Spoonfuls of Germany

Dining with dogs


Laszlo at table

It was not the response I expected: Years ago when I still lived in Germany, I took a Canadian friend who was visiting me in Frankfurt to a restaurant highly regarded for its German cuisine. I was glad I had made a reservation, it was Sunday evening and the restaurant was packed. My Canadian friend, however, didn’t pay much attention to the food. Instead, he was totally transfixed by the several dogs lying next to their masters’ feet at the neighboring tables.

The dogs at the restaurant – not the food – was as all my friend wanted to talk about. “We can’t bring dogs to restaurants in Canada,” he said.

Today, after living in America for seventeen years, when I visit Germany it is me who is surprised to see dogs in restaurants, stores, public transportation and many other places where you never see a dog in the United States.

In Germany, each of the 16 states has its own legislation, and in some areas, it is up to the municipalities to set the rules for public spaces. Food and grocery stores, supermarkets, farmers’ markets and other places where food is openly displayed are always off limits for dogs. For restaurants, it is up to the owner to allow dogs nor not.

When I am in Germany the sign in the window of family-owned stores like butcher shops and bakeries that says “Wir müssen draußen bleiben” (“We must stay outside”) always makes me feel as if I have travelled back in time.

I think that butcher shop sign has not changed since I was a kid. I find it interesting the sign does not use unequivocal terms such as “Hunde verboten” (“Dogs are prohibited”), but instead personifies them with the “we”. Ironically, public signs that prohibit minors from entering a venue like a game room or a bar usually refer to minors in the third person, unlike dogs which get the first-person treatment. Makes you wonder which of the two is able to read.

Dog sign at butcher shop

I love dogs and I wish that here in the United States we could take our two dogs, who are well-behaved and friendly, to a café or a restaurant with outdoor seating.

In Germany, on the other hand, I would sometimes prefer if people left their four-legged friends at home, or have them wait outside. I never forget a rainy Saturday morning in Berlin, when I went to get the newspaper at a small convenience store down the street. There were five large, wet dogs crammed into a few square meters with their masters. The smell of wet dogs is not something I enjoy.

For me, the ideal rules for dogs in public would be something mid-way between Germany and the United States.

Dogs at outdoor cafe


10 thoughts on “Dining with dogs

  1. Sitting outside with a dog in a cafe is ok for me, but -to be honest- I do not like people taking their dogs into a restaurant very much… I had no idea that it is forbidden at all in the US. Thanks for the post…

  2. I don’t like seeing dogs in restaurants or even shops. And it saddens me to see dogs being walked around busy town and city centres, something that happens too often in Germany. Must be so intimidating for the poor creatures. And don’t even get me started on those blasted extendable leashes..!

  3. Pingback: Dining with dogs (Rebogged from Spoonfuls of Germany) | Mosel Musings

  4. Having lived in both Germany and North America, I must admit that overall, the dogs in Germany are much better trained than they are in North America.

  5. I have seen dogs in restaurants in both Germany and France. I have not seen the dogs beg at the table, but lay quietly at their owners feet. Dogs are everywhere, in the markets, in some stores and even at the airport. Most of the dogs are well trained and obey their owners by voice. I have no problems with well trained animals as they are better behaved than some humans I have encountered.

  6. German dogs are definitely better behaved than many American dogs. I lived in Germany for a while with my elderly dog and she loved the pleasant and welcoming treatment she received. On our return to the US, she was quite unhappy to be tied outside of stores again. The very first time I left her outside a store in Illinois, I returned to find an elderly woman bent over her, engaged in a long conversation — in German — with her. My elderly, stone-deaf dog was watching the speaker’s lips and wiggling her ears and brows as she “listened” intently.

    • That is a sweet story, thanks for sharing it. You rarely see dogs in public here in the US, therefore I find it difficult to compare whether dogs in Germany behave better but I do recall my American husband on a trip to Germany commenting how well trained the dogs were he saw on the streets.

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