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.
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.
These bright yellow signs appear along lots of footpaths across the UK, and may have already caught your attention with some simple tips and advice.
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 or lambs have been born.
NFU Mutual reports that 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.
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.
Stay safe – use a lead around livestock, but release your dog if threatened by cattle
Cattle can be extremely inquisitive so if you feel threatened, release your dog so you can both get to safety separately.
- 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.
Wherever you are, clean up after your dog. Bag it and bin it.
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. An increasing number of dogs attacks on sheep happen when the owner isn't present. If your dog can access to outdoor space, at home, unaccompanied, check all fences and boundaries are secure.
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Watch our new video for some top tips to enjoy the countryside responsibly with your dog.