A dog with a ranger vest on walking through a forest.

National parks offer some of the most beautiful places in the United States for you and your dog to explore. It can also be a bit overstimulating for your dog in comparison to a trip to a local trail or park. This is why Healthy Parks Healthy People members created the B.A.R.K. Ranger program,  which helps guide your dog on a safe adventure. To get the most out of your trip taking your dog to a national park, we recommend checking out the B.A.R.K. Ranger program.

Bark or B.A.R.K.

Since each national park offers its own set of terrain, wildlife, layouts and rules, each B.A.R.K. Ranger program is uniquely designed around that specific park — the program is not a one-size fits all approach. The goal of the program is to increase awareness of positive dog behaviors and reduce the number of pet-related accidents within a park.

All breeds and ages are welcome, as long as your dog is friendly and leash trained.

B.A.R.K. stands for:

  • Bag your pet’s waste: many visitor centers offer poop bags if needed.
  • Always leash your pet: a 6’ or shorter leash is a must for your dog at all times.
  • Respect wildlife: no barking, digging, sniffing or chasing.
  • Know where you can go: learn which trails and areas are pet friendly.

Some programs require you and your canine to take a pledge, while others offer a “walk with a ranger” program. We recommend contacting the visitor center of your destination prior to arrival to understand what their B.A.R.K. Ranger Program en-taIls.

Dogs who go through each program are sworn in by park officials near the visitor center. You’ll receive a bandana, a wallet card with the B.A.R.K. Ranger pledge, a certificate and the option to purchase a special B.A.R.K. Ranger tag to add to your pet’s collar. Pets are not allowed inside most visitor center buildings, so plan accordingly.

How to Sign Your Dog Up to Be a B.A.R.K Ranger

You can pick up a B.A.R.K. Ranger booklet at the park’s visitor center upon your arrival, or you can reach out to the park prior to your travels to request a digital copy of the booklet. Complete the activities in the booklet at a pace your dog is comfortable with. If you need to take extra time on some activities over others, we encourage you to do so. It could be the difference between knowing how to safely exit a situation with unexpected wildlife or what trails/areas are safest for your pet to adventure out on.

Prior to the Program

You are responsible for your canine’s safety and the safety of others while taking your pet to a national park. Pets can and will become overstimulated with the many sights, smells and sounds within the park. Make sure your adventure partner is leash trained, in good health and acclimated around groups of people and knows how to walk on a trail prior to enrolling in a B.A.R.K. Ranger program. The program will enhance the positive behavior foundation you’ve set for your dog so you and everyone else involved can enjoy the pet-friendly portions of the parks. Need extra positive-behavior training before planning your National Barks trip? Check out our blog for all sorts of fun training articles.


Are you and Fido ready to set off to a national park? Your furry companion is ready to become a B.A.R.K. Ranger and embark on a trip to remember. Adventures like these will provide all furry tails with a tale or two to share when they return home. Ready…set… woof — here you come!


RELATED POST: Adventures in the Wild: Proper PETiquette in National Parks


The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.