Doggie dos and don'ts: good practice advice

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 19/03/2014

Many BMC members enjoy taking their dog for a walk and to the crag but increasingly, there is a growing awareness of the need to preserve and conserve the fragile landscapes we love to visit with our furry companions along with an increasing amount of advice and legislation governing what we should and shouldn’t do.

As a responsible dog owner, you need to know about dog laws – your rights and responsibilities, in order to protect yourself, your dog, other people and other dogs.The laws governing dogs vary greatly depending on where you go. For instance; a short walk may start on a public footpath through a grouse moor where dogs are banned – a restriction to protect sensitive wildlife. The walk continues onto a concessionary footpath, which is not marked - dogs may be allowed, or allowed only on a lead, depending on the concession which isn’t always clear. The walk continues onto a sheep track - which looks the same but isn’t as dogs must be on leads at all times. The sheep track runs across an unmarked boundary of two moors and briefly the dogs can run free. Over a stile and into an enclosure used for lambing however, dogs are once more banned as it’s lambing time.

The dog walker's experience can be a little daunting but problems can and do occur, sometimes with catastrophic results for livestock, birds nesting on or near the ground with recently fledged young still in breeding areas, and for the dog owners themselves. Similarly, problems can occur at the crag with dogs worrying other climbers, wildlife and creating dog mess. 

The Countryside Code
If you are out on a walk with your dog, as at all times, adhere to the Countryside Code. Be particularly vigilant during the breeding and nesting seasons, and do not allow your dog to run through crops, hedgerows or undergrowth where it may harm or disturb wildlife. Extra care should be taken on bridleways and byways where dogs may frighten horses, or be at risk from vehicular traffic.

The Countryside Code has been developed for England and Wales. For the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, visit www.outdooraccess-scotland.com

  • By law, you must keep your dog under effective control so that it does not scare or disturb farm animals or wildlife. On most areas of open country and common land, known as ‘access land’, you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July – and all year round near farm animals.
  • You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.
  • If a farm animal chases you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it.
  • Take particular care that your dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs, or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
  • Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections, so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Also, make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.
  • At certain times, dogs may not be allowed on some areas of access land or may need to be kept on a lead. Please follow any official signs.

Where you can go with your dog – how the law works?
The Public Rights of Way (PROW) network in England and Wales is a unique asset, providing thousands of miles of paths and tracks for you to walk with your dog. These paths are often indicated by official signs at the roadside and coloured arrows like these along the way:

  • Footpath – access on foot only
  • Bridleway – on foot, horseback or bicycle (although cyclists are obliged to give way to other users)
  • Restricted byway – on foot, horseback and non-motorised vehicles (e.g. bicycles)
  • Byway open to all traffic - as for restricted byway but including motorised vehicles.

As dog walkers, look out for horse riders, cyclists and joggers. They can startle your dog - or your dog can startle them - and cause an injury or accident. It’s best to put your dog on the lead as they come past.

The law protects your right to walk these paths at anytime and requires you to take simple steps to prevent harm to wildlife, farm animals and other people, so always follow the Countryside Code.

Open Country – as defined by the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CROW)
Since 2004, new laws have opened up new areas of land for walkers with dogs across areas of mountain, moor, heath and down, and registered common land, known as ‘access land’ in England and Wales. These areas are shown on Ordnance Survey Explorer maps as areas shaded in orange and are demarcated on the ground with the open access symbol.

On access land, the law requires that:

  • dogs are kept on a lead of no more than 2 metres long when birds are nesting, between 1 March and 31 July;
  • dogs are also kept on a lead of no more than 2 metres near farm animals;
  • to protect sensitive wildlife and farm animals, in some places official restrictions may ban walkers and their dogs for a few days, or even years on grouse moors. This doesn’t restrict your access along any nearby public paths.

To help manage the land in other areas, ensure your safety or prevent fires, there may be other temporary official restrictions. Again, these don’t restrict your access along public paths. 

Discretionary Restrictions for Grouse Moors and Lambing Enclosures (Section 23)
Land owners or farm tenants may restrict the right of access so that you may not take dogs with you:

  • onto moors managed for breeding and shooting grouse (for up to five years); or
  • into fields or enclosures of not more than 15 hectares used for lambing (for not more than six weeks in any calendar year).

These do not apply to guide dogs for blind persons or hearing dogs for deaf persons.

Plan ahead to avoid being disappointed. Any restrictions in place can be viewed on the maps at www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk and are indicated by official signage in the countryside.

Other access
There are many other areas where you can walk with your dog, such as country parks, green spaces and cycleways. There are beaches, Forestry Commission woodlands, and local agreements where government and local councils help farmers provide extra paths.

Dogs and Livestock
It is often a dog’s natural instinct to chase livestock, but this can cause distress, injury and death for the animals concerned – including your dog. In some cases, farmers can legally shoot a dog that is worrying their livestock. Look ahead and keep your dog on a lead when you encounter livestock.

However, if farm animals have young, or have been worried by dogs in the past, they may ‘charge’ or chase you. There have been several reports recently of unfortunate cases where people have been attacked or trampled to death by cows whilst quietly walking their dog. Most members of the public are wary of bulls, but few realise that cows, particularly those protecting newly-born calves, can also be dangerous. So what should you do?
Keep calm, carry on……If you find yourself in a field of suddenly wary cattle, move away as carefully and quietly as possible, and if you feel threatened by cattle then let go of your dog’s lead and let it run free rather than try to protect it and endanger yourself. The dog will outrun the cows and it will outrun you.

Those without canine companions should follow similar advice: move away calmly, do not panic and make no sudden noises. Chances are the cows will leave you alone once they establish that you pose no threat.

If you walk through a field of cows and there happen to be calves, think twice; if you can, go another way and avoid crossing fields.

Walkers will now see yellow and black signs reminding them that dogs can harm or scare farm animals. The signs, which have been produced by the NFU for its members, give a clear reminder to walkers using public footpaths to keep dogs on leads but - importantly - to let them go if they’re being chased or feel threatened by cattle. The signs read: ‘Your dog can scare or harm farm animals – Keep it on a lead around livestock, but let go if chased by cattle.’

Keep wildlife safe and protected
If dogs disturb or chase wildlife, this may fatally harm the animals involved and jeopardise schemes that help protect vulnerable plants and wildlife. It’s an offence to disturb specially-protected birds, so keep your dog on a lead or under close control in sensitive areas. Disturbance to birds is particularly problematic in the early morning and in the evening when they are trying to settle. Even well-behaved dogs can scare birds and other animals away from their young.

  • Respect official signs restricting access with your dog.
  • Make sure your dog doesn’t chase wildlife. This can cause injury and distress to both wildlife and your dog – especially if your pet gets lost, or runs across a road.
  • Keep your dog close to you so it does not sniff out and flush nesting birds during the spring and early summer. Keep your dog on a short lead in areas of access land between 1 March and 31 July.
  • Other rare birds are most sensitive in winter when they roost on the ground, as they can become exhausted and die if frequently disturbed.
  • Clear up dog mess – it can cause infections in people and other animals and affect the special soils that rare plants need to survive.

Dogs at the Crag
Some people can feel uncomfortable if even the most friendly, tail-wagging, dog approaches them. This situation can be made worse at the crag, in confined areas where others are climbing. It is important to consider other crag users. If you are confident that your dog is calm when approaching other people and other dogs, then let others see. If your dog is aggressive when approached then perhaps leave him/her at home. It is essential that you follow the Countryside Code and the law on open access land:

  • By law, you must control your dog so that it does not scare or disturb farm animals or wildlife. On most areas of open country and common land, known as ‘access land’, you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July – and all year round near farm animals.
  • You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.
  • Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections, so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Also, make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.

Here are some further points to consider before taking your dog with you to the crag:

  • Will the crag or area you are visiting be busy? Not everyone likes dogs, particularly noisy dogs. Many climbers and walkers enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of our natural environment.
  • Consider the environment – is the crag or area you are visiting in a conservation area (e.g.; SSSI) – could your dog damage or attack protected species?
  • Will you be near livestock – if so your dog must be kept under close control or on a lead at all times.
  • Will your dog be a distraction? Do you feel comfortable leaving your dog at the bottom of the crag? Will it be properly tethered? Is it well behaved in the vicinity of other people and other dogs?
  • Are you happy to leave your dog tethered to a rucksack or boulder at the base of the crag? Are you 100% confident it will stay put if off the lead?
  • Find suitable places to take your dog. Are groups likely to be using the crag or visiting the area? Is it likely to be busy with other dog walkers?
  • Consider the safety and well being of your dog. Is the crag or area you are visiting exposed and cold or is it particularly warm and a sun trap? Have there been reports of ticks in the local area?

Always consider the interests of others who use the land – not everyone will love your dog as much as you do.
 

Find out more:

Taking care around cows

Hill skills: How to take your dog walking

Specialist advice about dogs on moorland is available on www.pawsonthemoors.org 

The Countryside Code applies to all parts of the countryside. Most of it is just good common sense, designed to help us all to respect, protect and enjoy our countryside.

Read the Countryside Code

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1) Anonymous
29/05/2014
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
2) Anonymous User
28/03/2016
It seems to me that the most protected species on the moorland, is not the sky lark or the curlew, but the grouse. Stupid birds bred to be shot for sport by cruel people.
The land owners creating an artificial and dead environment in the process,
game keepers, regularly burning off the heather and draining the peat bogs to encourage better breeding conditions, thus destroying the water shed, and helping to flood the towns in the valleys during wet periods. I believe that these land owners are in receipt of government grants for these sort of operations.
That these people have the right to ban you from walking your dog over their desecrated land, I find incredible. These restrictions have nothing to do with wildlife, and all to do with money in my opinion.

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