Dog Walking - Your Rights as a Dog Owner

Dog walking is simple enough. You put their lead on, leave the house and the world is your oyster… or is it? There are some places you’re not allowed to go, and others it’s best to avoid.

Does your dog chase other animals?

Some do, some don’t. If this is the first spring you and your pooch have spent together, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your dog is young and not yet fully trained, the same goes. It might be best to avoid farm and wild animals until your pet is 100% trained or you know for sure they’re not the chasing type.


Lambing and calving season

The main lambing season is upon us, although early bird sheep start giving birth around New Year. If you usually walk your dog on or around farmland look out for notices put up by farmers. The Dogs Act 1953 says it’s an offence for dogs to roam free without a lead, or otherwise closely controlled, in any field or enclosure where there are sheep.

Sheep aren’t particularly dangerous, although they can easily knock a human over, but when cows have calves they can be aggressive if they feel threatened, and their sheer size makes them dangerous.

The Open Access land regulations say dogs have to be kept on a short lead all year round on official Open Access land near farm animals. If cows or horses decide chase you and your dog, let him or her off the lead so they can escape to safety and you don’t get hurt trying to protect them. It’s much safer than staying on the lead. 

Bird nesting season

This is also almost the time of year when birds nest. Some farms, public access land and reserves are home to ducks, hens, geese and various other domestic birds, which prefer to be left to nest in peace, and other areas are popular with skylarks and other ground-nesting birds. Britain’s seabird-rich coastline is another area to keep in mind, making sure your dog doesn’t bother nesting communities of gulls and so on.  

The Open Access land regulations say dogs must be kept on a short lead on Open Access land between 1st March and 31st July, to protect ground nesting birds. And the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it’s a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly destroy, damage or disturb any of the flora or fauna which make the land of special scientific interest.

About Open Access land

Farmers and landowners are allowed to restrict or prevent people using their public access land for as much as 28 days a year, to cater for things like land management, safety reasons, animal and wildlife welfare. These are marked on access maps, which you can see here, and are usually reinforced by signs on the land itself.

There are thousands of square miles of public access land available to enjoy. Here’s what the Natural England websitesays about it:

“Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW), the public can walk freely on mapped areas of mountain, moor, heath, downland and registered common land without having to stick to paths.

The new right under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) covers most recreational activities carried out on foot, including walking, sightseeing, bird watching, climbing and running, but there are some common sense restrictions in place which limit where people can walk or take a dog.

The new right of open access does not include camping, cycling, horse riding or driving a vehicle (except mobility scooters and buggies), but where these activities already take place, or given under previous Acts, they are unaffected. Access land open under CROW is for walkers but does not prevent people carrying out other activities with the landowner’s consent or where permitted by law.”

Taking your pet outdoors

It’s wise to keep your dog under a sensible amount of control at all times. ‘Effective control’ means keeping them on a lead or to heel all the time, being aware of what they’re up to and knowing for sure they’ll come bouncing over to you the second you call, no matter how exciting the things that he or she has found are!

Sometimes access is restricted to pathways or certain areas. You need to make sure your pet sticks to the rules. Sometimes special rules apply to dogs, for example they might be:

  • banned from certain areas that people use
  • restricted through byelaws and control orders

If so, there should be signage. Keep your eyes open. 

Farmer’s rights

If your pooch attacks or chases farm animals, the farmer is within their rights to shoot your dog. And you won’t get compensation. If you are convicted of letting your dog attack livestock, you can be fined as much as £1,000.

The dog poop thing

Poop ‘n’ scoop has made everyone’s life more pleasant, whether or not they have a dog. As well as being awful to step in, dog poo can cause horrid infections in children, grown-ups, dogs and other animals.

Too many dog owners poop, scoop then throw the bag in the bushes or just leave it behind. It’s your job to scoop it, bag it andbin it.

What about the law? The Environmental Protection Act 1990 says it’s an offence to throw away “anything that could cause, or contribute to or tend to lead to the defacement of”a public place…  and that includes dog poop.

What about dog collars?

The Control of Dogs Order 1992 means all dogs must wear a collar with the owner’s name and address displayed somewhere, any time they’re on a public highway or public place. If you don’t, you are guilty of an offence under Animal Health Act 1981.

The legal bit

  • Dogs can’t be guilty of trespassing… but as its owner, you can
  • Dogs are allowed on public rights of way but owners are responsible for making sure they don’t stray from the route

Do you have any handy tips about sticking to the straight and narrow when out and about? Or have you had any close calls out with your dog? Catch up with us on Facebook and share the love!  We’re at

Image source: GeorgieJohnson