Dogs in nature

Dogs are welcome in the nature. However, dog owners must observe strict rules so as not to disturb the wildlife.

Between 1 March and 20 August dogs are not permitted to run free in the countryside. The Hunting Act states that dogs must be "restrained from running loose in grounds where there is game". The Swedish EPA interprets this provision to mean that the only way to prevent a dog from running free is to keep it on a leash.

The purpose of the provision is to protect wild animals when they are at their most vulnerable, i.e. during the birthing or hatching season. The "grounds" referred to in the Act are virtually all natural lands, including large parks and such like.

Dogs must be kept under full control at all times

Even at other times of the year, dogs must be kept under sufficient control to prevent them from harassing wildlife. A dog running free in the countryside may be restrained by a person who holds hunting rights to the land (usually the landowner), or by a person acting on their behalf.

If the dog cannot be restrained it risks being shot. The same applies to a dog that is harassing cattle if it shows a tendency to bite.

In areas of reindeer husbandry, dogs not used for reindeer herding must be kept on a leash. The same applies when reindeer are being moved from one place to the next.

Mandatory leashing in national parks...

In some cases leashing is simply mandatory, with no exceptions. Dogs must be leashed in national parks and in a number of national parks, dogs are not permitted at all.

Every natural park has its own regulations that stipulate what is permitted in that particular area. The regulations for Sweden's various national parks are available in English on the website of the Swedish EPA:

Sweden’s 30 national parks

… and in nature reserves

In most nature reserves dogs must be leashed, particularly those nature reserves that contain vulnerable wildlife or that receive many visitors. Read the notice boards at the entrance or ask the county administrative board or local municipality.

Local and regional decisions

County administrative boards may order dogs to be leashed in accordance with the Hunting Regulations. An order may apply from 1 March to 20 August or at some other time of the year. Leashing is mandatory in much of the Baltic coastal archipelago, for instance.

Municipalities may also issue regulations applying to outdoor recreation areas, jogging trails, etc.

Responsibilities of dog owners

The law imposes a "strict liability" on dog owners. This means that you can be held liable for any injuries or damage caused by a dog that you own, even if the animal was in the charge of another person at the time. You are also responsible for familiarising yourself with the laws and provisions that apply to you as a dog owner.