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West England Forest Dog Code

Updated 19th June 2020

The forest dog code will help to keep you, your dog, and other forest users safe. For happy times and waggy tails, please:

Always keep your dog close and follow signs about using a lead or restricted access for everyone’s safety, including your dog.

When your dog is close to you, you know what they’re doing and what hazards might be nearby. You’ll also know where they’ve left a mess and be ready to put them on a lead if necessary. We understand that off lead exercise is important and will always try to make as much of our woodland suitable for this as possible. Sometimes, we ask you to use a lead for everyone’s safety, such as when there is grazing livestock, we are working in the forest, or you are near a children’s play area. This helps to keep you, your dog, other visitors, our staff and our contractors safe.

Practise your recall command and make sure your dog will come back to you, even when there are exciting sights and smells to investigate.

There are many reasons why it’s useful to have a good recall, such as putting on a lead during a walk, moving out of the way of a cyclist, or leaving something they shouldn’t be eating. Dog trainers recommend calling your dog back to you from time to time when they are off-lead. Using treats or toys as a reward means that, when you need to quickly recall your dog, they will be happy to come back to you.

Always pick up after your dog, take your waste home or put it in a bin. Keep your dog’s worming up to date to protect other animals and people.

Contact with dog waste is extremely hazardous, even when it can’t be seen anymore. It can cause rare but serious health problems, including blindness in people, and deaths of unborn young in livestock and wildlife. Dog mess can also change the environment over time as it upsets the balance of nutrients in the soil. It might lead to rare plants being lost, as well as the creatures that depend on them for survival.

Bagged poo left on the ground or hanging in bushes is still hazardous as well as unattractive. Animals can choke on bags if they try to eat them, as well as being exposed to the toxic contents.

Responsible dog owners always bag and bin their pets’ mess, or take it home. It’s a good idea to carry more poo bags than you think you need. Used bags can be put in any general litter bin.

Prevent your dog from disturbing wildlife and grazing animals at all times of year, even the ones you can’t see. This might include ground-nesting birds, reptiles, ponies, cattle, and deer.

The forest is teeming with wildlife all year round, even when you can’t see it. From hibernating dormice and basking reptiles, to grazing sheep and nesting birds of prey, they all need your help to thrive. Dogs enjoy chasing and it might seem like a game, but the distress can cause birds to abandon nests and animals to abort their young. Frightened animals might even injure your dog to protect themselves. Whenever livestock is grazing in the forest, we will use signs to let you know. Remember that farmers are legally permitted to destroy a dog worrying their livestock.

Other wildlife can be harder to see and excited paws trampling through the undergrowth can startle animals that are resting or breeding. You can help these creatures by keeping your dog close to you.

Consider the suitability of the trail or path you’re using and who else you might meet, such as cyclists or horse riders.

The forest is a shared space enjoyed by many people with different interests. For your safety and enjoyment, avoid walking on singletrack mountain bike trails, where you are likely to meet fast-moving bikes.

Be aware that not everyone wants to play, so prevent your dog from approaching other people or animals uninvited.

No matter how friendly your dog is, some people and other animals may feel anxious around dogs. Or they might not want muddy paw prints up their fresh trouser legs. In particular, check with other dog owners (especially with on-lead dogs), parents of young children, and horse riders before allowing your dog to approach. A group of dogs approaching another dog might be especially intimidating. Horses are ‘flight’ animals that can be easily startled. Speak to owners, parents and riders about the best way to approach or pass them with your dog.

Exercise no more than 6 dogs to 1 person, and make sure you can manage them all at the same time, including having a lead for each dog.

Dogs should only be taken out together if you’re confident you can safely manage them all. All mess must be picked up and taken home or put in a bin. You may be asked to leave the forest if you have more than six dogs.

Make sure your dog can be returned to you if you are separated. The law requires all dogs to be microchipped (with up to date details) and to wear a collar with the owner’s name and full address while in public places.

Up to date ID is not only the best way to be reunited with your dog if you become separated, it’s a legal requirement. All dogs in a public place must wear a collar with a tag inscribed with the owner’s full name and address, not just a phone number (Control of Dogs Order 1992). In addition, all dogs over 8 weeks old must be microchipped (Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015). Remember to update the microchip details every time you change phone number or address to make sure you can be contacted.