Walking your Dog Safely In The Countryside
How to keep your dog and livestock safe in the countryside
Supporting the NFU in providing you with all the advice and information needed to make you a responsible dog owner. Read more over on the NFU website.
Exploring the great Kent countryside with your four-legged friend is a great way to relax, unwind and get some much needed fresh air and exercise. To help make countryside dog walks safer and more stress free for both pet dogs and farm animals we want to share some best practice advice to encourage responsible dog ownership. We want to help dog owners enjoy the Kent’s landscapes while avoiding causing unintentional injury or distress to sheep and cattle.
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.
Stay safe around cattle
Cattle can be extremely inquisitive so if you feel threatened, release your dog so you can both get to safety separately.
Here are some top tips from the NFU to help you:
- 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.
Is your garden secure?
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.
Clear up after your dog
Most dog owners clear up after their dog, it is especially important to always clear up after your dog on a public footpath as bacteria can be spread to livestock which can cause severe illness or death.
Public Rights of Way
There is generally no requirement to put your dog on a lead. It is extremely important that dogs are under close control when walking through areas containing livestock.
However, you might want to bear in mind stiles, there’s no obligation for these to be built or maintained with access for a dog underneath. Just something to bear in mind when planning your route.
Remember! Bridleways are used by horses which gives us all the added benefit that there will be no stiles along these paths.
Countryside Access Land
Since 2000 there has been a right to walk across most open spaces that can comprise of downland, heathland, moorland and registered common land. You will be made aware you are entering Access Land by means of a sign placed at the points of entry. Access Land Legislation requires that dogs are kept on a lead shorter than 2 metres from the 1st March to 31st July. This is to protect ground nesting birds. Folkestone Downs has spectacular views and is linked to two important wildlife reserves.
You may have access to areas of land not normally accessible to other members of the public. Landowners may grant this access as a gesture of goodwill or as part of a formal stewardship scheme for which they receive money.
Country Parks and Nature Reserves
Please check individual dog walking guidance at the country park or nature reserve you are planning on visiting. For Kent Country Parks, advice on bringing your dog can be found on the individual park pages. Shorne Woods Country Park is in the pretty Kent Downs AONB – bring your dog and explore one of several way marked trails then have some wood fired pizza from their pizza kitchen afterwards.
Coastal and Beach Walks
Most public beaches are open all day every day for dogs during 1st October to 30th April. In summer some sections of the beaches are more restricted. Check the Byelaws on District Authority websites. Coastal path walks are open all year to dogs with the exception of some promenades where dogs must be placed on a lead or are not permitted in the summer.