Responsible dog walking

Going out for a walk is an important part of your dog's day, and the countryside can be a good place to do this. To keep you, your dog and other animals safe, follow our simple top tips for a safe countryside dog walk.

Crops

Follow the marked footpaths, close gates behind you and don't stray into fields. Crops that are in early and later stages of growth are easily damaged by dogs and people walking on them.

Litter and dog poo

Poo bags and litter can seriously harm wildlife and farm animals as they may try to eat it, thinking it's food. Always make sure you dispose of all your rubbish and dog poo in a bin. If there aren't any public waste bins nearby, you should take the litter home with you and use your own bin. 

We have more information about how to dispose of different types of litter safely. Dog walkers can play an important role in keeping the countryside safe for everyone by picking up any litter you see, even if it's not yours, and safely disposing of it in a bin. 

Livestock

Many dogs will show interest in livestock and even if you think your dog wouldn't harm another animal, accidents can happen. Dogs can easily frighten animals; ewes and lambs, in particular. Ewes can abort their unborn lambs, be separated from the herd and be seriously injured if they come into contact with dogs. Give livestock plenty of space, and don't try to feed them as it might cause them harm.

Wildlife

Wherever you go in the countryside there will be wildlife nearby, and even though you might not be able to see them if they're hidden away in bushes or hedgerows, dogs can still sniff them out thanks to their fantastic sense of smell. These could be young wild animals waiting for their parents, or adults trying to keep their young safe such as ground-nesting birds sitting on eggs. Be aware of areas where wildlife might be hiding and ensure your dog doesn't disturb them, as this could cause parents to abandon their young or be chased and seriously injured by a dog. It's the best way to keep your dog safe too, as some wild animals can be aggressive if they're attacked and need to defend themselves or their young.

This is important all year round, but be especially careful in the spring and summer as this is when many wild animals will be breeding and have vulnerable offspring. If you are walking your dog in an area with deer between early May and late June, watch out for newborn deer who are especially vulnerable at this time and many are killed or injured by dogs. And if you're walking on beaches or near areas where seals will come out of the water to rest, make sure your dog is on a lead and keep at least 50 metres distance and as far away from the seals as possible to avoid disturbing them.

How to help your dog

If you're concerned about your dog's behaviour around wildlife or livestock, contact a dog behaviourist.

Depending on the situation and circumstances you could be held legally responsible if your dog is involved in an incident which harms an animal.

Wherever possible we advise that you avoid areas where livestock and wildlife are nearby or likely to be present. If unavoidable then please keep your dog on a lead even if you can't see them, and obey any signs asking you to keep away from wildlife and livestock.

In some areas or at certain times of the year, you may be legally required to keep your dog on a lead - watch out for signs that will tell you about any local restrictions.

For more advice about visiting the countryside, read the Countryside Code.

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