Doggy do's and don'ts at Hatfield Forest

Couple walking a dog on woodland path

Whether you're a local dog walker who comes for a wander every day or visiting from further a field, we welcome dogs and seek to make yours and their day out as easy and relaxing as possible.

Doggy do's and don'ts


To help us ensure our visitors, dogs and wildlife get along together, we ask that you:

  • Do have close control of your dog at all times while visiting the forest.
  • Do keep your dogs on leads at all times in the lake area, around livestock including where sheep are grazing.  Dogs are allowed off lead elsewhere as long as you have a good recall and you keep your dog in sight at all times.
  • Do pick up your dog's mess and place it in a dog bin.  Dog mess bins are located in all car parks and along the internal road.
  • Do have your dog sit beside you at the picnic tables but not on top of chairs and tables, including in the Fisherman's Shelter.
  • Don’t allow dogs to chase or disturb wildlife. Both fallow and muntjac deer, as well as large numbers of nesting bird call the forest home.  If your dog has a strong chase instinct, keep him or her on the lead at all times.
  • Don’t take you dog into the Dog Free Zone in the lake area, even on a lead, this area is clearly signed.


What is Close Control?


Dogs must be under close control at all times while visiting Hatfield Forest. But what does Close Control mean? Our definition of close control at Hatfield Forest is :

  • Being able to recall your dog in any situation at the first call.
  • Being able to clearly see your dog at all times (i.e. not just knowing they are under a hedge or in a bush)
  • Having a lead with you to use if you encounter livestock or are asked by a member of staff.


Why is it important?


Hatfield Forest is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, there are over 4,000 different species of flora and fauna which call this place home. With increasing development along the A120 corridor there are fewer and fewer places for wildlife to live away from human interference. Hatfield Forest is a vital refuge for many species of native wildlife from deer to Song birds.


Dogs can be very disruptive to birds and deer, as they will view any dog, from miniature poodle to wolf hound as a predator. 


Throughout the year dogs can be very disruptive to many animals natural cycle. Ground nesting birds, the deer rut, deer raising young fawns and cattle grazing are just some of the species and activities which can suffer as a result of disruption by dogs. 


Each year Natural England estimate that 20,000 sheep are worried by dogs across the UK.  In 2016-17, 9 sheep were killed in Hatfield Forest by dogs out of control. It is vitally important that dogs are under control at all times to prevent tragedies like this occurring. 

Hatfield Forest is a working medieval environment which goes hand-in-hand with grazing.  If we were to lose the ability to graze livestock, we risk losing 1000 years of history and all the wildlife which has evolved with it. Please help us keep this tradition alive and walk your dog responsibly.

" We want everyone to be able to come and enjoy the forest. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep our sheep safe because of a lack of awareness amongst a few dog owners."
- Ian Pease, Ranger

Our Dog Warden

We have a dog warden, Simon, you will often see him in the forest and Woodside Green walking his dogs.  He is an expert dog handler and will be chatting to dog owners about some of the challenges of managing the forest, why it is important to keep your dogs under safe supervision and helping ensure the forest is a welcoming place for all.

Simon has a wealth of practical tips and will be handing out route maps and information on the Country Code, as well as keeping a handy supply of dog mess bags.

" While you're out and about in the forest, please come and say "hello" and, whether you have a dog or not, feel free to ask any questions about the Countryside Code and how best to keep your dog and livestock safe"
- Simon Moore, Dog Warden

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer dog warden, please contact us in the estate office.


For more information on the countryside code please visit Country Code