Dogs in the Netherlands: A Complete Guide

 The Netherlands is known to be a dog-friendly country with many scenic places to walk your furry friend. In fact, over 30% of Dutch households own at least one dog

Bringing your dog to the Netherlands is allowed, provided you adhere to the standardized EU rules. There are nearly 2 million dog pets among the Dutch regulated by the Netherlands Animal Control. 

There are plenty of parks and open spaces, and dogs are generally welcome in public places. With a few exceptions, dogs are allowed on public transport and in restaurants and cafes. Notably, the Dutch love dogs and take excellent care of them, especially in the shelters. 

Before taking your dog to the Netherlands, familiarize yourself with the rules. From adoption to the expenses and the social requirements for different breeds. If you’re thinking of moving to the Netherlands with your dog or getting a dog once you’re here, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.

Is the Netherlands dog friendly?

The Netherlands is a dog-friendly destination. According to Statista, the dog population by 2019 was about 1.95 million, which is slightly more than ten percent of the human population—an increase from the previous year, at 1.7million. Most restaurants and cafes allow you to dine with your dog. Still, inquire from the restaurant owner prior, as each has a different preference.

However, dogs aren’t permitted in such places if you want to hit the clubs, museums, supermarkets, or government institutions. Dogs are prohibited on public beaches in certain seasons (spring and summer) and hours.

Although the Netherlands is open to walking dogs in public spaces, it’s limited to designated areas – know beforehand or ask.

Dining out with a dog in the Netherlands

Most restaurants will allow you to dine in with your dog in the Netherlands. Casual restaurants and cafes are more famous places for pets; however, avoid peak hours.

Check out for signs indicating whether dogs are allowed or not before entry or simply ask the owner. Alternatively, you can opt to share the terrace with your dog. Most restaurants allow outside dining, and the environment is friendly and conducive for both you and your dog.

Dogs on public transportation in the Netherlands

Dogs are allowed on all types of public transportation in the Netherlands, and the rules are pretty generous. For instance, if the public transport is run by GVB, your dog will travel for free (placed in a bag or on your lap) whether in a bus, metro, or tram.

NS pet policies allow free travel for small dogs on the domestic trains but charge tickets for large dogs (€3.10 per day). It also limits one passenger to only one dog, which must be on a leash. Rules vary for International trains depending on the service providers.

A walk in the park with your dog in the Netherlands

You can do various activities accompanied by your dogs, such as wandering the historic canals, bike rides along the laneways of the inner-city, or the historical cheese market in Edam city. Most of the parks are dog-friendly areas – feel free to explore.

Adopting a dog in the Netherlands

Adopting a dog in the Netherlands is a great way to find your new best friend. There are many different animal shelters and rescue organizations to choose from, and there are often dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds available.

If you’re thinking about adopting a dog, make sure you’re prepared to take on the responsibility of feeding, walking, and exercising your new pet.

Before adopting one as your companion in the Netherlands, there are various things you need to consider:

  • Dog breed

Some common dog breeds in the Netherlands are Dachshund, Jack Russell Terrier, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Beagle, and Boxer. Your choice of dog breed will, to some extent, determine the amount of space required, how much energy the dog has, and the climate it can tolerate.

  • Size

The size of your home or apartment is an important consideration when choosing a pet. If you live in a small space, then a small or medium-sized dog may be best for you, and vise versa.

  • Age

The Netherlands has a large number of senior citizens. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance pet, consider adopting an adult dog rather than a puppy.

  • Energy level

Some dogs require more exercise than others. If you live in an apartment and don’t have a lot of time to take your dog for long walks, then a low-energy breed may be best for you.

The dog adoption process

Adopting a dog can be a daunting task, mainly in the Netherlands since there are few shelters and the management takes good care of them. The problem comes when matching your needs with the available dogs at a shelter.

Let’s not forget the high adoption fee, which is approximately €550 depending on the breed.

The adoption process differs in the various organizations, but the procedure looks as follows;

  • Fill out an adoption form. Here you mention what type of dog you need and your lifestyle (Children, house space, availability, finances, etc.).
  • Matching you with a suitable dog. According to the information you feed in the form, the organization will connect you with a dog ideal for that description.
  • Viewing available dogs. Most organizations will invite you to see a dog and immediately bring it to your place. In contrast, others require multiple visits to the shelter before you adopt. Welcome your new best friend.

Bringing a dog to the Netherlands: What you need to know

There are standardized rules regarding the transportation of pets within the EU—check the latest regulations if you’re planning to take a dog to the Netherlands. The rules differ depending on where you are traveling from. Conditions when bringing a dog to the Netherlands from another EU country;

  • The dog must be above 15 weeks old
  • The dog must be vaccinated 21 days before coming to the Netherlands.
  • The dog must be fully vaccinated against rabies (carry vaccination certificates).
  • Have a microchip for marking
  • An EU pet passport is required

If you’re bringing your dog from countries with a high risk of rabies, the dog must get an additional blood test for a rabies antibody and an EU certificate (Annex IV). It needs to be done at least three months before entering the Netherlands.

However, pet passports are rarely checked when crossing the border with a car, train, or ferry. Suppose you’re traveling from the UK to the Netherlands without a vehicle; ferry options allow foot passengers to cross with dogs without strict rules.

These include the Stena line ferry (Harwich to Holland), P&O ferry (Hull to Rotterdam), and DFSS ferry (Newcastle to Amsterdam).

Where to buy a dog in the Netherlands 

Buying a dog in the Netherlands can be more complicated than most anticipate. There are limited pet shelters, and thus, buying a healthy dog leaves you with these three options:

  • Pet shelter (dierenasiel) – Several shelters rescue stray dogs and match them with prospective and responsible new owners.
  • Friends – You can adopt a dog from friends with a pregnant one. This is the cheapest and easiest way to get a four-legged best friend—and it’s legal. However, you have to follow the registration process and legalize the adoption.
  • From a recognized Breeder – Buying a dog from a registered breeder is the best option than a pet store. Similarly, you can buy them from Dutch petting farms.

What to avoid when buying a dog in the Netherlands

There are tons of social media channels and online websites selling dogs; not all are bad. However, be extra vigilant when trying to buy a dog from these platforms. You might buy illegally imported dogs, non-vaccinated or stolen dogs which may land you in deep trouble if caught.

Avoid suspicious online deals and advertisements, have extremely high or low prices, sketchy delivery methods, and if the breeder has no license.

Recognized breeders have licenses and allow multiple visits to see the puppies before adoption. Ensure the breeder has dewormed and vaccinated the puppies. They should give you the health and vaccination records and a purchase contract after buying.  

How much does a dog cost in the Netherlands?

The initial investment before adopting a dog is expensive. When adding recurring monthly and annual expenses, be prepared for extra costs. Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue center costs about €50 – €200. If you purchase purebred from a breeder, the prices are high and range from €500 to €2000.

Owning a dog in the Netherlands 

You must be prepared to own a dog in the Netherlands since they come with societal, financial, and health responsibilities. If you stay in a rental home, it’s better to ask the owner before getting a dog.

Dog rules in the Netherlands

Registration

You must register your dog with the local authorities within 2-4 weeks (varies between cities) after buying – dog breeders should register with RVO in Dutch. You’ll be given a unique registration number used to register and microchip the dog and obtain an EU pet passport. Most cities like Amsterdam permit online registration.

Microchip the dog

You must microchip your dog seven weeks after birth. Only recognized micro chippers and veterinarians are permitted to do so. The vet registers a dog’s microchip number at a designated port within two days. Regularly update these details as they are essential in identifying lost dogs.

Annual dog tax

With the Dutch Tax Administration, dog tax (hondenbelasting) is mandatory for private dog owners, commercial breeders, and importers. The fees vary between municipalities. For instance, Groningen costs about €124,80 per annum, €120,12 in The Hague, and €74,52 in Utrecht.

Put on the dog tag

After registration, you’ll receive a tag that your dog is supposed to wear on its collar whenever in public.

Pet passports

It’s a mandatory requirement for all EU pet owners to have pet passports while traveling with their dogs or carrying them to the Netherlands. The passport includes the pet’s chip, identification number, and vaccination records.

Walking your dog

Mandatory leash rules and regulations differ within various cities in the Netherlands. Consult with the local municipality to know areas you can freely walk your dog without a leash and also places it can relieve itself.

Pick up the dog poo when walking in undesignated areas in the Netherlands. Otherwise, you are due hefty fines of up to €150 if reported for not doing so.

Mandatory training for specific breeds

There are dog species deemed high risk by the Dutch government as per the official list in 2017 and thus require specialized training to interact with the public.

Anyone who owns a dog with a tendency towards aggressive behavior must attend a training course.  Such dog breeds include Pitbull terriers, Rottweilers, shepherds, and crossbreeds.

Veterinary services

The Dutch are pet lovers, and there are many vets and dog hospitals across the country. It’s a requirement to occasionally take your dog to the vet for check-ups.

Dog insurance

You are 100% liable for any damages or injuries caused by your dog in the Netherlands. Most Dutch cities require you to have dog liability insurance. Luckily, several budget-friendly insurance policies are available depending on what you want to be covered – from vet bills to treatments and surgeries.

Read and understand the insurance policy and what it covers before selecting one. Check if it covers certain pet conditions and the vet’s reputation when making that decision.

How much does it cost to own a dog in the Netherlands?

Owning a dog in the Netherlands is not only a time commitment but a financial one. Annual estimates for owning a dog are between €1,300 and €4,200, according to AVMA. Premium rates can lead to approximately €5,000 per year.

Before getting a dog, consider the financial implications and prepare accordingly. The general recurring annual expenses include:

Costs Things you need for a dog
Dog’s purchasing price200 – 3,000 EURPurchasing price will depend on the place where you buy it, breed, etc.
Initial expenses 200 – 450 EURFood and water bowl, leash, collar, basket, transport box, vaccinations, deworming, registration, and optional courses (e.g., puppy training)
1. Microchip20 – 50 EUR
2. Neutering300 EUR
Total initial: From 720 to 3,800 EUR
Annual expenses250 – 1,000 EURDepending on the dog’s size: food, treats, accessories, regular veterinary expenses for vaccinations and parasite treatments, stay in daycare centers, etc.
1. Insurances100 EUR
2. Taxes120 EUR
3. Routine vet visits200 – 2,000 EUR
Total annual: 672 – 3,222 EUR

These are rough estimates and may vary depending on your dog’s breed, schedule, and financial capabilities. If you don’t have enough time to walk a dog, you might also hire a dog walker, which can cost up to 2,000 EUR annually, or about 10 EUR per hour.

Additionally, you should have enough budget for unforeseen veterinary costs if you don’t have pet health insurance. For this reason, you might consider purchasing pet health insurance to help pay for vet bills.

Anna

Anna is an experienced expat and writer. She has been living abroad for over 6 years.

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