Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Parks

Dogs in Parks

We welcome dogs in the Dane County Park System at our eight off-leash dog parks and on-leash throughout the Dane County Park System. Explore the network of hard and natural surface trails and experience the highlights each park has to offer including a variety of terrain and habitats, river/lake access, play equipment and more. Many parks include a separate area just for small dogs.  View locations and highlights in our Google Map of Dog Parks.

Please note:

  • A dog permit is required for all dogs, including service animals.
  • Owners/handlers are responsible for the actions of their dog and are liable under Wisconsin State Statute 174.02 (1) for injuries caused by their dog.
  • During hunting season there are additional requirements designed to keep you and your dog safe, please view information about off-leash hunting below and visit the Park Use During Hunting Season webpage.


Off-leash Dog Parks

Dane County Parks is a national leader in the development of off-leash dog parks. We now have eight off-leash dog parks, totaling 268 acres, each with its own unique features and terrain. A permit is required in order to bring your dog to a dog park within the Cooperative Dog Park Program which includes: Dane County Parks, City of Madison Parks, City of Sun Prairie Parks and City of Middleton Parks. You must have a dog license from your municipality to purchase a Dane County Dog Permit. An Annual Dog Park Cleanup is held on the 1st Saturday in April each year.



On-leash in the Park System

A dog permit also allows you to access all Dane County Park System lands for on-leash hikes with your dog with the following requirements and exceptions:

  • Dogs must have a valid dog permit.
  • Dogs must be leashed and restrained by a 6-foot static leash. E-Collars are not allowed as leash alternatives in Dane County Parks and park users may be fined $169.00 for having their dog off-leash if not in an off-leash dog park.  
  • Dogs are not allowed in designated beach areas at Goodland, Mendota, or Stewart Lake County Parks.
  • Dogs are not allowed on groomed cross-country ski or snowmobile trails.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk portion of the Lower Yahara River Trail.
  • During hunting season (on select properties) you and your dog should wear blaze orange. Visit our Park Use During Hunting Season webpage for more information.


Additional Information by Property

A community conversation occurred regarding the presence of dogs in the portion of Pheasant Branch Conservancy that is owned by Dane County. Dane County manages the northern most 319 acres of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The managed lands are a partnership between county-owned lands (259 acres) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-owned lands (60 acres). The City of Middleton owns the southern two-thirds of the conservancy. Some users are concerned that the presence of dogs negatively impacts birds and wildlife using the conservancy. Other users are concerned that limiting dog access will negatively impact their use and enjoyment of the conservancy. 

The status of the issue is as follows:

  • Dogs continue to be welcome at Pheasant Branch Conservancy consistent with existing dog rules:
    • Dogs must have a valid Dog Permit
    • Dogs must be leashed and restrained by a 6-foot static leash  
  • Parks staff will increase monitoring and enforcement of dog rules.
  • Only designated trails to specific use areas will be maintained (see map on Pheasant Branch Conservancy webpage).
    • Firebreaks and vegetation access paths that were developed for activities such as prescribed prairie burns or prairie plantings, will no longer be maintained.
    • A firebreak and trail will be maintained around the perimeter of the prairie and adjacent to private lands.
  • Changes to recreational access and vegetative management may occur in the future.


Camping with Dogs

Campsite reservations in a campground include a complimentary daily dog permit good for the duration of the stay. A complimentary dog permit is not included in group camp reservations. Learn more about camping in Dane County Parks on our Camping webpage.

Off-leash Hunting

Dogs can be off-leash and do not require a dog permit in Dane County Wildlife Areas ONLY if they are actively being used for hunting during a designated Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Department (WDNR) hunting season. If not being used for hunting, dogs must have a valid dog permit and be leashed with a 6-foot static leash at all times.

During hunting season you and your dog should wear blaze orange. Visit our Park Use During Hunting Season webpage for more information.