Germany, thankfully, does not have the same problem that the US has with unwanted pets. So, when animals do wind up at a shelter, they find themselves in a much better position than American shelter animals do. The accommodations are swank. And, the guests are in no huge hurry to find their Forever Home– unless it is the right fit. Add this together with the fact that many Germans live in apartments until middle-adulthood, and you find the perfect circumstances for a mutually beneficial program called “Gassigehen” or “Going For a Walk”. Potential pet owners- or people like us who just wish they could have a dog in their apartments- come to the shelter every day and “check out” a dog.
It is surprisingly simple. You fill out a form with your contact information, and they ask you a few questions about your capabilities (this dog weighs 36 kilo, so if he gets excited he can pull with some force, can you manage him?) Then, they bring out a dog and hand you a leash! For up to two hours you can walk the dog around the area. And, the area just happens to be beautiful! It is a forested zone with a small lake in the middle. There is plenty of room for running, stick throwing and basically just taking the dog out for a good old fashioned romp! The dogs get attention and exercise. The people get to play with a dog (and get exercise). It is all extremely healthy and tremendous and wonderful. I am sure in the States you would need to sign all sorts of disclaimers about what happens if the dog knocks you over or bites you or if you do something stupid with the dog. But, here, things are a bit less litigious. And, the base assumption is that you will behave in a reasonable, responsible way. So, it works.