Fact Check

Putin Took His Dog to '07 Meeting with Then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel?

The chancellor — who reportedly fears dogs — gave a biting response to Putin bringing his pet.

Published March 25, 2024

 (AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Image courtesy of AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin brought his pet black Labrador to a 2007 meeting with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, even though she fears dogs.

Numerous news stories have reported Merkel’s phobia of dogs stemming from a decades-old incident in which she was bitten, and Merkel herself appeared to criticize Putin for bringing the dog to the meeting. A former U.S. intelligence officer on Russia claimed that this was Putin’s intimidation tactic, though Putin denied he was trying to frighten Merkel.

In March 2024, a viral Reddit post described an incident from 2007 in which Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly brought his pet black Labrador to a meeting with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who fears dogs. 

(Screenshot via Reddit)

The above incident did indeed take place. In January 2007, while meeting in Sochi, Russia, Putin brought his female black Labrador, Koni (sometimes spelled Kuni), into the room where he and Merkel were seated. Numerous news reports, including a profile of Merkel in The New Yorker, said she had a fear of dogs. As such, we rate this claim as "True."

Photographs from Getty Images and video footage of the meeting show the black Lab roaming around the room as Merkel and Putin sit across from each other. She appears to be seated stiffly, not touching the dog, while Putin moves Koni away from her at first. Koni eventually returns to sniff at Merkel, who smiles but does not pet the dog. Putin watches as the dog remains at Merkel's feet.

A Getty Images caption stated, "The labrador sauntered into the meeting room in front of reporters and sat at Merkel's feet, causing the German chancellor apparent discomfort." 

A 2014 New Yorker profile of Merkel detailed the incident including her biting response to Putin's decision to bring the dog to their meeting:

Putin's brand of macho elicits in Merkel a kind of scientific empathy. In 2007, during discussions about energy supplies at the Russian President's residence in Sochi, Putin summoned his black Lab, Koni, into the room where he and Merkel were seated. As the dog approached and sniffed her, Merkel froze, visibly frightened. She'd been bitten once, in 1995, and her fear of dogs couldn't have escaped Putin, who sat back and enjoyed the moment, legs spread wide. "I'm sure it will behave itself," he said. Merkel had the presence of mind to reply, in Russian, "It doesn't eat journalists, after all." The German press corps was furious on her behalf — "ready to hit Putin," according to a reporter who was present. Later, Merkel interpreted Putin's behavior. "I understand why he has to do this — to prove he's a man," she told a group of reporters. "He's afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this."

Fiona Hill, a U.S. intelligence official who is considered one of the world's foremost experts on Putin, gave an analysis on his intentions during that meeting with Merkel. In a 2020 interview with CBS News' correspondent Lesley Stahl, she said Putin got his training from Russian intelligence and tries to gauge other's vulnerabilities:

Fiona Hill: He wasn't a professional politician. He came out of the KGB. He had learned certain skills there. You're basically figuring out how to size someone up and then to figure out what makes them tick, what their vulnerabilities in particular might be so how can you hone in on those to get people to do what it is you want them to do.

Lesley Stahl: Do you think that he studied President Trump and did find some vulnerabilities and honed in on them with our president?

Fiona Hill: He does this with absolutely everybody that he interacts with. For example with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at one of their first meetings.

Fiona Hill: Putin knew from all of his research on her that she was very scared of dogs. Putin has a very big black Labrador called Konni. And has the black Labrador come into the room and the black lab immediately comes and starts sniffing around the chair of the chancellor. The whole purpose of that was intimidation. 
Lesley Stahl: Sure.

Fiona Hill: The chancellor is, of course, a professional. And she's a woman who is used to having people try to intimidate her and she kept it together.

In 2016, Putin told a German newspaper that he had no intention of intimidating Merkel. "I wanted to do something nice for her," he said. "When I found out that she doesn't like dogs, of course I apologized."

In the same interview, he denied ever having said he admired Merkel, but added, "I value her as very professional and open." 

Putin has expressed his affection for Koni. According to CNN, Putin once said, "As far as bad moods go, of course I have them like any other person, but in those cases I try to consult with my dog Koni — she gives me good advice."


Hume, Tim. "Vladimir Putin: I Didn't Mean to Scare Angela Merkel with My Dog." CNN, 12 Jan. 2016, https://www.cnn.com/2016/01/12/europe/putin-merkel-scared-dog/index.html. Accessed 22 March 2024. 

Lister, Tim. "Pup-Lover Putin Gifted New Dog for Birthday." CNN, 11 Oct. 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/11/world/russia-putin-birthday-puppy-trnd/index.html. Accessed 22 March 2024.

Packer, George. "The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel." The New Yorker, 24 Nov. 2014. www.newyorker.com, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/01/quiet-german. Accessed 22 March 2024. 

"Russian President Vladimir Putin Looks on as His Dog Kuni Approaches..." Getty Images, 21 Jan. 2007, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/sochi-russian-federation-russian-president-vladimir-putin-news-photo/73058057. Accessed 22 March 2024. 

"Russian President Vladimir Putin's Dog Koni Makes an Unusual..." Getty Images, 19 Dec. 2019, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/russian-president-vladimir-putins-dog-koni-makes-an-unusual-news-photo/1189623093. Accessed 22 March 2024. 

Stahl, Lesley. "Fiona Hill Warns about Russian Political Meddling in 60 Minutes Interview." CBS News. March 8, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fiona-hill-russia-advisor-president-trump-impeachment-lesley-stahl-60-minutes-2020-03-08/. Accessed 22 March 2024. 

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.