You will soon have to keep dog on lead if walking in forest in France

The measure starts this month and owners can be fined if they do not comply

Man walking his dog on a lead in a forest
Dogs in France must be kept on a lead in forested areas from April 15, unless they can stick to a clear path at all times without fail

Dog walkers watch out: from April 15, dogs will need to be kept on a lead when walking in all forests throughout France, in a bid to protect wild animals.

The Office national des forêts (ONF) has reminded dog walkers of the rule, which states that from April 15 to June 30, dogs must be kept on a lead at all times when walking in forests, unless the forest has a clearly demarcated path and the dog is able to stay on this path predictably at all times.

If a dog is off-lead (not recommended), it: 

  • Must not stray from the path

  • Must have good enough recall to return to its owner immediately in case of any distractions at all times - including from wild animals.

The ONF defines forest paths as “understood in the broadest sense to include forest roads, tracks or footpaths, in particular the GR (long-distance footpaths), but also all footpaths. However, forest partitions, fire fences and field boundaries are not considered to be paths.”

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Control, recall, and roaming

All year long in forests, dogs (especially when off-lead) must remain under control at all times, and not go further than 100 metres away from their walker or owner.

The rules come from a March 16, 1955 decree, which refers not only to forested areas but other types of natural spaces too.

It states: “To prevent the destruction of birds and all species of game, and to encourage their repopulation, it is forbidden to allow dogs to roam in cultivated or uncultivated land, meadows, vineyards, orchards and woods, as well as in marshes and on the banks of rivers, ponds and lakes.”

“Allowing a dog to roam” is defined as not keeping them within 100 metres of the dog walker, not monitoring their behaviour, and not having foolproof recall (even when the dog has been distracted).

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The measure is intended to protect wild animals and birds, especially when they are nurturing their young.

Failing to respect these rules - including the on-lead requirement from April 15 to June 30 - can land the owner or walker with a fine of up to €750.