Doggy Do Code

Follow the Doggy Do Code

Thanks for following the Doggy Do Code.

It’s well worth reading through detail under the key headings of the ‘Doggy Do Code’ – the headlines make it easy to remember but common sense detail and variations are given in the further information.

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Do respect other visitors & keep your dog in sight

Some people are terrified of dogs and others may just prefer not to mix with your dog… however adorable they are!

Some dogs are also anxious about dogs they don’t know, so before letting your dog approach other people or dogs (especially on-lead dogs) check that it’s ok with them first. Groups of dogs approaching another dog may be particularly intimidating, no matter how sociable the dogs involved are.

Keep your dog in sight so you know what’s happening and be ready and able to call them back to you if necessary. If they are out of sight you don’t know if they have encountered wildlife or grazing animals and this could cause serious problems for them or for the wildlife.

It is also important for your dog’s safety to keep them in sight, so they don’t injure themselves (for example on barbed wire or snares) or eat something toxic (eg palm oil on beaches) and so that you can quickly respond to help them, prevent them chasing or getting lost.

Trainers recommend that when you are giving your dog off-lead exercise time you still call your dog back to you from time to time, giving them lots of praise and fuss or playtime with you and a toy or sometimes a food treat. This will reinforce their bond to you and their recall, so that when you do need them to come back to you quickly they will be happy to do so!

Do protect nesting birds on heaths, downs & wetlands: keep to paths and use a short lead from February to August

Check out the ‘Out & About’ pages to find off-lead walks as well as more information about nature reserves.

Rare birds nest on or near the ground so we need to keep our dogs on a short lead in areas like heaths, downs & wetlands during the nesting season (nb the rules about this vary and not everywhere will be the same – follow the Out & About link to find out more. In some places dogs must be on a lead, in other places what people are actually asked to do is to ensure that dogs are kept on the path and under effective control, with a lead being used to make sure if necessary). Even friendly dogs scare birds away from their nests leaving the chicks exposed to predators and the cold, so spring’s a good time to explore the local area & find alternative places to visit if it’s for an off-lead runaround.

Nightjars can be found nesting on some of the heaths in Dorset and are particularly vulnerable to being flushed out by dogs, examples of other vulnerable birds that nest either on the ground or lowdown include Woodlarks, Dartford Warblers, Curlews, Lapwings and Skylarks.

Outside of nesting season wildlife may still be vulnerable in some places if dogs are running off the paths, for example on wetlands or coastal areas where birds are overwintering, so we need to be careful not to let our dogs get too close and send flocks up and look out for signs that keep us informed about the local wildlife too. Find out more about overwintering birds here.

Heathland areas are also popular with a species that may be part of the great circle of life but aren’t a great favourite with ramblers or dog owners – ticks! – keeping to the paths will help to reduce the risk of picking up ticks and also reduce the risk of your dog unexpectedly bumping into an adder, another heathland species. Adders will move if they hear you approaching but may not have time to move away from a running dog.

Do follow requests on signs

They may be there to protect you, your dog, wildlife or other animals, or to allow land management, nature conservation or farming work to be carried out safely and easily.

Wildlife on heaths, downs, wetlands and other sensitive areas are particularly vulnerable at certain times of year so access to some areas may be managed with voluntary or formal restrictions, for example asking people to stay away from a particular part of a site or to keep dogs on the paths or on a lead.

Some signs give important safety information – don’t ignore them – for example in the year 2012-2013 you may remember there was increased danger from cliff slips, mudslides and rockfalls on the Dorset coast due to the exceptional weather conditions, so signs asked people to keep off closed areas and highlighted that it is always safer to keep well away from the cliffs and mudslides if you’re walking on a beach. In 2020 signs on sites gave important Covid-19 safety information.

It’s easy to overlook signs but do try to notice them and what they say, especially when visiting a new area or when a new sign appears; most land managers try to avoid putting unnecessary signs in the countryside so they may have an important message. Signs are often placed in car parks and at entrances to keep the rest of the space clear of them as much as possible, so it’s worth looking out for those too to keep yourself informed.

Do prevent your dog from chasing wildlife & farm animals

Keep your dog in sight and do not allow them to chase wildlife or grazing animals, other dogs or pets.

Keep your dog on a lead near grazing animals. Even friendly dogs who don’t normally chase may set grazing animals running in fear and this can have serious consequences including injury and the loss of unborn young. There are also incidents when grazing animals are injured or killed, this is now thought to be more often when owners are not present, as well as sometimes when they are but aren’t able to call the dog back. It is really helpful if land managers let people know if grazing animals are on a site that has public access rights and preferably the area that they are in where there are different fenced areas.

It’s unlikely that you and your dog will be chased by farm animals, but if you are, let your dog off the lead so you can both get away more easily. Stick to areas with public access where grazing animals should be more used to people being around and don’t approach animals or get in between adults and their young. Approaching and feeding animals can lead to them becoming ill, putting themselves in danger by approaching others or becoming a problem by approaching other people or parked cars they see in pursuit of food.

Always close gates after you, and if you see any grazing animals in distress please call the contact number given on site.

Migrating or overwintering birds need all their energy reserves and can be left vulnerable and exhausted if chased, so also be aware and prevent your dog from chasing flocks. Even getting too close can send flocks who aren’t used to people being around up into the air time after time.

Chasing games with other dogs are only a game if all the dogs involved know it’s a game and are happy playing – don’t allow your dog to approach or chase other dogs they don’t know unless everyone knows it’s a game and is happy with that – all dogs and owners.

Do bag and bin it

Everyone knows how unpleasant it is trying to clean dog mess off shoes and that dodging dog mess can ruin a lovely day out, but there are many even more important reasons why it’s really important to pick up after your dog.

Dog mess can cause a range of illnesses and diseases that affect other dogs, grazing animals and people, even when it’s no longer visible. All of these are unpleasant and some, though rare, are extremely serious, and can for example lead to blindness in people, or deaths or loss of unborn young in other dogs or grazing animals like sheep or cattle.

Dog mess gets on pushchair or wheelchair wheels as well as wellies, boots and shoes. Wendy uses a wheelchair and told us “People need to understand, and I’m sure many do, if a wheelchair gets peed on or rolled through carelessly left dog poo, that is going to get into the disabled persons home, they can’t just leave it at the door like a pair of wellies”.
Dog waste increases nutrients in the soil, allowing more common plants to invade, displacing rarer plants that make heaths and downlands so special – then that means we lose the wildlife who live there too.
Other types of waste, such as cow dung or horse or sheep droppings, do not carry the same health risks. They also do not have the same effects on rare habitats – animals used for conservation grazing are taking in food from the same environment they are depositing their poop, unlike our dogs.

Some woodlands can quickly ‘digest’ dog waste so if you’re somewhere that suggests ‘stick & flick’ do that – but only where stick & flick is advertised, as in many places there is still the problem of disease or parasite transmission to people or other animals.

Some people train their dogs to go in their yard or garden before they set off for a walk, so they can clean it up and put it straight in the dustbin.

In most places, bagged dog waste can go in normal litter bins.

‘Bag it AND bin it’… not ‘bag it and hang it in a bush’. This is really important and a huge problem – plastic bags of poop are a real hazard for wildlife and grazing animals (who may try to eat & then choke on the bags), as well as spoiling otherwise beautiful areas.

If there’s one thing more than anything else that makes dogs and dog owners unwelcome – it’s poop. Beat the ban, bag the poop.
It’s not embarrassing to pick it up. It’s embarrassing not to.

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