Prague unleashed: The new rules for letting your dog run free

An update to the city decree on public greenery has been widely misrepresented and misunderstood.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 12.01.2022 13:20 (updated on 13.01.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prague wants to clarify where dogs can and cannot run freely off the leash after confusion has sprung up due to media reports that the city had entirely banned unleashed dogs from public greenery.

The source of confusion was a planned amendment to an ordinance designed to protect public green spaces that reconfigures areas where dogs can freely run. Czech server Seznam Zpravy.cz in a now amended article interpreted the draft amendment as banning owners from letting dogs run free in these areas.

In a press release issued late last week in response to the original SeznamZpravy.cz article, the city clarified that the amendment on the protection of public green spaces, which also includes the rules for the free movement of dogs in public areas, doesn't create any significant changes for dog owners but rather clarifies what constitutes public greenery.

The updated amendment defines public greenery as city parks, green areas in squares, street greenery including tree lines and flower beds, housing greenery, and other green areas forming part of public spaces, including all streets in these areas. 

City Hall maintains that when extending the definition for greenery, it worked so that the area where dogs can run didn't shrink, asking city districts to propose new areas for the free movement of dogs for larger integrated areas of greenery not yet covered by the regulation.

The draft amendment adds a map of areas in Prague where dogs can run freely (see below). These represent quite small areas of space according to the dog owners who are opposed to the amendment and believe it will not only prove psychologically damaging to dogs but increase the risk of collisions between dogs and humans.

Those in favor of the new draft decree say the free movement of dogs increases dog mess and endangers the safety of pedestrians, including children.

So what does this all mean for dog owners and where exactly can you let your dog off the leash?

Most Prague parks and green spaces have signs near the entrances stating the park rules. These usually include pictograms of dogs, bikes, rollerblades, and other items. If dogs are banned completely, there will be a red line through the image of a dog. An image of a dog on a leash shows that dogs are permitted, but cannot run free.

Sign in Prague 2 showing where dogs must be on a leash. Photo: Raymond Johnston.
Sign in Prague 2 showing where dogs must be on a leash. Photo: Raymond Johnston.

A green image of a running or standing dog, usually in a green circle or square, means dogs can exercise off of the leash. Signs like these can be spotted in several Prague parks including Riegrovy sady and Stromovka. There is also a large dog run in the privately owned field behind Czech Television at Kavčí hory.

Sign in Prague 2 showing where dogs can run free. Photo: Raymond Johnston.
Sign in Prague 2 showing where dogs can run free. Photo: Raymond Johnston.

The decree also allows dogs to run freely "on fenced dog playgrounds and fenced areas with obstacles for agility."

A number of Prague municipalities have dog playgrounds with various obstacles that allow dogs to play and exercise without restrictions, as dogs are not allowed in children's playgrounds in Prague. One favorite among dog owners is the agility course in Prokop Valley. A list of additional dog agility courses can be found here.

Dogs are expressly forbidden to run around sports fields, flower beds, and ornamental parks. While the decree does allow movement without a leash, unleashed dogs must be kept in close proximity to their owner to avoid conflicts with other pets and people. If the dog is led on a leash, it must not prevent other pedestrians from moving.

The city says the decree does not affect the possibility of free movement of dogs on forest land or in the open countryside outside areas of continuous development.

In a statement posted to its Facebook page last week Prague City Hall wrote: "The problem of lack of areas for free movement of dogs is mainly in the central part of the city, wherein the configuration in preparing the decree, the capital also took into account the physiological need for free movement of dogs."

According to city figures released in August 2021, there were 90,183 dogs and 82,949 owners as of the end of 2020. The highest number of dogs is in Prague 4, followed by Prague 6, while the fewest are in Prague 1. The most common names are Ben, Max, and Bety.

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Prague has a reputation for being a dog-friendly city. In 2020, a ranking by Berlin-based insurance startup Coya ranked it fourth out of 50 cities worldwide. According to the survey, the city had 153 dogs per 1,000 inhabitants, which was third-highest on the list. Prague, though, ranked 19th in its number of dog-friendly parks, despite making lists of cities with the most green space per capita.

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