Why more service dogs are in operation in the Berlin S-Bahn now

S-Bahn Berlin
:Why passengers should not provoke Pit and Gina better

  • From

  • Peter Neumann

    Peter Neumann


During training in Schneweide: Bianca NIckel is a service dog leader at DB Sicherheit, Michael Radner heads the training. His dog Devil has to wear glasses.


Volkmar Otto

Berlin –

When he is at home, with the three children, the two guinea pigs and the cat duo, Pit shows mostly of his friendly side. Especially if he gets his favorite treat – dried fish. “He is sensitive,” says Sebastian Groe, his handler. “But he can do it differently.”

At work, in Schneberg S-Bahn station, the Belgian Shepherd shows other qualities: alertness, strength, determination. And if he does, he’s ready to attack. Pit, around 16 months old, is one of 13 service dogs deployed for the five new S-Bahn guards. “30 should be,” says Michael Radner. He is the boss of the service dog at the Deutsche Bahn, which currently has 36 animals – and the trend is rising.

On the large meadow next to the S-Bahn plant Schneweide just under ten service dogs and carers have come together. It is noisy, even the noise of the leaf blower, which rumbles a few meters further, goes down. The animals tug on the leash, teeth are bared in some bite basket.

After two hours of work break

The dogs do not know each other yet or not for a long time, so they bark and growl. “For the animals, it’s stress first,” explains Radner.

The 55-year-old, whose accent betrays the origin of Rhineland-Palatinate, leads the eight-week service dog training of the railway, which was settled for the whole of Germany in Schneweide. Previously, he worked for the police. Radner’s Belgian Shepherd Dog is called Devil (Devil) and wears glasses for ultraviolet radiation. One eye is blind, the other must be protected.

So far, the railway has resorted to external companies, now they have taken this area in their own hands. One reason is that employees are constantly being attacked. Passengers also feel safe when they see dogs stripes. That is why more and more service dogs for DB Security are also in use at Berlin S-Bahn stations. Four more were recently added.

Gina’s bark is unmistakable. It is important that service dogs can switch from recreational to working mode – and back again. This, the German shepherd dog has recognized correctly, has to do with work. The drive from Rudow to Adlergestell, the other service dogs, the instructors: These are unmistakable signs for them.

Gina was not bought by Radner, unlike Pit, who earned his spurs at the Dsseldorf police. She entered the service of the railway as a family dog. “We’ve had her since she was a puppy,” says Bianca Nickel, the owner. “We know each other well.” Gina lives in the family house in Rudow.


Sebastian Groe from Premnitz came to training with his dog Pit.


Volkmar Otto

This is common practice with service dogs: they are with their people 24 hours a day. Pit, for example, sleeps in front of Sebastian Large bedroom in Premnitz.

Two hours through the Weddinger station

Although there are different stereotypes – measured by the number of passengers (more than 1.5 billion in 2018 alone), the number of reported offenses for BVG and S-Bahn is low and their number is declining. In 2018, according to criminal statistics, 24063 offenses were registered. Nevertheless, the Berlin S-Bahn has implemented a new security concept – which also includes five guards.

In the Berlin S-Bahn guards 60 security forces are busy, around the clock someone is there. Locations are the S-Bahn stations Ostkreuz, Westkreuz, Friedrichstrasse, Schneberg – and Gesundbrunnen.

There Bianca goes nickel patrol, with baton, pepper spray and Gina. Whenever a passenger has a serious word to talk to, the bitch cares for calmness only through her presence – and that requests are followed. Two hours Gina runs through the Weddinger station, then she may rest for two hours in a box – so it is mandatory. Meanwhile, people are on patrol again.

Please do not pet!

Michael Radner, whose car bears the mark of the Westerwald circle, makes no secret of the fact that he sometimes finds the driving on the metropolitan railway stations challenging – that’s how the animals look.

“When I was a kid, I was told that I did not run into dogs and that I should not just stroke them,” he says. But in Berlin it happens quite often that children reach out their hands: Is that cute! “Some dogs do not want to be touched,” warns Radner.

“In Berlin, there seems to be many Commissioner Rex fans.” But not every service dog of the web wants to fulfill the clich of the nice police dog tail wagging. “Then one asks: Why is he barking?”


Bianca Nickel runs with her family dog, the four-year-old Gina, patrolling the S-Bahn.


Volkmar Otto

Then there are those who are in a hurry and nearly stumble over the dogs in the crowded station. Not to mention the dog owners who let their animals run around without a leash – and wonder about the reaction. Or the old people lifting their cane to get ahead – which some dogs find an attack.

And so the dog handlers’ biggest challenge is to make sure the animals do not understand everything as an attack. “It’s right that they are alert. But the dogs are not there to hurt passengers, “explains Sebastian Groe.

Open your mouth, spit it out

Only when de-escalation does not work do you see physically noticeable reactions. Then it is first encountered, even with a muzzle. If that does not help either, the bite guard will be removed. “Then there may be a bite injury,” says Radner cool. But as I said: That is not the main purpose.

“We do not train killers, but animals that obey and communicate reasonably.” Equally important: If necessary, the dogs must also be able to let go again. Motto: “Open the door, spit out the person”.

The dog handlers can not tell of many sticky situations. Gina, reports Bianca Nickel, has encountered a drugged man at the station Gesundbrunnen – then there was peace. Meanwhile, the bitch has given rest, she looks friendly with her long coat. Bianca Nickel is proud of Gina. Would she get cats too? “Cats – do not do it!”