Pets

Dog on a leash wearing a vest in the snow.
Chloe is properly on her leash and ready to have fun in the park!

Elizabeth Jackson/NPS Photo

National parks can be great places to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. There are countless areas in Fort Washington Park for you and your dog to explore—the perimeter trail, Washington Drive, picnic areas, and the Fort itself! If you bring your dog to Fort Washington Park, please protect your dog, other people, and park plants and wildlife by following the rules below.

Always leash your dog

National parks in the DC area welcome you and your dogs, but dogs must be on a leash at all times (should go without saying, but you need to be holding onto that leash!). Keeping your dog on a leash keeps everyone safe, including your dog, park wildlife, native plants and other park visitors – it’s also the law!

Federal regulations require all pets to be on a leash no longer than six feet (2 m) at all times:

  • to ensure the safety of your pet;

  • to reduce conflicts with other visitors and their pets;

  • to limit potential exposure and spread of disease, and;
  • to protect wildlife, such as groundhogs, deer, and songbirds.

Please watch your paws

Fort Washington Park is home to many plant and animal species and countless cultural resources including the 19th century Fort and batteries.

Stay on designated trails. Going off-trail can damage or kill certain plant or animal species, and can hurt the ecosystems that surround the trail. Walking in areas that aren’t designated as trails divides and fragments the forest and can help give invasive species an advantage over native plants.

Where can I go in the park with my dog?

You and your dog (that’s on a leash) are welcome in all outdoor spaces of Fort Washington Park, including the fortifications. With the exception of service animals, dogs are not permitted in any indoor spaces, including the Visitor Center.

Remember to B.A.R.K.

National parks are exciting places for you and your pets to visit. To protect your dog, other visitors and plants and wildlife, please follow the four B.A.R.K. principles in national parks:

B = Bag Your Pet’s Waste and Dispose of it Properly

  • No one wants to hike on a trail littered with dog poop. Pack a bag for pet waste pick-up. Always pick up your dog's poop.

  • Bagging pet waste is crucial, but only step one! The job's not done until you drop it in the trash can. If you’re not near a trash can, please pack it out!

  • Dog poop is a health hazard. Plus, it increases nitrogen in the soil around the trail, giving weeds the advantage instead of native plants.

  • Pollution from pet waste introduces excess nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) into local waterways like Piscataway and Swan Creek and the Potomac River.

A = Always Leash Your Pet

  • Leashes help you protect your pet. Even well-behaved dogs have run away after wildlife or have been hit by cars on roads inside or outside of Fort Washington Park.

  • Keeping dogs leashed and on trails protects them from contacting animals who are rabid or simply aggressive. It also protects your pet from infectious diseases or parasites that can live in the waste of park wildlife or other dogs.

  • Not everyone is a dog person. No matter how friendly and well-behaved your dog may be, other visitors may be frightened by dogs. Leashes protect the experience of visitors who may be allergic or afraid of dogs—or simply might not want to be approach by dogs they don’t know.

  • Off-leash dogs can harm the local environment by trampling sensitive plants, making an area more vulnerable to invasive species and other external threats.

R = Respect Wildlife

  • Keeping your dog on a leash helps protect park wildlife. Dogs off-leash can chase and threaten animals. This includes scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. Remember: You are a guest in the home of park wildlife.

  • The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator and disrupt or alter the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrows an entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.

  • Park animals might hurt your pet if they feel threatened. You are responsible for your pet’s safety.

K = Know Where You Can Go

  • Your dog must always be kept on a leash in Fort Washington Park.

  • It's not just a Fort Washington Park rule! DC law states that any person with their dog off-leash outside of specified dog parks can be fined or even imprisoned.

  • Pets should never be left unattended—in vehicles or tied to signs, posts, gates, or bike racks, etc.

  • Check park signage before you recreate with your dog, not all areas permit dogs.

Learn more about pets in national parks.

Last updated: May 22, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

13551 Fort Washington Road
Fort Washington, MD 20744

Phone:

(301) 763-4600

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