No more obligatory courses for dog owners

Currently, four hours of obedience training awaits prospective owners and their dogs Keystone

Dog owners in Switzerland will no longer be obliged attend a training course with their four-legged friends from 2017 onwards.

This content was published on November 23, 2016 - 11:12 and agencies

On Wednesday, the Swiss cabinet announced that the federal ordinance on compulsory dog courses will be repealed on December 31, 2016. Parliament had voted in September to abolish the obligatory classes. 

The requirement was introduced in 2008, and meant that when someone bought or acquired a new dog, they had to attend four hours of practical classes on obedience training. In addition, a theory class of one-hour duration was made compulsory for first-time dog owners. 

A government report published in March showed that the dog courses were not having a major impact in a country with more than 500,000 dogs.

The number of incidents, such as dog bites, had not decreased and there was no noticeable difference between how dog owners who had been on the course behaved, and those who had not. Around 20% of dog owners didn’t attend the course at all. 

Despite the federal backtracking, Swiss cantons can still prescribe dog training courses through cantonal legislation on dogs. For example, cantonal laws currently require owners of certain "dangerous breeds" like the American Pitbull Terrier to attend 72 hours of obedience training classes with their dogs over a two-year period. It is up to the cantons to decide what breeds they deem “dangerous”.

 Course origins

The law on the protection of animals was changed in 2008. Among other issues concerning how people keep pets and livestock, the obligatory training courses for dogs were brought in. 

It followed a deadly attack on a 6-year-old boy by three Pitbull terriers in canton Zurich in 2005. The incident lead to widespread acceptance for the courses among dog-owners and vets.

There were calls at the time to ban the breed. However, as time went on, emotions cooled, and the final outcome was the training course for dog-owners. 

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