How to keep your dog and livestock safe in the countryside

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.

Yellow dog sign 2019_64158These 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.  

Did you know... 

  • Dog attacks on livestock are costing an estimated £1.6m a year. 

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 safe around cattle

  • 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.

Web image download dog poster_64632​​You can download our new poster to share on social media, or print it off at home to display in your local community.

Share these pictures on Facebook

Click on an image to download it and share it on your own Facebook account

Is your garden secure social media_65412

If you feel threatened by cattle release your dog social media_65411

If cattle follow you stay calm social media_65410

Never get between cows and calves social media_65409

Clean up after your dog social media_65408

Keep your dog under control social media_65407

Watch our new video for some top tips to enjoy the countryside responsibly with your dog.

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You can purchase these yellow gatepost signs by visiting our online shop.

Related categories: Dogs

Last edited: 29 September 2021 at 10:50

Have your say

Geraldine Rose - 25/10/2020 07:31:17

I saw a video yesterday where a pack of dogs were attacking sheep in a field but the farmer had invited the dogs onto his land along with the horses and heartless humans. What advice do you give to these people?

Judith - 24/10/2020 17:20:20

My father had a farm and he had sheep mauled by pet dogs from an adjacent housing estate. I will never forget the injuries those animals sustained so please be a responsible dog owner and keep your pet secure at home and on a lead when in the countryside near animals.

Steph - 24/10/2020 11:41:33

Great initiative. Most livestock don’t want to hurt anyone but can get excited when visitors appear and like to join in the fun not realising that they might seem intimidating. No one is forgetting the wildlife Matt where do you get that impression. Also, polite request for human poop bags to be carried and not to allow used loo paper to litter the CS and blow around in the wind.

Lillian Winter - 23/10/2020 19:32:04


Jan Gray - 23/10/2020 18:29:25

During the pandemic crisis I am totally fed up with irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs run around off lead, jumping up at walkers, frightening wildlife, puts me off walking in my local countryside, if you complain owners think you are in the wrong, not their uncontrollable dogs. - 16/09/2019 14:40:19

I totally agree that more respect is needed for farm animals and wildlife. I run a local dog walking service and am surprised to see how little care some dog owners have when their dogs are obviously disturbing the "locals". Always good to keep in mind that we are the visitors, visiting their home.

Matt - 19/07/2019 14:22:36

why does everyone forget the wildlife ! Ground nesting and roosting birds, young deer and so on.

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