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!

21 thoughts on “Owning a Dog in Basel – Guest Post”

  1. Please note that dogs must be on leash from April to September, as this is the time when wild animals give birth and require peace.

  2. I have a 5 month old Terveren and she is in the dog school in Itingen for this age group. It is finiahed in 1 week and they have the Obigatory class beginning after this one finishes. I have had dogs my whole life and our Belgum Shepherds were old and died over the last 2 years. I told them this and they said it doesn’t matter becasue everyone has to take the same therory course. This is not what I have understood. Do you train fro the course that is for people that have had dogs?

    1. My understanding is that people who can prove they have previously owned a dog, only have to take the practical course (not the theory). Why not go to Gabi’s website (listed at the top of the post) and ask her. Or your local vet should be able to confirm… If any readers have any information, please comment!

    2. Dear Meredith,
      Sorry, I am only seeing your post now. If you move to Switzerland WITH your dog, you do NOT have to attend these courses – neither the theoretical not the practical one. (I know that other dog schools claim differently.) If you contact me via e-mail, I can forward you my e-mail I got from the official “Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office” confirming that you do not need to take the courses. You can take this e-mail with you to your Gemeinde when registering your dog. Sometimes not even the officers at the Gemeinde get the rules right, and showing them this e-mail has worked wonders for other expats in the past. If you still struggle, I am happy to help more – be it a phone call or anything. My details are listed in the guest post.
      Kind regards,

  3. Holiday with 2 dogs……I am desperate to know if we require liability insurance for our holiday in switzerland as visitors from the UK!!!!!!!!!!
    Can you advise me?
    Many thanks,

    1. Dear Alan,
      You do not need liability insurance.

      However, there are a few other things you will need (ie micro chip,EU passport and rabies shots) and there are special rules for dogs with cupped ears or tails. Also, I could give you information on the various rules for Swiss counties/cantons.

      If you are interested, please send me a PM to info@kenkou.ch.

      Kind regards,

  4. Hello,I have a question.

    If I import to Switzerland the dog which is bobtailed from a country,whre is legal.

    Can goverment come and take the puppy and kill it?
    Thank you for quick answer,Miroslav

    1. Dear Miroslav,

      From your email it is not clear if you are already living in Switzerland and just planning to import the bobtailed puppy, or if you are moving to Switzerland WITH a bobtailed puppy.
      Please read the following 2 articles that should clarify both cases:

      General legal situation:
      Article 22: https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/20080796/index.html#a66

      Specific answer here:

      Kind regards,

      1. Hy Miroslav
        Take also care from which Country you import the dog. It have rabies-countrys were you don’t be able to Import legaly a puppy, also with Long tail…..(Serbia, Turkey, Maroco etc.)

  5. hello,
    I will be moving to Basel in a couple of months and i’m bringing my furry kid. He’s a labrador retriever mix. I have 3 main questions. First I just want to make sure that I understood correctly, it’s allowed to walk you dog outside in Basel during the day without a leash and at night with a leash? right?
    We will be moving to an apartment and we are used to live in a house, which means that he’s not used to hearing people transiting, walking, talking, knocking doors… etc.. etc, he will probably bark and I’m not sure if i will have problems with that. I guess that people who lives in buildings that allow dogs are ok with that… or not? Are there daycares where I can leave my dog during the day while i’m working so he doesn’t disturb the neighbors? Any place you could recommend in Basel? thanks

    1. Dear Gladys,

      You are allowed to walk your dog off leash in Basel from 6am to 10pm but not on busy streets and places, and you must be in full control over your dog at all times.

      Landlords who rent out appartments that allow dogs often have a statement in the lease that says something like “dogs are allowed but must not disturb the other tenants…”. So unfortunately “no”, you cannot rely on the other tenants in this apartment block to not mind barking. The responsibility will be with you to ensure your dog does not disturb anyone. Sadly, some people feel disturbed easily… If you ralise your dog is barking, my advice is to immediately start training. Do not wait. The longer they can practice something, the better they get at it 😉

      Please send me a pivate message to info@kenkou.ch, so that I can send you my translation of the Basel dog law. I am also happy to send you addresses of dog daycare possibilities.

      With kind regards,

      1. Thank you so much Gabriela. I’ve started training already and hope that will fix the problem. The doggie day care contacts would be of great help too.


  6. Hi, though i know it’s a law for owners to attend the mandatory training, may i know how this training is made compulsory ( besides it being a law )? And also, how does Switzerland authorities ensure that every new dog owners attend the training? Thanks

    1. Dear Isa,
      When you get a dog in Switzerland, you have to register it with your village and pay dog tax for it. The villages are supposed to ensure and control that dog owners bring the certificate they receive after attending the course to the Gemeinde as a proof that they attended. This should happen within one year of getting the dog. If it does not, villages will send a reminder. Eventually, dog owners get fined, if they fail to prove that they attended the course.
      Hope this helps,

  7. Thank you for a great article. Are there any specific rules about transporting dogs in private vehicles? I’ve heard contradictory things about this.

  8. Hello Nancy,
    there is no law that obliges you to have your dog in a box or locked away in the back of the car, or that the dog has to be attached via a dog seatbelt even. HOWEVER, there is a law that obliges you to secure your “goods” (and your dog is exactly that) in such a way that they cannot endanger you, distract you while driving or fall onto you.
    There have been several court rulings in Switzerland which seem contradictory or arbitrary. It depends on the policemen stopping you to define what they consider as a distraction or a danger. In disagreement, the courts then have to decide.
    In my opinion you are safest (from harm and the law), if your dog is in the back of the car with a clear barrier to the front of the car. Either you place the dog in a box or install a metal grid or net that separates the back from the front. Or the dog is on the backseat wearing a doggy seatbelt.
    You are also obliged to separate your goods from your dog. If you have for example suitcases and your dog both in the back of the car, you must ensure that your dog cannot be injured by the goods in case of an accident or harsh stop.
    I hope this helps, best regards,

  9. Hi Gabriela,
    I am a dog trainer from America and just visited Switzerland this past week. I really enjoyed seeing all the well behaved dogs walking on a loose leash. I would love to learn more about the training techniques used in Switzerland and how they differ from those in America. Is there anything I can read or watch that would be helpful for me?

  10. Dear Jennifer,
    Thank you for your message and your compliment on Switzerland’s well behaved dogs. I am afraid I cannot help you much with your question. “Dog trainer” is not a protected job title that requires a certain qualification in Switzerland, therefore there is no standard education for trainers or a standard approach on how to train. There’s a two year programme, but you can also simply attend a few short courses or even call yourself a “dog trainer” without ANY formal training.
    I think Swiss dogs are usually well trained and I think it has to do with Switzerland being so small and there not being much space especially in the urban regions. Dog-owners seem to be aware that their dogs will eventually have to use public transport and behave well. And as you can bring your dog into many restaurants, people are aware that their dogs will need a certain level of “well-behavedness” if they want to profit from this liberal approach here in Switzerland. Also, most dogs must be able to manoeuvre in bigger villages or towns – we simply do not have the space you have in the US.
    The other reasons is probably that since 2008 dog owners have been obliged to take at least 4 hours of practical training. One of these lessons has to consist (content-wise) of how to lead a dog in a society-friendly way. I always hope that making dog-owners aware that not everybody loves dogs or is even afraid of them, and that as a dog-owner they have a responsibility to ensure all other people are safe and don’t feel harassed by their dogs makes a difference.
    The public’s feedback on the dog-situation in Switzerland after 8 years of these courses was very positive. 87% of the non-dog owning people who were asked said that they definitely saw an improvement in dog’s behaviours.
    Unfortunately, just last week, our government has decided to discontinue these courses. The main reason being that 20% of dog-owners did not attend the courses anyway. What a stupid reason! Instead of enforcing the law, you just do away with it as soon as a certain percentage of people does not abide by it? This leaves me speechless. The government are now working on changing the law, so as of sometime in 2017 these courses will no longer exist on a federal level. The cantons, however, can opt to still ask dog-owners to attend courses. This is definitely a step in the wrong direction. It will also leave dog-owners and dog trainers in a very chaotic situation, because the rules will be different depending on where in Switzerland one lives.
    Let me know if you have any other questions.
    Kind regards,

  11. Hello!
    We are moving to Basel from Singapore in August with our dog and all of the above discussions have really helped so thank you.
    On a slight side note I wondered if there were any suggestions of good pushchair friendly walks within easy drive of Basel. I have an enormous 1 year old son and a 3 year old daughter and here in Singapore we go to the beach and our working cocker spaniel runs himself ragged without too much intervention from me. However in Basel I will need to be much more proactive and I am eager to find some lovely walks in the countryside where my dog can run off leash and I can push both children in their pushchair. Gravel tracks and rough paths are all welcome as we have a good off-roader!
    Many many thanks in advance!

    1. Dear Rachel,
      There are many nice places close to Basel where your dog can run off leash. It depends a bit on where in Basel you live. Along the river Wiese you will always find many other people and off-leash dogs. So if you dog is well socialised and under control, that will be a nice area to let him run. There are many joggers and bikers as well, therefore a good re-call is necessary in order not to run into problems.
      If you live closer to the Bruderholz area of Basel, the whole top of the hill there is nice and you can let you dog off leash easily.
      Along the river Birs is a nice area.
      And then there are more places when you get a bit farther out of the city.
      Muttenz has an area called “Rütihard” and in Pratteln it’s nice along the river Ergolz.
      If you live closer to France, crossing the border is a good idea as immediately you’ll find they have much more space.
      Get back to me once you have arrived and settled, if you still need input then.
      Kind regards,

  12. Hello!

    I am the human mother of a wonderful canine companion. I have been unemployed for about a yeah now and recently was offered a position with a company here in Basel.
    I was wondering if you could recommend any dog daycare places or services? Preferably that can pick her up?

    Thanks in advance,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.