Take the lead this spring

30 March 2021

a picture of Graeme Hall and his black labrador

We all know that our four-legged friends, or pets of any kind, can bring happiness, company and a way to keep fit. But with dog ownership comes responsibility too.

Graeme Hall, presenter of Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly and regular Countryside columnist has thrown his weight behind the campaign to help educate and remind dog owners of their responsibility when walking near sheep and lambs.

Please share this video with your friends and family to help play your part in keeping sheep and lambs safe this spring.  

Responsible dog walking campaign Graeme Hall 019_77803As the days get longer, lockdown restrictions ease and the stay at home order lifts, there is no doubt that we will all be looking forward to venturing further afield and exploring more of the great British countryside.

We’ve all got checklists of things we want to do; have a picnic with a friend, enjoy a drink in the beer garden or spot the signs of spring with sights of new-born lambs. But added to the top of that checklist must be a lead for when walking your dog.

Graeme Hall said “No responsible dog owner wants their dog to cause harm or injury. And the answer to this is simple. Your dog must be kept under control while out walking, and if there is any doubt that sheep are about, put your dog on a short lead."

With sheep and lambs filling the fields, bringing a smile to every walker as they frolic about, it’s vital that dogs are kept on a lead so not to cause harm. By just being loose in their field, a dog can cause a sheep to feel stressed and worried, and few can resist the temptation to run after sheep.

Responsible dog walking campaign Graeme Hall 054_77813

Play your part in keeping sheep and lambs safe this spring

We’ve created a suite of shareable social media images to help you spread the word so that we can all enjoy the countryside responsibly.

Click on the thumbnail images to download versions you can share on Twitter.

Countryside Code short lead NFU Twitter infographic

Countryside Code lambing season NFU Twitter infographic

Countryside Code dog waste NFU Twitter infographic

Click on the thumbnail images to download versions you can share on Facebook or Instagram.

Countryside Code short lead around sheep NFU Facebook Instagram infographic

Countryside Code lambing season NFU Facebook Instagram infographic

Countryside Code bag it and bin it NFU Facebook and Instagram infographic

For more infographics on walking in the countryside, click here

Hear more from Graeme Hall

Part of the problem is perhaps the term ‘sheep worrying’. It doesn’t begin to describe either the terror the sheep must have gone through or the anguish of whoever finds the aftermath. There has to be a better phrase, but, so far, I’ve not been clever enough to think of it.

‘Sheep attacks’ might be one way to frame it, but the problem then is some pet owners convince themselves that Flossie the Fluffapoo isn’t the throat-ripping-out type and so the warnings don’t apply to them.

Two points here. One: you’ve really no idea what Flossie will do when her inner-wolf kicks in (and by then it’s too late) and two: you may be right; perhaps she really would rather lick them to death, but you know what…? A dog chasing sheep to play isn’t at all fun for the sheep, and it can easily be deadly.

Responsible dog walking campaign Graeme Hall 032_77807

A friend who is a farmer’s son once told me about a case he saw on Twitter of a flock of sheep which had been rounded-up by a dog into the corner of a field. With no escape route, they’d panicked, climbing over and over themselves in a desperate and futile attempt to get away. Fifty sheep died, mostly of suffocation.

Farmers are animal lovers too. Rufty-tufty craggy-faced farmers might not readily admit it, but sheep worrying takes a massive emotional toll on them. The cost isn’t only financial. And often all they find is the devastation of an attack – dead or injured stock, and the dog long gone. So, I think there’s a different way to change dog owner behaviour (it’s what I do for a living after all). Perhaps we can start by communicating in a better way because – truth be told – every single case is avoidable, and we all want to avoid it. This isn’t ‘us and them’. It’s not farmers vs dog owners; country folk vs townies or anything else. It never was. No one – but no one – wants to see a dead sheep or a dead dog. We can fix this. So, let’s spread the word. If there’s any chance of sheep nearby, keep your dog on lead. No ifs. No buts. No animals harmed.

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