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Dogs and the countryside – Guest blog from The Kennel Club

We know dog ownership has huge physical and mental health benefits for the whole family and one of the most important and enjoyable elements for most dog owners is getting out in the fresh air to take their dogs on a walk, especially during the pandemic writes Dr Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs at The Kennel Club.



Whilst we know that many owners do keep their dogs on leads when they know livestock is present, with so many people getting new pets and the lockdown restrictions limiting opportunities for proper socialisation, training and education, we are concerned about the potential negative impact on livestock, wildlife, dogs and people.  

To make sure that everyone can continue enjoying the countryside safely, we encourage all dog owners to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code  to ensure they are respecting local communities and protecting the natural environment. With spring upon us and lambing season underway, it’s also crucial that owners understand their responsibilities and exercise appropriate caution when accessing rural areas, particularly if livestock is present and their dog isn’t used to walking in the countryside.

Training is key.  Owning a new puppy is an incredibly rewarding experience that brings so many positive benefits but, as any dog owner will attest to, they also require a lot of time and commitment in the long-term

This is particularly pertinent during the current Covid-19 situation, as the UK moves towards post-lockdown life, with many people having bought a dog for the first time during the past year and are now making plans to adjust. This might include walking in the countryside for the first time with your new dog, and The Kennel Club wants to ensure that everyone stays safe and has a positive experience.

One vital part of being a responsible dog owner is undertaking basic training with your pet. A well-behaved and well-trained dog is a happy one and teaching your dog new tricks can also be a perfect way to bond with your best friend and build your relationship. Through training, you not only learn how to train your dog, but also help to socialise them by exposing them to new environments, acclimatising them to new sights and sounds, and teaching them to behave calmly around other people and dogs, thereby keeping your puppy safe, and enabling you to keep your dog under control around farm animals and/or wildlife.

Kennel Club Accredited Instructors, who have a nationally recognised, credible qualification, or The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme, the largest dog training programme in the country, are perfect places to get started in training. Once Covid-19 rules permit, instructors and clubs can provide training classes and practical advice for dogs of any age, size, ability or breed. All Good Citizen training clubs and Kennel Club Accredited Instructors across the UK can be found by visiting The Kennel Club website – www.thekennelclub.org.uk .

Teaching your dog basic recall is essential in keeping your dog under control, particularly when walking in new areas.  Make sure your puppy is also used to walking on a lead prior to taking them to any new areas, particularly in the countryside. It is good practice to keep a dog on a lead around farm animals, year-round, however if cattle or horses chase you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead.

  • NFU Scotland has created its own access information hub at: https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/campaigns/access-information-hub.aspx where signage for farmers and crofters can be found.
  • NFU Scotland held a very successful webinar on Wednesday 24 March on ‘Helping Reduce Conflict Caused by Poorly Managed Dogs and Their Owners on Farmland’ with Stephen Jenkinson, Access, and Countryside Advisor to The Kennel Club. The recording of the event and the presentation can be found here: NFU Scotland | /dog-access.aspx



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