Responsible dog walking in the Lake District

Dog Luna on a lead, South East Cumbria
Published : 29 Mar 2018 Last update : 11 Apr 2018

On behalf of our 90 tenant farmers and graziers in the Lakes, our rangers are reminding dog owners to keep their four legged friends close at heel and under control near livestock and ground-nesting birds as the season reaches its peak.

Whilst lambing season is well underway, or over in some parts of Cumbria, in the Lakeland fells hardy native breeds like Herdwicks will lamb in April and May. This is also a time of year when ground nesting birds such as curlew, lapwing, snipe and grouse are sitting on eggs or rearing chicks.

“Sheep worrying can and does have horrendous consequences, both for the farmer and for dog owners” said Gemma Wren, Countryside Manager for the National Trust in South East Cumbria & Morecambe Bay.

“We are relying on people to do the right thing to avoid the heart-breaking situation our tenant farmers found themselves in earlier this year. Eleven of their sheep were killed in a dog attack, six were injured and three went missing. Pregnant ewes can also abort through the stress of being chased.  And populations of ground nesting birds can be impacted if dogs disturb nests and their young. Sometimes they are little more than a scrape and are cleverly camouflaged so they are not always obvious to dog walkers. A loose dog can soon destroy nests, eggs and young birds.

“Dog walkers are important guardians of the countryside often combining their love of dogs with their love of the outdoors” explained Gemma.

“During this critical period for livestock and birds, 1 March to 31 July, we need them to be sure that their dogs are under close control or, even better, on the lead” added Gemma.

“There’s nothing worse than seeing your dog respond, often unexpectedly to livestock, by chasing after them and being powerless to stop the carnage. We are also including cattle but if your dog is on the lead and you think you may be chased, you should let go of the lead.”

As the countryside comes alive with lots to see and do the conservation charity wants as many people as possible to enjoy it. They just ask that a close eye is kept on dogs at such an important time for livestock and wildlife.

By law, dogs must be controlled so that they do not scare or disturb livestock or wildlife. On open access land they have to be kept on short leads from March 1 to July 31 – and all year round near sheep. Close supervision is also required on public rights of way.