Visiting Oxon Cove Park with Dogs

A person walks their leashed golden retriever through the woods
Dogs must be leashed at all times.

(NPS/Sarah Breault)

National parks can be great places to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. If you bring your dog to Oxon Cove Park, please protect your dog, other people, and park plants and wildlife by following the rules below.

Where can I go in the park with my dog?

Dogs, with the exception of service animals, are prohibited from Oxon Hill Farm. Though they may be your best friend, our farm animals see dogs as predators.
You may bring your dog to the upper picnic area or along the Oxon Cove trail.

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 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 wild turkey, groundhogs, and songbirds.

Please watch your paws

Oxon Cove Park is home to many plant and animal species and cultural resources.

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.

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 Oxon Cove and the Potomac River.

A = Always Leash Your Pet

  • Leashes help you protect your pet. Even well-behaved dogs have run away after wildlife.

  • 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 Oxon Cove Park.

  • It's not just an Oxon Cove 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: November 10, 2021

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