Dog Policy FAQs

Why did the dog policy change in 2019?

You asked — and we listened! Feedback from park users indicated an increasing desire for more canine-friendly opportunities. The Board of Commissioners approved the updated policy on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

Aren’t dogs on turf trails going to be a detriment to natural areas and wildlife habitats?

Nope, a dog on leash on a trail has minimal impact on natural resources, similar to that of a person walking or running.

Why a six-foot, non-retractable leash?

Even if walking on the edge of the trail, a six-foot leash helps ensure that dogs do not impact the natural resources we are working to protect. A shorter leash is also safer, as it reduces the chances of a dog getting tangled with other trail users or around bushes, trees or signs. 

Non-retractable leashes are less likely to break should the dog pull too hard and more likely to prevent dogs from crossing to the other side of the trail which creates a tripping hazard for other trail users on foot or bicycle. 

My dog is well behaved and trained. Do I still need to keep him/her on a leash?

Yes, unless in a designated off-leash area, dogs must be on a six-foot, non-retractable leash at all times. There are a few reasons why this is so important:

  • A leash protects natural resources. When dogs go off trail, they can disrupt sensitive wildlife and habitats, some that have taken years and significant resources to reintroduce and restore. 
  • A leash protects other park users. While most dogs are friendly, some people are afraid, allergic or just not comfortable around dogs. Horses can be spooked, as they view dogs as predators, and other dogs who are leashed can feel threatened by an unleashed dog approaching them.
  • A leash protects your dog. Off-leash dogs are more likely to get into dangerous plants or get injured by other animals.

Dogs are allowed at campgrounds but not on beaches or play areas. What do I do with my dog if we want to go to one of these areas while camping?

If no one is able to watch your dog at your campsite, dogs on leashes are allowed in picnic areas, which are the grassy areas surrounding beaches and play areas. Please make sure your dog is attended to at all times and their leash is not attached to trees, signs, picnic tables or other fixed structures. 

Can my dog swim anywhere in the parks?

Dogs on leashes are allowed to wade and swim in water adjacent to a trail or picnic area. Dogs are not allowed to swim in swim ponds or designated swimming areas. Designated off-leash areas in Elm Creek and Crow-Hassan Park Reserves have water where dogs are allowed to swim off leash. Note: Due to increased algae concentration, it is not recommended for dogs to swim at the Elm Creek off-leash area from mid-summer through early fall.

Can dogs swim in off-leash area ponds? Is it safe for my dog?

Visitors can have their dogs swim in the off-leash area ponds at their own risk. The ponds are not tested for potentially harmful parasites or bacteria. Staff may periodically close the ponds due to reports of illness or visual observation of water quality concerns.

Are dogs on leashes allowed on nature center trails?

Yes, because nature center trails are turf trails, dogs on leashes are allowed. Dogs are not allowed in designated nature exploration areas or around the raptor aviaries.

Please be mindful that there are frequently field trips and other programs at nature centers that involve groups of children. Because of this, we encourage using nature center trails during non-peak times, for example before 9 AM or in the evenings. 

Nature center staff may temporarily designate areas and trail segments as “no dog areas” when dogs are likely to cause a significant interruption to a program in progress (for example, bird banding programs). During these times, temporary signage will designate the area(s) dogs cannot go.

Are dogs on leashes allowed on horse trails?

Yes, because horse trails are turf trails, dogs on leashes are allowed. If you use a trail designated for horseback riding, it is extremely important to keep your dog under your control and on a six-foot, non-retractable leash at all times.

Read more information about sharing the trail with horseback riders.

Why can’t I bring my dog to Gale Woods Farm, Kingswood Park or Noerenberg Gardens?

  • Baker Near-Wilderness Settlement: The Settlement is only open for scheduled visits that are often program-based. The type of programming conducted is not conducive to domestic dogs. 
  • Gale Woods Farm: Domestic dogs cause undue stress to the sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens and other animals that live on the farm. These animals cannot distinguish between a domestic dog and an actual threat like a coyote.
  • Kingswood Park: Due to the easement arrangements with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, dogs are not allowed at Kingswood Park. 
  • Noerenberg Gardens: The terms of the land donation prohibit pets within the gardens in order to maintain them as one of the finest formal gardens in Minnesota.

Where can I go if I do not want to be around dogs?

We recognize that some people do not want to be around dogs.

Gale Woods Farm, Kingswood Park and Noerenberg Gardens are parks where dogs are not allowed.

Dogs are not allowed in buildings, on beaches or at play areas. Additionally, archery ranges, cross-country ski and singletrack trails, golf and disc golf courses, and winter downhill areas are recreational opportunities where dogs are not allowed.

While dogs are allowed in more areas now, visiting during times when there are fewer people reduces the chances of crossing paths with a dog. Non-peak times include mornings before 9 AM and on weekdays.

What should I do if I see a dog that is not on a leash when it should be?

If you feel comfortable, speak up! Ask the owner to put the dog on leash. Try to ignore the dog if it approaches you.

If you are not comfortable speaking up or the owner gets confrontational, you can always report it at a staffed Three Rivers location or by calling 9-1-1 and asking for Three Rivers Park District Park Police.

For general information, read this blog post about bringing your dog to the parks.