Taking your dog for a countryside walk

Enjoying the Great British countryside with your dog is a wonderful experience. It's a great way of exercising your dog and is the ideal place to bond.

We need to keep the countryside special for everyone. It's really important to be mindful of other people, wildlife and farm animals - especially when you're out and about with your dog.

Planning a walk in the country

Here's 8 things to think about before you set out on a countryside walk. It'll help you and you dog feel prepared!

1. Check you’re legal

By law, if your dog is out in public they must be:

  • Microchipped.
  • Wearing a collar with an ID tag that has your name and address on it.

2. Make sure you’re in control

You’re legally responsible for everything your dog does so it’s important to be in control. If they run off unattended they could get into trouble, get hurt or harm someone else. If your dog damages someone’s property or injures or kills a farm animal it can cause a lot of heartache, not to mention you’d be at risk of prosecution for the damages.

  • Make sure your dog’s collar and harness fits well and they can’t slip or wriggle out of it.
  • Keep your dog on a lead around farm animals or wildlife.
  • Brush up on your dog’s training and practice some basic commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’ and ‘leave’.
  • Pack tasty, healthy treats that your dog can’t resist. You’ll know your dog will come when you call!
  • Check your Pet Insurance includes third party liability cover. This means your insurer will cover any damage caused by your dog.

3. Check the weather and be prepared

  • Always seek out shade on hot days. Take regular breaks and plenty of water for you and your dog. Be aware of the signs of heatstroke so you’ll know if your dog is struggling in the heat.
  • Kit your dog out with a well-fitting waterproof coat for snowy or wet weather. Understand the signs of hypothermia so you can spot if your dog needs help in the cold.
  • Alabama rot has been linked with walks in wet and muddy woodland. Wash your dog after muddy woodland walks.

4. Avoid bringing home unwanted guests

5. Plan your route

  • Have a map to hand.
  • Check in advance if you and your dog are allowed on the land you plan to walk on.
  • Find out as much as you can about where you are going, plan ahead and follow advice and local signs.
  • Make sure that the walk isn’t too long for your dog. Healthy adult dogs can usually walk further than older dogs or puppies. Think ahead and take plenty of rests so they don’t get too tired or sore the next day.

6. Pack up

Here are some essentials to pack for your dog:

  • Plenty of water and a portable dog bowl.
  • Poo bags. Dog poo can spread diseases to other animals. Picking up your dog’s poo is a must!

You might want to bring these extras, too:

7. Get there and back safely

You’ll probably have to drive to and from your walk, unless you’re lucky enough to have the countryside on your doorstep. Keep your dog safe in the car by:

8. Follow the countryside code

You can read the countryside code online. These guidelines help let everyone enjoy the countryside. Here are some important points:

  • Bin your litter or take it home with you (including poo bags!)
  • Leave gates as you found them – closed gates need to be closed and open gates should stay open.
  • Don’t climb over walls, fences or gates – it can cause damage.
  • Stick to marked paths.
  • Don’t damage historic monuments or ruins.

 

 Where do you have a right to walk?

Always check that you have a legal right to be on a piece of land before you take your dog on a walk – these are called ‘access rights’.

A lot of our countryside is private land. The public have access to certain footpaths and rights-of-way. The rules about where you can and can’t go are different across the country. Do your research before you head out for your walk – it’ll mean you don’t end up somewhere you shouldn’t be!

 

What about when you’re with your dog?

It’s really important to stick to the rules and respect the land you’re on when you’re walking with a dog. Make sure your dog isn’t a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife, horses or other people.

Be aware: farmers are allowed to shoot dogs that are attacking or chasing farm animals. Even with the best behaved dog, it’s better to keep them on a lead instead of taking the risk. 

Stick to paths when you and your dog are on private land and make sure your dog will come when you call if they’re off the lead. Keep your dog on the lead if you’re worried about their recall or think they might be distracted.

Dogs must be kept on a lead at some times of year:

  • March – July on ‘open access land’, like moorland, forests, around lakes and on beaches. This is to protect birds that nest on the ground.
  • During lambing and calving season if you’ll be walking across farmland.
  • All year round in certain areas. Look out for signs the tell you to keep dogs on leads or that dogs aren’t allowed on the land.

Meeting other people and pets

You’re likely to meet other walkers and dog owners when you’re out and about. Even if your dog is friendly, other dogs might be nervous when they meet you. Always check with the other owner letting your dog say hello. Be aware of signs that either dog is stressed, like:

  • Licking their lips.
  • Turning their gaze away.
  • A low and slow tail wag.

Take notice if a dog shows any of these signs. They can quickly move on to more aggressive signs like growling, snapping or biting.

You might meet a horse rider while you’re on bridal paths:

  • Call your dog to your side if they aren’t on a lead.
  • Wait at the far side of the path so your dog won’t get under the horse's hooves.
  • Most horses are friendly and the owners may be happy to chat with you. Keep your dog a safe distance away as horses' hooves can be very dangerous to small paws – even if the horse doesn’t mean to cause harm.

Farm animals

Following some simple rules of thumb around farm animals can help keep you and your dog safe:

  • Avoid taking your dog into fields where there are farm animals or horses.
  • If you have to go into the field, keep your dog on a lead and stay as far away from farm animals as you can.
  • Keep a close eye on the animals as you pass to see how they react to you and your dog.
  • Never take you dog through a field with young animals in as their mothers can get very protective.

It’s also really important to take notice of any signs asking you not to take dogs into a field:

  • There could be pregnant animals in the fields. Your dog might stress out these animals and could cause problems with their pregnancy.
  • A farmer might ask you to keep out of certain fields to help stop the spread of disease. These might be harmless for you or your dog but could cause health problems for farm animals.

Some animals may act aggressively to protect other animals in the field, for example:

  • Bulls – especially in a field with other animals
  • Cows with young calves
  • Deer during mating season or with calves
  • Sheep with lambs

 

What to do if you’re chased by farm animals

Keep calm if a farm animal seems aggressive or starts chasing you:

  • Drop your dog’s lead so they can run away.
  • Take the shortest, safest route out of the field.

Don’t risk getting hurt trying to protect your pet. Letting your dog go will help keep you both safe – your dog will be able to run away and you’ll be less threatening without your dog by your side.

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