Dog owners urged to follow these 3 rules when walking in the countryside

countryside dog walk
3 things all dog owners should do on a walkSolStock - Getty Images

A dog walk on a bright spring day is a real spirit-lifter, but now owners have been urged to protect ground-nesting birds and hibernating species by following three simple rules.

According to The Wildlife Trusts, dogs roaming without leads are one of the biggest causes of wildlife disturbance. Curlew, skylark and corn bunting are particularly at risk during the spring season, with research last year discovering that loose dogs were responsible for 40% of wildlife disturbances, compared to 5% of dogs wearing leads.

Not only can dogs be a threat to sheep, cows and other grazing livestock, but dog waste is also incredibly dangerous as it can carry diseases, scare away animals, and affect the natural balance of fragile habitats.

The three rules you can follow to protect wildlife and nature are:

  1. Clean up after your dogs and dispose of waste in bins or at home

  2. Avoid using nature reserves if walking large groups of dogs

  3. Keep dogs on short leads if walking in nature reserves and around the wider countryside

"It's great that so many people benefit from enjoying beautiful natural areas while out walking their dogs, but we urge responsibility," Joan Edwards, director of policy for The Wildlife Trusts, says.

countryside dog walk
SolStock - Getty Images

"Wildlife is suffering huge declines and dogs in wild places can cause problems, especially from February through to the end of summer when many species are breeding. I'm a dog owner but never walk her without a lead during nesting season. It's not only the impact on ground-nesting birds, but other wildlife including amphibians and mammals can be affected, as well as grazing livestock."

Jenna Kiddie, Head of Canine Behaviour at Dogs Trust, adds: "A countryside dog walk is understandably popular, especially as we move into the warmer months. But owners have a responsibility to keep their dog under control, including around livestock and wildlife, to ensure they do not worry other animals or stray onto neighbouring land for everyone's safety and wellbeing."

Time to lace up your walking boots and enjoy a countryside walk safely.

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