What Is The New Countryside Code For Dog Walkers?

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What Is The New Countryside Code?

How does it affect your dog?

The UK has an ever increasing population living in urban and city dwellings with millions never having visited parts of the UK including our beautiful countryside locations. That is, until post lockdown, where many of us flocked to green open spaces, up and down the countryside, needing a day out, weekend break or staycation.

Likewise, the pandemic bought about new changes and that included a massive increase in new millennial dog ownership, an estimated 2.5 million new dogs bought, bringing the UK dog population to an estimated 12.5 million who not only need daily dog walks but visit countryside locations with their owners ever more frequently.

If you are planning a first-time staycation to the countryside this year, check out the Countryside Code before leaving home

Today’s schools teach environmental subjects but many miss teaching pupils the real basics of the Countryside Code ‘Rules’ .

The government felt a timely makeover was needed by updating their 70 year old Countryside Code, first published 1951.

The 2021 Countryside Code is written more as a Guide than stuffy old ‘Rules’ and includes sections about dog walking in the countryside.

The Countryside Code Categories –

  1. Respect everyone
  2. Protect the environment
  3. Enjoy the outdoors
  4. Know the signs and symbols of the countryside

The sub sections are –

  • Farming, livestock and wild animals
  • Travel and parking in the countryside
  • Be nice, say hello, share the space
  • Follow local signs and keep to marked paths
  • Take your litter home – leave no trace of your visit
  • Take care with BBQs and do not light fires
  • Always keep dogs under control and in sight
  • Dog poo – bag it and bin it – any public waste bin will do
  • Check your route and local conditions
  • Check weather, tide and water conditions
  • Plan your adventure – know what to expect and what you can do
  • Rights and permissions

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Having personally seen an inquisitive spaniel be trampled on by 3 very frightened deer suffering devastating injuries in a country park, the Code is an essential read for anyone visiting the countryside for the first time.

The Code doesn’t just apply to farmland but country parks, coastal areas, scientific areas, areas of outstanding beauty, moorlands, mountainous regions, all areas open to the public and where there may be the additional threat of safety of water, ponds, rivers and lakes.

It’s essential dogs are always kept in sight and good at responding to your commands in new environments.

The Guide details –

  • always keep your dog on a lead or in sight
  • be confident your dog will return on command
  • make sure your dog does not stray from the path or area where you have right of access

Keep your dog under effective control to make sure it stays away from wildlife, livestock, horses and other people unless invited. You should:

Always check local signs as there are situations when you must keep your dog on a lead for all or part of the year. Local areas may also ban dogs completely, except for assistance dogs. Signs will tell you about these local restrictions.

It is good practice wherever you are to keep your dog on a lead around livestock.

On Open Access land and at the coast, you must put your dog on a lead around livestock. Between 1 March and 31 July, you must have your dog on a lead on Open Access land, even if there is no livestock on the land. These are legal requirements.

A farmer can shoot a dog that is attacking or chasing livestock. They may not be liable to compensate the dog’s owner.

Let your dog off the lead if you feel threatened by livestock or horses. Do not risk getting hurt protecting your dog. Releasing your dog will make it easier for you both to reach safety.

The Countryside Code, 1951, came about when National Parks were first introduced in the UK. Currently there are 15 National Parks, the first being introduced, The Peak District during 1951. The Lake District, Snowdonia, Dartmoor, the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Exmoor, Northumberland followed with the next ten years.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act came into force, 1953, and this reinforced the ‘Rules’ particularly setting out the problems of unruly dogs worrying and upsetting livestock. Both the Act and original ‘Rules’ have been updated several times, but the 2021 Code is the latest makeover.


There’s more than “Be nice, say hello, share the space” in this guide, with a dedicated section about the huge growing health and environmental problems of safe dog poop disposal.

Dog poop is generally meat-based excrement which can cause the risk of Toxocara in humans, and in severe cases, where humans have come into contact with dog poop, can lead to blindness.

Councils up and down the country have the responsibility to dispose of millions of tons of dog poop each year providing dog walkers with special bins. In the countryside there may not be handy bins and walkers being advised to clear up the mess and take it home if they cannot find a local council rubbish bin.

Dog’s mess is one of the main reasons why beaches get restricted to dog walkers during busy times during the summer months because of owners who fail to clear up the poop and the health risks it poses to humans.

There are exceptions made for those who have mobility and disabilities, working dogs such as medical, guide, sheep dogs and police when on duty.

Is This A UK Guide?

The guide is published for England and Wales. The devolved parliaments all produce their own versions – Scotland and Northern Ireland separate publications.

The recent pandemic has bought about new changes to the ways we do things. It is advisable to check with your local council and social media websites before making special journeys.

Read More

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Countryside Code – The Thames Path Dog Walks

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