Owning a Dog in Basel – Guest Post

People with pets consider them a part of the family. Dogs are certainly my favorite in the pet category, and I’m looking forward to getting one soon. In the Moving to Basel e-book (only 11.99 USD), I’ve included 3 chapters on pets, including what you need to do for your pets to get them to Switzerland, how to actually arrange transportation for them, and some of the intricacies of owning a dog in Basel (or the rest of Switzerland). The e-book briefly describes the mandatory dog training needed in Switzerland, but when Gabriela Wehrli, a noted animal psychologist and dog trainer in Basel, offered to write a post for me detailing it I jumped at the opportunity!


Dog training in Basel
Gabriela Wehrli provides dog training courses in English
Gabriela Wehrli was born in Basel and lives in Pratteln with her husband, two daughters and two dogs. She studied English, history and German at the University of Basel and works for a local international organisation. She is a dog trainer and animal-shiatsu therapist.
If you struggle to understand your village’s dog regulations or the cantonal laws, please do not hesitate to contact her. She offers translation of such texts.
To contact Gabriela Wehrli for dog training or translation of pet related regulations, visit her website Kenkou – dog training and dog psychology in Basel.

Guest post for Life in Basel


Dog-laws in Switzerland

Owning a dog in Switzerland is great – you can take them for long romps on hundreds of beautiful hiking trails, bring them on public transport (there’s even special seat adapters for dogs on chair-lifts) and dogs are welcome in many restaurants and hotels. Even if you are living in the city, the nearest green oasis is usually not too far away. Many of my expat friends have told me that they are surprised at how well-trained and well-behaved most dogs in Switzerland are.

dog switzerland
Switzerland is a great place to have a dog!

However, after a tragic dog-attack in December 2005 involving a child, discussions around dog control and regulation started all over Switzerland. Under pressure from the public and the media, some cantons and villages created their own new regulations. Additionally, in September 2008, Switzerland enacted a new country-wide federal law for dog-owners. However, this legislation has been changed as of January 1st, 2017.

The dog-law-situation that is complicated for Swiss dog-owners, and almost impossible to understand for expats. The rules you must abide to differ not only from canton to canton, but literally from village to village.

This guest post gives an overview of the mandatory things you need to do when you get a dog. It also tells you what to look out for and where to get information as well as providing information about dog parks in the Basel region.


Federal mandatory courses for dog-owners

The federal law which forced dog-owners to attend a theoretical course before getting a dog (for first-time dog-owners only) and a practical course within a year of getting the dog has been discontinued as of January 1st, 2017. However, first time dog owners should inform themselves of the proper care and training for their dog, before getting one.

Registration and rules

Every dog must be registered with the village and dog tax needs to be paid. All dogs must carry a microchip (or tattoo) and must be registered with the AMICUS registry. The village and your vet will take care of this registration. Every dog-owner should have insurance coverage for dog incidents. Your insurance company can send you confirmation that you are covered. Coverage is usually included in your indemnity insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung). As a dog-owner you are held responsible if your dog harms humans or animals.

Every canton and village has an additional set of laws. There are, for example, many additional rules regarding breeds that are regarded as dangerous. Make sure you understand the laws in your canton, as well as neighbouring cantons, cantons you travel through or visit for holidays. Know the laws of your village and neighbouring villages.

There are separate rules for some breeds depeding on your canton. To see what breeds special rules apply  to in the canton where you live, please visit this webpage and then talk to your local vet or Gemeinde regarding the details. 

At the tierimrecht website you can find all the cantonal laws for both Basel-Stadt or Basel-Landt. For the village laws, it is best to ask for their specific dog regulations (Hundereglement) when registering your dog.

Forbidden training techniques and tools

Switzerland forbids hitting your dog, the use of prong collars, choke collars without a stop, or any device that uses electricity, chemicals or very unpleasant high-pitched noises to train dogs.

Vaccinations and de-worming

Dogs must be vaccinated and de-wormed regularly. If you travel abroad with your dog, it needs more vaccinations than for Switzerland only. Find a vet and talk to him/her about what you need. If your dog goes to a shelter while you are on holidays, ask the owners what vaccinations they require and then talk to your vet. Plan well in advance, to have enough time to get everything done.

Dogs have laws for the leash
Leash laws for dogs in Basel

Leash law, dog-free zones and more

In most areas it is mandatory to keep your dog on a leash in forests and close to forests from 1 April to 31 July. However, there are regions where you have to keep your dog on the leash in those areas all year long. And in the canton “Schwyz”, for example, dogs always have to be on the leash outside private properties. Check the cantonal law texts for the respective information. In the less strict areas, please only let your dog walk freely if it comes back promptly on command. Dogs that are seen hunting wild animals can be shot, and the owner will be fined.

In Basel, dogs must be walked on a short leash from 10pm to 6am, in restaurants, in public transport, near busy roads and on markets. Additionally, there are many areas that are marked specifically as dog-free zones (ie near kindergartens, schools, public swimming pools, some areas along the river Rhine, and more).

You might also not have known that in Basel, dogs are not allowed to take a bath in public fountains, or that you need a special approval if you want to keep two dogs that are more than 12 weeks old.

Dog in the mountains
Dogs are beautiful animals! They love Switzerland as much as the rest of us.


Dog parks

In Switzerland, the concept of dog parks is still very young. Basel has opened its first and so far only dog park in the Horburgpark in 2012. Given Switzerland’s space constraints and the fact that this dog park is in a city, please do not expect too much. There’s another nice dog park approximately a 30 minute car drive from Basel; Hundespielplatz Eiken. It is organised as a club, where you have to become a member and pay an annual fee in order to use the facility.

Coming back to my initial statement

Despite all these laws and regulations I still feel that owning a dog in Switzerland is wonderful. Keep in mind that all these laws were created after an accident, and not because the dog situation in Switzerland generally was getting out of hand. The average dog-owner will not have encounters with the police or law enforcement. Having to take the mandatory courses might seem a pain, but I am convinced that you will receive useful information and hopefully take something positive away from it.

I hope that Gabriela’s post has helped you clarify what needs to be done for dog owners in Basel, Switzerland! If you get a dog, make sure you know what you’re getting into, and take the steps above to ensure the animal is properly trained. Enjoy having a dog in Basel, Switzerland!