislative requirements. This includes registering your pooch at the local Bürgeramt and paying the compulsory dog tax, known as hundesteuer.

    However, dogs obtained from animal shelters are exempt from Hundesteuer for the first year they are with their new owner.

    If you haven’t already organized your dog liability insurance, now is the time to do so! It’s a legal requirement in many states, but even where it’s not, it’s very strongly recommended.

    In Germany, you will have to pay for any damages incurred, so it’s expected that everyone will have liability insurance to cover the cost – and that includes for your dog.

    Registering With a Vet

    There can seem like a lot of things to think about, so registering with a vet may not be high on your list. However, it’s highly advisable to register right away rather than wait until your pooch is poorly.

    Registering with a vet straight away ensures you can pick the one that’s right for your dog rather than just choosing one that happens to be available in the event of an emergency. Should the worst happen, you’ll be greatly relieved that you took the time to register with a vet at the start.

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    Don’t Delay Training

    When you bring your puppy home, you’ll inevitably just want to enjoy spending time together, but you shouldn’t neglect training. It’s a good idea to begin training right away, even if your puppy is very young.

    This is because if you let your puppy get away with some things now that you later try to correct, you’ll be giving out a mixed message which is confusing for your dog. Start as you mean to go on and you’ll find everything runs far more smoothly.

    Break Training Into Steps

    If there seems like a lot of training to do, breaking it down into steps can really help. The subject can seem overwhelming, but by approaching it in bite-sized chunks using proven strategies, you’ll find it’s much easier than you expected – and even better, it will be fun too!

    Keeping Your Dog Happy

    You’ll soon discover that the happiness of your hound is one of the most important things in your life, and routine is key to this. Your dog will quickly pick up regular routines and it will help them feel safe and secure.

    There may be times when you need to change this, such as if you need to go away on a business trip. On those occasions, it’s vital to have arrangements in place for your dog. Family and friends are a great solution, but if this isn’t possible, a pet-sitter who comes into the home is an ideal substitute.

    Feeding Your Dog

    Your dog will be accustomed to a particular food at the shelter and abruptly changing what they eat could cause a problem. Therefore it’s a good idea to make any changes slowly to the diet you’d like them to eat.

    Combining the foods at first and gradually phasing out their previous food will prevent any digestive upset. If you’re not an experienced dog owner, make sure you take advice on the most suitable type of food for your pet.

    A Great Way to Say Thank You!

    You may feel a deep sense of gratitude to the rescue shelter for the wonderful job they do, and for bringing you and your furry friend together.

    There’s no better thank you than sending them some snaps of your dog in his new home. It’s quick and easy to do, and they’ll love to receive the update!

    The First Week

    Once you get through the difficulties of the first night, you’ll find the first week with your puppy flies by.

    Taking some time off work to help them settle in is highly recommended and means that if your sleep is disrupted, it won’t matter quite as much. During this first week, you’ll really get to know your dog and what they like, and they’ll begin to trust you more deeply too.

    Surviving and Enjoying the First Month

    No-one said that life with a pup would be easy – but it can be a lot of fun!

    Sure, there will be a lot of work in the first month, but if you follow tried-and-tested strategies, you’ll appreciate how much fun it can be having a dog in your home.

    You will need to make some changes to your lifestyle, but providing you’re willing to adapt, it’s possible to enjoy even the more challenging days.

    Living With Your Dog in Germany

    Germany is a nation that is particularly inclusive of dogs, and you’ll find that they play a part in everyday life.

    From visiting the malls to traveling on the train, it’s expected that dogs will come along too. This is one of the reasons it’s so essential that your pup is well-trained: it enables them to accompany you to many more places than you may have expected.

    Looking for More Information?

    As a dog owner, there’s always something that crops up that you need to know more about and that’s where we can help.

    Take a look at our links above for more information, dog care section and our useful resources.