How to keep your dog and livestock safe in the countryside

05 September 2022

A picture of a female walking her dog in a field

Exploring the great British countryside with your four-legged friend is a great way to relax, unwind and get some much needed fresh air and exercise at the same time. Our experts explain the best ways to keep your dog and livestock safe whilst doing so.

To help make countryside dog walks safer and more stress free for both pet dogs and farm animals, we’ve joined forces with The Kennel Club to give you some best practice advice to encourage responsible dog ownership. We want to help dog owners enjoy the UK’s landscapes while avoiding causing unintentional injury or distress to sheep and cattle.

What to do if your dog is involved in an incident

If you're unlucky enough to be involved with livestock worrying, tell someone. You might not find the farmer but you can drop into a local shop or pub. It's important to get the message to the farmer, so they know as soon as possible and can help the animal.

Watch Jonathan's video to see how sheep worrying can affect the flock and the farmer. Help keep farms like Jonathan's safe by keeping dogs on leads.

Staying safe around cows

You may come across cattle when walking your dog in the countryside. Follow these simple tips:

  • Stay vigilant, especially when entering a field - you may not be able to see the whole field.
  • Cows are inquisitive animals. If cattle follow you try to stay calm and walk quickly and quietly round the herd.
  • Don't get between cows and their calves. Walk round the herd and re-join the path when safe.
  • If you have a dog, keep it on a short lead around cows and sheep, but release if threatened by cattle so you can both get to safety separately. 
  • If you feel threatened by animals protecting their territory or young, don't panic or run. Move to the edge of the field and, if possible, find another way round.
  • If the farmer has offered an alternative route because livestock are grazing, please use it to help the farmer keep you safe.

The consequences for cattle

Dog attacks cost the UK £1.6 million each year, but the losses are bigger than just money. British farmers invest a lot of time and resources into caring for their animals to make sure their farms have some of the highest welfare standards, and dog attacks undermine all of that.

Hear about the tragic impact a dog attack had on Mat and Chrissy's cows. Lets make sure we keep every animal safe in the countryside and avoid this happening again.

Does your dog come back when they're called? 

Making sure your dog knows their name can be essential to successful mastering recall. Along with keeping dogs on leads, this can help protect sheep and lambs who may be in the fields where you are walking. Carolyn Menteith is an expert dog behaviourist and trainer. She recommends using this easy exercise to make sure your dog knows their name:

  1. When your dog is not looking at you, say their name enthusiastically, and when they look at you, reward them with a treat. Only say their name once. If they don’t look, no treat!
  2. Once they look at you in expectation of a treat, instead of throwing the treat, drop it on the floor beside you, so they have to come to you.
  3. As they are coming to you (not before), introduce your cue words (“come” “here” etc.) so you link the word with the action.
  4. Practise this at different times of day, in every room so they learn that their name means look at you everywhere.


Your dog can scare or harm farm animals

Your dog might be extremely docile and friendly, but we have to remember that farm animals won’t know that. It’s best to keep your dog on a lead and under close control around livestock. Farm animals can be very protective, especially at certain times of the year such as tupping and bulling time when male and female animals are mixing, once animals have become pregnant, or after calves have been born.

Take the lead with Graeme Hall

Hear from Graeme Hall, presenter of Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly and regular Countryside columnist about how you can be a responsible dog owner when walking your four-legged friend in the countryside.  

Wherever you are, clean up after your dog.

Did you know that dog poo can spread disease to farm animals? It’s important to clean up after your dog wherever you are – just bag it and bin it. Any public waste bin will do.

Is your garden secure?

One in six dog owners admitted their pet has escaped from home in a recent survey conducted by NFU Mutual. A significant proportion of attacks are caused by owners who let their dogs roam from homes adjoining the countryside and aren’t aware that they are attacking farm animals. If your dog can access to outdoor space, at home, unaccompanied, check all fences and boundaries are secure.


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