Dogs Must Be Walked Twice A Day in Germany Under Proposed New Law

Dogs also couldn't be left alone all day under new rules.

active senior woman walk with her dog in rural scene
Under a proposed new rule, dogs would have to be walked for an hour a day in Germany. fotografixx / Getty Images

Dog owners in Germany will be required to walk their pets at least twice a day if a proposed new law passes.

The country’s agricultural minister Julia Klöckner is proposing legislation that would order dog owners to walk their dogs at least twice a day for a total of an hour or more. The new rules also would forbid owners from leaving their pets home alone all day or leaving them tied up outside for long periods of time.

The legislation also includes limits for dog breeders as to the number of dogs they can keep and the minimum and maximum temperatures for their facilities.

"Pets are not cuddly toys — and their needs have to be considered," Klöckner said in making the announcement, earlier this week, according to the German news outlet Deutsche Welle. She said her ministry was acting in conjunction with "new scientific research about dogs' needs."

The idea behind the legislation is to make sure the country’s 9.4 million dogs get enough exercise and stay physically and mentally healthy. If passed, the new law would likely take effect in early 2021 although no details have been announced on how it would be enforced.

The proposed law has had a mixed response from dog owners and those in the animal industry.

"There are lots of ways to enrich your dog’s life without a strict mandate, as exercise and behavior needs vary widely depending on the size, type and age of the dog," Lindsay Hamrick, companion animals public policy director, the Humane Society of the United States, tells Treehugger. "Brain toys, trick and obedience training, or agility might be more ideal for some dogs and owners, depending on the dog’s behavior and physical considerations for both the dog and owner."

Meanwhile, dog trainer Anja Striegel explained to German media outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung that "Lounging around the day in front of you is not appropriate to the species. A large part of the problems that dog owners have with their animals these days arise from a lack of exercise — the accumulated energy causes frustration."

The headline in the German tabloid Bild announced, "Dog owners are forced to walk? Nonsense!” The story ended, “So, dear minister: all good intentions. But your dog walking law is so unnecessary and in practice uncontrollable that it is best to dispose of it as quickly as possible, as dog owners are used to when walking: into the bag and into the trash can.”

How Much Exercise Should A Dog Get?

Not many dogs get walked every day, research shows.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that of 1,813 adults surveyed in the U.S., only 23% walked their pets five times a week or more. A 2019 survey by U.K.’s PDSA animal humane society found that 13% of dogs in the U.K. aren’t walked every day.

Vets and animal behaviorists point out that the ideal amount of exercise depends on a dog's age, breed, and overall health. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) suggests allowing your dog to take "sniff breaks" to explore the world while you're walking.

"Keep in mind, it’s less important that a dog get out a specific amount of times and more important that they be allowed to sniff and explore their environment," Hamrick tells Treehugger. "In other words, cardio is often less beneficial than a stroll with lots of sniff stops."

The proposed law has a waiver if the dog’s health prohibits it from being able to walk every day or for that amount of time.