Dog-Friendly Guide to Madison, WI

Madison Wisconsin

Population: 254,977 (2019)
Off-leash dog parks: 9
Accommodation: 44
Restaurants, pubs, & cafes: 64
Most popular dog breed: Labrador Retriever

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When it comes to Wisconsin, there’s no shortage of beer and cheese curds, but you’ll be pleased to know that your dog will be able to enjoy treats with you. There are 64 dog-friendly restaurants and bars in Madison, with some even offering boutique shopping as well. With 9 off-leash dog parks and multiple on-leash parks and hiking trails, you’ll be able to find plenty of things to do when it comes to enjoying the pleasant weather Madison offers. Dogs are accepted in many businesses across Madison as well, so your dog will be able to join you for a trip to TJ Maxx, a run to the liquor store, an art viewing, and a pottery class. Madison has around 15,000 acres of lakes in and around the city, so your dog can join you for a swim or a paddleboarding adventure.

golden retriever standing on paddle board

Interesting Facts

  • There are almost 13,000 dogs registered in Madison, which means approximately 5% of the city’s residents own a dog. Out of those dogs, over 11,000 of them are spayed or neutered. Labrador Retrievers, mutts, and Golden Retrievers top the list of most popular dogs in Madison.
  • It’s illegal to sell or adopt out a dog that is younger than 7 weeks in Madison. Breeders, shelters, and rescues that adopt out for a fee are required to pass an inspection to ensure dog welfare is being kept as the top priority.
  • Multiple state parks in Wisconsin allow dog sledding and skijoring during the winter months. If your dogs are conditioned and trained for this type of activity, doing these activities in a state park can be a fun and exciting experience.
  • Madison is home to a service dog training school, allowing people with service dog needs to have their dog trained to perform necessary services for their health and wellbeing.
  • In 2020, the Dane County Animal Shelter, which is the county that Madison is located in, adopted out every dog, cat, and exotic pet at the shelter, except for one: a 20-year-old gelding horse named Big Guy.

Leash Laws & Licensing

In Madison, dogs must be leashed at all times except in designated off-leash areas. The dog must be on a non-retractable leash that is 6 feet long or less that is being held by a person who is able to control the dog. Running at-large is not legal in Madison, for both dogs and cats, and may result in fines.

All dogs must be licensed with the city of Madison and have an up-to-date rabies vaccine. They’re always required to wear the license tag as proof they have been vaccinated and registered. Dogs are also required to have a tag on at all times with the owner’s information, including name, phone number, and address, so the dog can get back to its owner if caught running at-large.

Golden Retriever Puppy Walking on Street in Madison Wisconsin
Golden Retriever puppy walking on a street in Madison WI | Credit: SamuelJLi, Shutterstock

Living in Madison, WI with a Dog

When it comes to medical care for your pup, you’re in luck! Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Having a veterinary college nearby often means access to testing and care that is difficult to find elsewhere. Veterinary colleges also often provide discounted prices when veterinary students are involved in the pet’s care.

Since Madison is such a dog-friendly city, finding a place to live or stay isn’t a problem. Many hotels and landlords allow pets, although this usually involves pet fees. There are also plenty of doggy daycares, doggy hotels, pet sitters, dog walkers, and trainers in and around Madison, so you’ll have no issue finding someone to help you out with your dog no matter what the problem is.

Average Cost of Ownership

It’s estimated that the cost of owning a dog in Madison is between $1000-1200 per year. This includes just over $200 for an annual vet check-up, around $200 for flea and tick medication, another $200 or more for heartworm prevention, food, and other basics. However, unexpected and additional costs are estimated to run anywhere from $1000-5000 and can even exceed that depending on the situation. Having a backup fund for pet care is ideal when possible to help cover these unexpected expenses.

When it comes to finding a place to live, many landlords allow pets in Madison and the city does not have any breed restriction laws. It’s illegal in Madison for landlords to have a non-refundable pet deposit or fee, but a refundable deposit may be due at the time of lease signing. Some landlords get around these fees by charging pet rent, which is a monthly per-pet fee, usually anywhere from $15-50 depending on the size and type of pet.

City of Madison WI downtown skyline in autumn
Credit: MarynaG, Shutterstock

Shelters & Rescue Centers

Madison has tons of rescues and shelters! Breed-specific rescues for Labradors and Golden Retrievers are common, as are non-breed-specific rescues. Many rescues function by placing their animals in foster homes, which can be a great way for you to get involved in a rescue and see how an additional animal works in your home. The county animal shelter rapidly processes adoption applications and managed to adopt out all the dogs in the shelter by August 2020. However, there are always animals that need saving, so shelters and rescues always have dogs available for foster or adoption.

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Madison may not be the first city that comes to mind when you’re considering a trip or a move, but Madison is a breath of fresh air when it comes to their dog-friendliness. You’ll find no shortage of places to go and exciting experiences to participate in. And of course, your dog will be able to join you in your adventures across Madison!

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Featured Image: David Mark, Pixabay