Dogs are of course welcome in the countryside. However, dog owners must observe strict rules in order to protect wildlife.

Between 1 March and 20 August dogs must not be allowed to run loose in the countryside. In the words of the Hunting Act, dogs must be ‘restrained from running loose in grounds where there is game’. The Swedish EPA understands this provision to mean that the only way to prevent a dog from running loose is to keep it on a leash.

The purpose of the provision is to protect wild creatures when they are at their most vulnerable, i.e. the birthing or hatching season. The ‘grounds’ referred to in the Act are virtually all natural lands, including large parks and the like.

Dogs must be under full control at all times

Even at other times of the year dogs must be kept under close enough control to prevent them from harassing wildlife. A dog running loose in the countryside may be tied up by the person who holds the hunting rights to the land (usually the landowner), or by a person acting for him or her.

If the dog cannot be caught it risks being shot. The same fate may befall a dog running loose among cattle if it shows a tendency to bite.

In reindeer husbandry areas, dogs that are not used for reindeer herding must be kept on a leash. The same applies while reindeer are being moved from place to place.

Compulsory leashing in national parks…

In some cases leashing is simply compulsory, with no exceptions allowed. Dogs must be leashed in national parks, and in some of them dogs are not allowed at all.

Each natural park has its own regulations which lay down what is allowed in that particular area. You can find the regulations for Sweden’s various national parks in English on the website of the Swedish EPA:

… and in nature reserves

Dogs must be leashed in most nature reserves, particularly those with vulnerable wildlife or many visitors. Read the noticeboards at the entrance, or ask the county administrative board or municipality.

Local and regional decisions

County administrative boards may order dogs to be leashed by virtue of the Hunting Ordinance. An order may apply to the period from 1 March to 20 August or to some other time of the year. Leashing is compulsory in much of the Baltic coastal archipelago, for instance.

Municipalities too may issue regulations applying to outdoor recreation areas, jogging trails etc.

Dog owner’s responsibilities

The law imposes ‘strict liability’ on dog owners. This means that you can be held liable for injuries or damage caused by a dog you own, even if the animal was in the charge of another person at the time. You must also be aware of the laws and provisions that apply to you as a dog owner.