Visiting the South Downs with your dog
The South Downs are a great place for you and your pet to enjoy together. It is a sensitive landscape and there are certain things to watch out for - please keep an eye out for notices which will help you plan your visit, and follow the below advice.
Where can my dog go?
Dogs are welcome everywhere on the South Downs. Please keep them under control and close to you at all times, making sure to stick to main paths, bridleways and tracks. Please use a lead when walking near livestock and wildlife, when close to cliff-edges and if asked to.
What do I need to be aware of ?
You will often see sheep or cattle grazing on the downs. They play an important role in maintaining the landscape but are very vulnerable so it’s important that they are not put under stress – keep an eye for notices on site that will let you know if animals are in fields and if dogs need to be kept on leads.
Ground-nesting birds are vulnerable to disturbance by dogs. Between March and July is a critical time for them as they raise their young. Please keep to the main paths and tracks and don’t let dogs run off the paths chasing sticks and balls.
Adders emerge from hibernation during March and will strike out if they feel threatened. An adder bite can be fatal to dogs, so please keep your dogs close by and away from taller vegetation.
Keeping control of your dog
Our definition of close or effective control is:
- Being able to recall your dogs in any situation at the first call
- Being able to clearly see your dog at all times (not just knowing they have gone into the undergrowth or over the crest of the hill). In practice, this means keeping them on a footpath if the surrounding vegetation is too dense for your dog to be visible
- Not allowing them to approach other visitors without their consent
- Having a lead with you to use if you encounter livestock or wildlife, or if you are asked to use one
The Canine Code
We’ve worked with our partner Forthglade to come up with this Canine Code, which helps to make sure everyone can enjoy their day:
- Keep them close: using a short lead helps to keep your dog from disturbing ground-nesting birds and farm animals. It's essential to use a short lead around sheep. But if cattle approach you, it's best to let your dog off the lead, and call them back when it's safe to do so.
- Pick up the poo: please always clear up after your dog. If you can't find a bin nearby, take the poo bags home with you.
- Watch the signs: keep an eye on local signs and notices wherever you're walking. They'll tell you if a beach has a dog ban, for instance, or if a path has been diverted, or if you're in an area where dogs can run off-lead.
- Stay on the ball: remember that not everyone loves dogs, and some people fear them. So make sure your dog doesn't run up to other people, especially children.
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