Gustl, a six-month-old golden retriever, tugged at the leash, tempted by the many smells around the Donaukanal. Katherine Mawdsley stopped. “We’ve got to regroup here. Gustl, sit,” she commanded. He did. “Good boy!” Mawdsley said, giving him a treat. Owning a dog in Vienna involves more than this kind of training. You may welcome a helping hand when navigating the bureaucratic hurdles, medical care, training, even finding out where dogs are allowed. Before you move your dog here or adopt one, add these items to your to-do list.
Home and Medical Care
First question: May I keep a dog in Vienna in my apartment? Check your lease to see if dogs are allowed, and your household insurance to see if it covers doggy damages. Landlords are not allowed to explicitly forbid common small pets, such as cats, hamsters, gerbils, etc., Any paragraph in the contract expressly forbidding them is invalid.
However, dogs, big and small, are a different matter. The landlord may explicitly forbid them. “We recommend that you always check with the landlord beforehand,” said Martin Neuburger, team leader at Mieterhilfe, “It can save you a lot of trouble down the line.”
Mieterhilfe provides free counseling for renters and can review possible restrictions in your lease. Next: You will want to find a Tierarzt, or veterinarian, who suits your style, is convenient to where you live and ideally comes recommended by the breeder, another trusted dog owner or the adoption agency. There are over 200 practices in Vienna.
Doggy Red Tape
All dogs in Vienna are required to have a microchip, which can be registered at petcard.at, if the vet has not already done so. Your vet also will issue the Heimtierausweis if you don’t receive it when you adopt or buy your dog. This “passport” has your contact details, the microchip number and vaccination history, and due dates. If you are bringing your dog to Vienna from another country, speak to your vet at home before the move about EU requirements, as these are subject to change.
With certain breeds, the owner and dog must pass a German-only exam. (See sidebar for a list of dogs that require the exam.) The exam must be completed within three months of arrival or getting your dog, or when the dog reaches six months of age. For dogs not on this list, the exam is optional. The intent is to ensure you can handle your dog in public places. The exam, with theoretical and practical components, includes handling your dog’s ears, paws, and mouth.
During a walk through the city, an examiner sees how you manage your dog’s behavior and lead him through distractions, such as a stray Leberkässemmelwrapper – Gustl’s favorite. If you do take this exam (which has a €20.84 registration fee), you are exempt from paying the Hundeabgabe, or dog tax, for one year. The dog tax costs €72 per year, and in exchange you never need to buy poop bags again. “Those Sackerl dispensers are surprisingly everywhere!” Mawdsley said. Not cleaning up after your dog carries a fine of €50. According to the MA48, Vienna’s municipal department for waste management, 100,000 of them are used every day.
The Grass Is Greener
Vienna is filled with parks and green spaces, such as the Donauinsel, where dogs can play to their hearts’ content. Mawdsley, an American who has lived in Vienna since 2010, said walking the dog is a way to get to know the city and make new friends. “I have never spoken to so many people on the street as when Gustl was a puppy,” she said. As we chatted, Gustl (short for Augustin) played with a four-month-old Italian water dog mix, Momo, whose owner was also a regular at the Donaukanal.
“You get to know your neighborhood in a completely different way, and word of mouth with fellow dog owners is one of the best ways to find out about the best spots,” Mawdsley said. Hunde-Zone.at lists where you are welcome to play fetch in every district. (Some parks have designated dog areas.) This website also offers a directory of groomers by neighborhood; search for Hundesalons.
Plenty of restaurants will gladly welcome you and your (well-behaved) best friend, but Mawdsley recommended calling ahead to ask if dogs are allowed. If getting around with your dog involves public transportation, your dog must be on a leash and will need a ticket and muzzle. The ticket costs half the regular human fare, but if you have a Jahreskarte (yearly ticket), the dog rides for free. If your dog is without a muzzle on the U-Bahn, Bus, or Straßenbahn, it will cost you €50. The muzzle fit must allow the dog to pant and drink water. Positive reinforcement training is the best way to acclimate your dog to wearing a muzzle. A trainer can help, if your dog resists wearing one.
There may be lots of boxes to check to ensure you and your dog have a worry-free life in the city, but it’s worth it. As we walked toward Mawdsley’s home, with Gustl now tired from playing, I asked Mawdlsey if there were anything else she wanted to share. “With Gustl, Vienna feels more like home,” she said.
Happy Dog, Happy Life
From dog sitters to taxes, here’s what you need for your canine friend:
Dog Swap Vienna
Want to go on vacation? Find a fellow dog owner to take care of your dog, during absences from the city.
HUNDELIEB: A matchmaking service for dog owners who need a dog sitter for an afternoon, and dog lovers who only have an afternoon to spare.
HUNDE-ZONE.AT: A directory of every dog park per district.
TIERFREUNDE ÖSTERREICH: Dogs are frequently victims of poisoned bait left in parks and on paths. Their WhatsApp service keeps you in the know about places to avoid.
DOG TAX: The annual dog tax is €72 per year for the first dog, €105 per year for each additional dog.
Want to Adopt or Foster an Animal?
Tierquartier is a great place to start your research
(German only) is required for breeds that are known to be more aggressive. Check for the updated list on wien.gv.at
- American Staffordshire terrier
- Dogo Argentino (Argentinischer Mastiff)
- Fila Brasileiro
- Mastin Espanol
- Mastino Napoletano
- Pit bull terrier
- Staffordshire bull terrier
- Tosa Inu
Unless your dog’s breed is on this list, this license is optional. If you do complete it, you are exempt from paying the dog tax for one year.