I have been in different big nature reserves in Europe. An unpleasnt common pattern I saw is that in all of them I saw signs saying that dogs must be kept on a lead, but nobody cares. That doesn't bother me. the few times I encounter a dog they ignore me, but the dog won't ignore the wildlife, several time I saw dogs chasing small animals. Once I saw a big dog running away to chase two deers. The owner, taken aback, didn't know what to do and didn't do anything else than try and call a dog that was gone and too far away to hear them.

The real problem I see actually is not the present, but the future. Dog ownership is becoming increasingly common and hiking trails risk being literally overwhelmed by barking dogs. Can we prevent it in some way?

  • That's kind of a legal question. Whether those signs are actually "recommendations" or "law". In the later case, a breach (particularly if the dogs in fact chase wildlife) would risk a fine.
    – PMF
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 13:23
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    Most of the sign I saw were mandatory, but not enforced. I think it should be more a communication issue. If you leave it just to law enforcement I don't think there would be a big change.
    – FluidCode
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


In part, this question asks the general question about what one should do if he sees someone break the law. You basically have three options: Ignore it, call the police, or intervene. Many people unfortunately choose 1, because it's the least effort. 2 seems rather harsh and 3 always carries the risk of getting beaten up in some way.

The swiss law on chase explicitly states in article 18d that one risks a 20'000 Fr fine (about 20.000€) for letting their dog poach. This isn't a small fine. I assume many countries have similar regulations.

So I think latest when one sees a dog really starting to chase animals, it's time to call the police. If you want to risk it, of course you can talk to the owner, but if he/she doesn't want to listen, you're back at the police. The advantage of that is that they might learn about the problem and dispatch more patrols in the area. They won't do anything if they don't know that a problem exists, sometimes it's really just that.

Addendum: Several countries have regulations that allow hunters or wildlife conservators to shot straying dogs under certain conditions. If dog owners were made aware of this, that could help. They wouldn't like their pet being shot.

  • I don't think that antagonising the dog owners instead of educating them while their number is rising will have a lot of success.
    – FluidCode
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 13:55
  • Neither do I, really. But some people only learn it through their wallet. There was a time when courses for new dog owners were mandatory, but politicians quickly abolished that again for reasons I didn't understand (let alone agreed with)
    – PMF
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 14:23
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    If that's the only option the risk is seeing the example of the Meijendel becoming more common. That is a nature reseve near The Hague in the Netherlands. The signs telling to keep dogs on a lead are there, but not respected and not enforced. When biologists told that the wilder parts of the reserve needed more protection the solution was to fence and close the access to everyone to big chunks of the reserve.
    – FluidCode
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 14:34
  • An other nature reserve in the Netherlands, the dunes between Zandvoort and IJmuiden, is completely off limits for dogs, people are allowed in for free. I must say that I hardly ever see dog owners at the entrances and never inside the dunes (but I am not a frequent visitor.)
    – Willeke
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 15:55
  • Maybe not the police, but park rangers, if they are available. And in some cases, being leashed is in the dogs' and owners' best interests anyway: Authorities said there were off-leash dogs present during both of the recent attacks, and noted that pets running ahead on trails can provoke bears and increase the risk of a dangerous encounter. Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 21:11

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