Dogs and owners recreating at the designated off-leash area at the Sheepfold in the DCR Middlesex Fells Reservation

We invite Dog Owners to be Park Users and Park Partners

Dogs and their owners are welcome in DCR’s parks, and we encourage all dog owners and their dogs to be respectful of other park users and neighbors. Join us in the stewardship of our parks by being a responsible dog owner and park partner.

DCR welcomes dogs on-leash at most DCR parks, forests, and reservations. However, there are a number of locations where dogs are not allowed, mostly for public safety, public health, or habitat concerns or deed restriction purposes.

DCR’s new regulations on parks and recreation became effective October 24, 2014; regulations governing dog use on DCR properties may be found at 302 CMR 12.13 and 302 CMR 12.17 (5) pdf format of 302 CMR 12.00 Parks and Recreation Rules
.  The new regulations include provisions encouraging the designation of appropriate “off-leash” areas and call for a permit process for commercial dog walkers.

This summer DCR will be holding community conversations regarding a new “MassParksPaws” program that will encourage dog owners to be park partners.   A process for designating new “off-leash areas” and the development of a Commercial Dog Walking Permit are among the topics that will discussed.  If you would like to receive updates on this program or notice of the community conversations once they are scheduled, please email MassParksPaws@state.ma.us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the rules for dog owners recreating with their dogs?
A. To ensure an enjoyable parks experience for all visitors, DCR requests that all dog owners observe the following rules and etiquette while recreating with dogs at DCR properties where dogs are allowed:

  • Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with current tags for license and rabies vaccine.
  • Bring no more than four (4) dogs per person at one time, unless the owner has a special use permit or commercial dog walking permit issued in accordance with DCR regulations.
  • Always clean up after your dog(s) and carry out waste or dispose of it in an appropriate receptacle.  Do not leave it on the ground.
  • Dogs must be on-leash in all parking areas.
  • Make sure that dogs do not damage conservation land.
  • Unless invited, do not allow your dog, even if friendly, to approach other dogs or people, who may not desire such contact.  Keep dogs under effective control at all times and make sure they do not engage in aggressive behavior.
    • In on-leash areas, dogs must be tethered on a leash of no more than ten feet in length
    • In designated off-leash areas, dogs must be under control either through voice control or electronic training collar, or in a manner directed by a law enforcement officer, DCR ranger, or other DCR personnel.  This means your dog:
      • is within sight at all times
      • comes immediately when called
      • stays at your command
      • does not charge or chase people, dogs, horses, or wildlife
      • is leashed when entering or exiting an off-leash area.   The owner should have one leash in hand for each dog.

Visitors who do not abide by these rules may be subject to eviction from the park and/or receive a fine.  

Q. Where are dogs not allowed, either on-leash or off-leash?
A. Dogs are not allowed at:

  • Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, MA
  • Moore State Park, Paxton, MA
  • City Square Park, Charlestown, MA
    Plum Island’s Sandy Point State Reservation, Newburyport, MA
  • Boston Harbor Islands
  • DCR buildings (administrative offices, visitor centers, restrooms)
  • Indoor skating rinks
  • Cabins, yurts, and the encompassing areas 
  • All DCR playgrounds
  • All DCR swimming pools
  • All DCR parking areas
  • All DCR coastal beaches and designated swimming areas of inland beaches from May 1 through September 15, unless otherwise posted.
  • Starting on April 1 of each year and extending through September 15, unless otherwise posted, DCR coastal beaches designated as priority nesting habitats for shore birds.    
  • All DCR’s Division of Water Supply Protection land and water, including the Quabbin, Sudbury, Wachusett, and Foss Reservoir watersheds, as well as the area on Rt. 122 in Barre and Oakham surrounding the Ware River Roger H. Lonergan Intake.  (Additional water supply public access rules are listed at http://www.mass.gov/dcr/watersupply/watershed/pacc.htm.)
  • Other posted areas
dogs in parks

Q.  Why can’t I bring my dog to a DCR coastal beach or designated swimming areas of DCR inland beaches during some periods in spring and summer, unless otherwise posted?  
A.  In order to avoid negative impacts on water quality and to protect sensitive habitats, DCR’s regulations provide that from May 1 to September 15 of each year, unless otherwise posted, dogs are not allowed on coastal beaches or in designated swimming areas of inland beaches.  In addition, under federal and state law, beginning April 1 and extending through September 15 of each year, unless otherwise posted, dogs are not allowed on coastal beaches designated as priority nesting habitats for shorebirds.  

Q.  Where are dogs allowed off-leash?
A.  DCR is in the process of identifying additional properties at which dogs are allowed off-leash.  Currently, DCR allows dogs off-leash at the following properties, in the specified areas only:   
(Please note:  Dogs must be on-leash in all parking areas.)

North Region

Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, at Bark Place.
Callahan State Park in Framingham, on designated trails.
Georgetown Rowley State Forest in Georgetown and Rowley, on trails.   
Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, on trails not in the farm or pond area.  
Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, on trails not in the recreational area and campgrounds.  
Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest in Dracut, on trails.   
Middlesex Fells Reservation in Stoneham, in Sheepfold area.

Boston Region

  • Southwest Corridor Park in Boston, in Carlton Court Dog Park, abutting Carleton Street between Braddock Park and Holyoke Street.

South Region

Central Region

  • Erving State Forest in Erving, on fire roads and access road, not in the recreation area or campground.
  • Mt. Grace State Forest in Warwick, on trails 100 feet from the recreation area.  
  • Warwick State Forest in Warwick, on trails not in the recreation area or campground.  

West Region

Rules may vary at each of these areas.  Please follow posted rules and regulations.

Q.  I walk my neighbor’s dogs on DCR properties.   Am I a commercial dog walker?
A. If your neighbor pays you, then you are considered a commercial dog walker.

Q.  I’m a commercial dog walker. Can I bring my clients’ dogs to play and exercise off-leash?
A. Yes. Commercial dog walkers may currently bring up to four off-leash dogs at a time to designated off-leash areas.  (Similarly, they may bring up to four dogs on-leash to areas where dogs are allowed
on-leash.) Once DCR has established a Commercial Dog Walking Permit Process, dog walkers will be required to complete an application and to obtain an annual commercial dog walking permit from DCR for their business. DCR’s intent is to launch a Commercial Dog Walking Permit program, for issuance of annual permits to be effective for 2017. All other DCR rules apply to commercial dog walkers, including the requirement to clean up after all dogs you bring into a DCR park.

Q. Can I bring my Service Animals to DCR properties?
A. Service and medical support animals, when acting within their service capacity, are welcome at DCR properties, even those where pets are otherwise prohibited.