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Moving to Sweden with a dog: How we adjusted to life in Gothenburg

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Moving to Sweden with a dog: How we adjusted to life in Gothenburg
Arvo moved to Gothenburg with his humans in early 2019. Photo: Pip Dragonetti
07:58 CET+01:00
Moving to a new country can be overwhelming in the best of circumstances, but when you bring your dog along it opens a whole new set of challenges, as Pip Dragonetti found when she moved from London to Gothenburg.

In January 2019 we loaded up my parents' VW campervan and set off for Gothenburg.

A new job with Spotify awaited my partner, and a brief period of funemployment for me. I had no idea what to expect, but having watched my fair share of Scandi drama and read countless BBC news articles extolling the quality of life in Sweden I was confident it would all be ok.

Nestled in among our bed, books and tea bags was our beloved Border Terrier, Arvo. Clutching his newly acquired pet passport together with our own, we departed London for Harwich, where we took the overnight ferry to the Hook of Holland. After a stop in Puttgarden we crossed the Öresund Bridge and arrived in Gothenburg the following day, ready to start our new life in Sweden.

It wasn't the easiest beginning. Anyone who lives in Sweden knows that finding somewhere to live is tricky and adding a dog into the equation only makes it harder. The company tasked with helping us relocate actually asked us if we could leave our dog in the UK.

That was never an option for us and luckily turned out to be unnecessary as we eventually found a dog-friendly apartment in Stampen, not the perfect area but walkable to the centre and we couldn't afford to be picky.

Another challenge was what to do with Arvo once I found a job. In London we had a great walking service called the Pet Manny where at the touch of a button you could book in a walk or a pop in, dangerous from a cost perspective but highly convenient if you fancied an impromptu beer after work.

I did a lot of research in those early weeks, after all I had a lot of time on my hands, and what I found was that in some ways you are well served and in other ways you are quite limited.

For example, there are many dog daycare services and although most of them have waiting lists these move quite quickly so it doesn't take long to get a place. In theory this service sounds great. However, when I looked at the details I was perplexed – strict drop-off and pick-up times often out of the city centre, minimum three-day or in some cases five-day commitment with no flexibility and an almost blanket ban on uncastrated dogs (we just couldn't do it to him). Not to mention a fixed 3000 kronor per month bill regardless of usage.

This all seemed overkill for a dog we know sleeps eight hours a day and just needs a walk and a wee at lunchtime. So what were the other options?

It's illegal to leave your dog alone for more than six hours in Sweden and we would never leave him longer than that anyway. Coming home at lunchtime works sometimes but is not always practical.

In the end we were saved by the abundance of students in Gothenburg and an app called Rover. Rover is a service that matches people who like dogs but perhaps can't have one of their own with people who do have dogs and need help walking them. Just in time for my first day at work we had the phone numbers of three university students ready to walk Arvo for us, with flexible booking and a 100 kronor per walk fee, result!

There are some other quirks about having a dog in Sweden; in our experience it's not very common to have your dog off the lead and other owners can be reluctant to let your dogs say hello, but we've learned to adjust. Having seen many deer on our walks through Delsjöområdet and around Gunnebo Slott we understand the need for the lead and now only let him off in the designated hundrastgård (dog park).

Yet despite all this, in many ways, having a dog in Gothenburg is easier than in London.

The abundance of great trails and beautiful scenery make walks with Arvo a varied and adventure filled experience. A far cry from our former circuit around Tooting Common where the most exciting wildlife you'd see was a gluttonous pigeon.

There's also a huge number of cafes, bars and restaurants that are dog friendly, something which certainly makes life easier when you don't want to leave your four-legged friend at home. There's even a cinema in Haga that does dog-friendly film screenings complete with doggy popcorn and water bowls. It's utter chaos but great fun.

Quite a few places have a handy paw sticker on the window to show they allow dogs and we've recently discovered a great app called Hundvänligt which lists all the dog-friendly places across the whole of Sweden.

A few months after arriving in Gothenburg we had to return the trusty VW camper to the UK and having got used to being able to drive out of the city (and to Ikea) we bought a car. At the end of September thanks to a chance spotting on Blocket we found a new apartment with a garden...

Nine months into our Nordic adventure we have achieved the Swedish dream: a house, a Volvo and a dog. Or, as the Swedes would say: Villa, Volvo, Vovve. Skål!

Pip Dragonetti moved to Gothenburg from London in January 2019 with her partner Duncan and their dog Arvo. In between her day job at Chalmers University of Technology she enjoys writing about her experiences and is currently working on her first novel. 

 
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