The daily walk forms an important part of our dog’s routine; a chance for them to stretch their legs (and ours!). As it’s something we do every day, we may not always be aware of some of the rules and restrictions in place when we wander through the park or woodland.
It’s always best to research your local authority’s website to understand the laws in place for your area, but below are a few general points to keep in mind when out in public with your dog:
1. Cleaning up after your dog
It might seem like it goes without saying, but at some point, we’ve all been unfortunate enough to tread in another dog’s mess. As well as being unpleasant if stepped in, ingestion of parasites found in dog faeces can cause serious disease in people and other animals including causing abortion and permanent infection in livestock. Although certain public areas might not legally require you to clean up after your dog fouls (such as woodland or heathland), it’s always a good idea to get into the habit of doing so every time. This way, you do your bit to protect the environment while also avoiding any unwanted fixed penalty fines.
- Being mindful of livestock
When out walking your dog in more rural areas there’s a good chance that you will come across a range of livestock, such as sheep and cattle. It’s important to ensure that your dog is kept on a short lead if you can see, or suspect, that livestock may be close by. Your dog does not need to attack livestock to cause them distress which can lead to injuries and abortion in sheep and cattle. This is an offence that, at worse, could lead to your dog being put down. Additionally, livestock may pose a danger to yourself and your dog if they become agitated so it is important to give them lots of space particularly if there are calves in the field.
- Walking with your dog on a lead
There are other local areas, in addition to the above, where you may have to ensure that your dog is kept on a lead. These include certain park areas as well as sports pitches and children’s playgrounds, and there is usually signage on display that provides information on any orders or restrictions. It’s always a good idea to check your local authority website if in any doubt though, as there are strong criminal punishments if your dog was to injure another person or make them fear injury.
- Maintaining a safe distance
Although this is something many dog owners would not have had to consider before, you will now need to consider current guidelines on maintaining social distancing. With the better weather over the summer months and no restrictions on our movements, local parks can be busy with families and fellow dog-walkers, which may mean having to be mindful of the route you take and how close your dog is to others. For owners of nervous, young or unwell dogs this will not be anything new, and they're likely to be grateful for the extra space they now receive. As restrictions ease it's important to remember that not every dog is happy to socialise. It's good practice to call your dog back and place them on a lead if you see another dog approaching.
You can find more advice about UK dog laws, including when out in a public place at https://www.gov.uk/control-dog-public/public-spaces-protection-orders