Like most countries, Switzerland is a land of pet lovers with about 43 percent of households owning one or more pets. Interestingly, more Swiss residents own cats than dogs. The number of cat owners outweighs dog owners at a rate of 28 percent over 12 percent.
This statistic isn’t surprising when you consider the differences in cat and dog ownership in Switzerland. Cat ownership requires no special rules and restrictions or taxes, but this isn’t the case for dogs.
Switzerland is a wonderful place to have dogs. There are villages with car-free zones for walking your dog, and many establishments are dog-friendly. But before moving or traveling to Switzerland with “man’s best friend,” make sure you’re aware of all that is involved with dog ownership in Switzerland.
Rules for Having Dogs in Switzerland
The rules and regulations Switzerland has in place for dog ownership are made for the welfare of the animals and the safety of citizens. Each canton has its own rules, especially regarding potentially dangerous breeds. Check with your local canton for information.
At one time, a dog training course was mandatory for new dog owners. That is no longer the case, but it is highly recommended and the rule varies from canton to canton.
All dogs must be microchipped by the age of three months. This is a foolproof way to ensure a lost dog’s owner can be located. The information is recorded in the AMICUS database. Dogs imported to Switzerland from abroad must get microchipped by a vet within 10 days. The vet sends this information to AMICUS.
Rules for having dogs in Switzerland also include more extensive provisions for their welfare. They should have daily contact with humans, and shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours. They should have a chance to go outdoors for daily exercise. Swiss municipalities require dogs to be on a leash at all times in public places, but most cities have nice off-leash dog parks.
Devices such as shock collars that punish a dog for undesired behaviors such as barking are outlawed in Switzerland.
Adopting or Buying A Dog in Switzerland
Dog breeders in Switzerland are controlled by two entities: Certodog and the Golden Quality Seal. The breeders are required to include their addresses when advertising dogs or puppies for sale.
Before buying a dog from a breeder, visit several to check out the conditions in which they were bred to make sure the breeder is responsible. Be wary of cheap puppies for sale without the opportunity to visit the breeder, especially when looking for a dog online. Keep in mind that puppies should remain with the mother dog and its littermates for 10-12 weeks.
Adopting a dog from an animal shelter in Switzerland is a good way to go. You will pay a fee and sign a contract that ensures you will take the proper steps toward responsible dog ownership. The shelter will give you advice on dog care, training, and housing.
Importing Dogs into Switzerland
If you are traveling or moving to Switzerland with your dog, the dog will need a Swiss passport. It will have an ID with the dog’s name, age, sex, photograph, information about the owner, vaccination information, and the dog’s microchip information. The owner is required to register the dog with the Animal Identity Service (ANIS) within 10 days of arrival. A travel agency that specializes in pet travel can help you with this.
Your dog’s Swiss passport will be valid for the life of the pet.
Puppies after the age of three months must be microchipped, and dogs with chips will be registered in the canton of residence. If your dog was vaccinated before the microchip was inserted, it will have to be vaccinated again.
All pets entering Switzerland from EU countries or in transit from most other countries must have a rabies vaccination 21 days before the entrance. If your dog is younger than three months, you must present a certificate from a licensed veterinarian stating that the puppy has had no contact with wild animals. The certificate is not necessary if the young pup is still with its mother.
Switzerland is currently rabies-free, so animals from countries with a high incidence of rabies must have a Blood Titer Test three months before departure. This includes dogs traveling through the country by air or rail without a stopover.
Dogs from rabies-free countries (Australia and New Zealand) where rabies shots are forbidden will not need proof of rabies vaccination.
Cost of Owning A Dog in Switzerland
When considering owning a dog in Switzerland, keep in mind that Switzerland has a high cost of living. Dog food in a Swiss supermarket can cost as much as CHF 100. Factor in other costs such as veterinary care, the annual dog tax, and other things to keep your dog comfortable and happy.
One major cost to consider is the requirement of incident insurance. Depending on the canton of residence, the scope of coverage can be between CHF 1 to 5 million. It includes damage to rental property, injuries to people and other animals, property damage incurred by third parties, and traffic accidents caused by dogs.
Medical insurance for your dog is recommended but not required. Medical insurance is a good investment but can be costly for dogs older than 7 and purebreds that tend to have more health problems.
In addition to peace of mind, having incidence insurance for your dog will help you with property rental.
Most Common Dog Breeds in Switzerland
Although there are dog breeds specific to Switzerland such as St Bernard and Bernese mountain dog, Labrador Retrievers, originally bred in Newfoundland, are the most common dog in Switzerland and have been since 2013.
Yorkshire Terriers and mixed breeds are the third most common followed by the Border Collie and the Jack Russell Terrier.
Up and coming in popularity is the tiny Chihuahua, a Mexican Toy breed. They make up the highest number of new registrants and rank 6th in popularity. Chihuahuas weigh as little as 1.8 kilograms making them an ideal choice for apartment dwellers. They also have a relatively long lifespan of up to 15-20 years when compared to Labs at 13-15 years.
Banned Dog Breeds in Switzerland
In addition to dogs with docked tails and ears, the ownership of certain breeds that may be aggressive or dangerous is restricted in Switzerland. Each canton has different regulations, so be sure to check with the one you will be traveling or moving to. Dog breeds you can expect to find on the list include Pit Bull, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bullmastiff, Thai Ridgeback Dog, and Rottweiler.
To own one of these dogs in Switzerland, you will need to be at least 18 years old, have only one pet, and have liability insurance. The dog must be neutered and must pass a behavioral test. It will have to be on a leash and wear a muzzle at all times in public.
Tips for Owning A Dog in Switzerland
First and foremost, if you are traveling or moving to Switzerland, it’s best to get help from a pet travel agent for the most stress-free flight and to make sure you have the proper documentation.
Check for pet-friendly hotels and rental accommodations before your trip.
Avoid fines by always walking your dog on a leash in public places and be prepared to clean up your dog’s waste. There are usually special bins for these, but they may not always have baggies available, so be sure to carry a few. Dogs are prohibited in kid zones such as playgrounds.
You’ll find plenty of fun things to do with your dog to keep him happy. Go on a hike (with a leash) and look for off-leash dog parks so he can socialize with other dogs.
Take your dog shopping or to a restaurant. Many establishments are dog-friendly and have leash hooks available.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Switzerland a dog-friendly country?
Dogs are considered to be family members in Switzerland. They are often welcome in public places such as restaurants and on hiking trails as long as you can manage the dog and follow the rules.
Can dogs go on trains in Switzerland?
Yes, dogs are allowed on public transport in Switzerland including train, boat, and Postbus with a one-day travel pass. The fare is one-half of the fee for humans. You can also purchase an unlimited dog travel pass for CHF 805 per year.
Are dogs allowed in the Swiss alps?
As long as they are kept on a leash, dogs are welcome everywhere in the Swiss Alps including in most public parks and on hiking trails.