The Kennel Club Canine Code

Two dogs running through a forest during autumn

A guide to being a responsible dog owner

As the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of dogs, we work hard to promote the benefits of our four-legged friends. But man’s relationship with a dog is a two-way street, and we need to make sure we are benefiting them too. The best way to do this is to be a responsible dog owner, and this guide will give you the information you need to make sure you are the best owner you can be.

We ask all dog owners to follow the code. If you do, then you will have the amazing opportunity of learning just what it means to be a dog’s best friend.

Exercise your dog every day

Dogs love their exercise, and every dog owner has a duty of care to make sure that their dog gets at least one walk every day.

However, most of us could spend a lot more time enjoying the great outdoors with our four-legged friends, who make the perfect walking companions. Unlike most activities, dog walking is something that the whole family can enjoy and better still, it doesn’t cost a thing, so be sure to pick up that lead and head out the door with your canine companion whenever you can!

As well as walking, there is a fantastic range of other activities you can do with your dog to keep them (and yourself!) fit and healthy.

Train your dog properly

Good training classes are invaluable and can help owners get the most from their dog.

The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme is designed to help owners train their dogs to be obedient in everyday situations. The scheme is not competitive and is aimed at all dogs: young, old, pedigree and crossbreed.

When deciding to join training classes, follow these guidelines:

  • Telephone or visit our website for a full list of local dog training classes
  • Ring a local training club and speak to the course co-ordinator or secretary
  • Don’t take your dog to the first club visit. If possible, visit other dog training organisations so that you choose the class and the instructor you feel must comfortable taking your dog to
  • Ensure that the training is suitable for your dog’s needs

Finally, after all these serious reminders, a note of happiness: achieving a good partnership with your dog will prove to be one of the most rewarding partnerships you will ever enter.

Clean up after your dog

The majority of dog owners are brilliant and pick up after their dogs, which ultimately helps to ensure that they are welcome in many of the UK’s parks, beaches and other public places.

Although you may be a good owner, you may know others who don’t recognise the importance of clearing up after their dogs. Unfortunately, those who do not clean up after their dog are the root cause of complaints to local officials which will eventually lead to an increasing number of places where dogs will not be allowed to go.

We hope that this information may be of use to you or anyone else you know. Dog owners can help ensure their dogs continue to enjoy walks in the great outdoors by always cleaning up after their dog to avoid harming other people and animals.

Why is it important to clean up after my dog?

Dog mess is unpleasant and can occasionally lead to a condition called toxocariasis in humans, which can cause serious illness and blindness.

If you do not clean up after your dog, you could also be fined up to £1,000. Alternatively, an authorised officer may give you a fixed penalty notice, which could be up to £100.

Who is responsible for clearing up after your dog?

You, or whoever is responsible for your dog at the time, are in charge of clearing up any dog mess. If your dog gets caught fouling, saying that you did not see it happening is not a reasonable excuse for failing to clean up after your dog in the eyes of the law.

What can I do?

As a dog owner you should always be ready to clean up after your dog by taking a supply of bags or a poop scoop with you whenever you leave the house. Make sure you pick up the mess straight away, seal the bag and place the waste in a bin. The bin does not have to be a dog waste bin if there are none available, a normal litter bin is suitable as well in this case. If there are no bins in the area, then take the bag home and dispose of it in your own bin.

Do not throw the bag over fences, hang it on a tree or leave the bag on the ground. It is worth making a note of where the public bins are on your route so that you can dispose of the waste responsibly.

If you notice that there aren’t any bins in your local area, please contact your local council to let them know. As well as cleaning up after your dog, you can help reduce any health risks to the public by regularly worming your dog, which should help to eradicate the worms responsible for toxocariasis.

Know where you are allowed to walk your dog

As a good dog owner, it is important to know where you may or may not walk your dog.

In October 2014, public space protection orders (PSPOs) were introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, replacing dog control orders.

Councils now have the power to introduce restrictions or requirements to tackle or prevent any other activity that is considered to have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality, or is likely to have such an effect.

Examples of PSPOs could include:

  • excluding dogs from designated areas (e.g. a children’s play area in a park)
  • requiring dog faeces to be picked up by owners
  • requiring dogs to be kept on leads
  • restricting the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at any one time

However they could potentially be much broader in their scope than dog control orders were. Unlike dog control orders, there is no requirement to publish plans to introduce PSPOs in local newspapers; instead the local authority must consult with the chief officer of police, the local policing body, landowners and whatever community representatives it thinks appropriate.

Under the guidance for enforcement, local authorities are recommended to consult with our access for owners and dogs campaign. If you want to keep up to date on these issues, please let us know by emailing us.

Identify your dog properly

If your dog runs away or gets lost, the best chance of getting them back is if they are able to be identified.

Recent changes under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) means that from 6 April 2016, all dogs in England will be required to have a microchip with their details recorded on an authorised database.

As part of the regulations you will need to:

  • Have your dog microchipped and registered on one of the authorised databases available such as Petlog
  • Keep your contact details up to date on the microchip databases

Read more about compulsory microchipping.

After April 2016, dog owners in England that come to the attention of the police or local authorities will be given a short period to comply. If you fail to chip your dog after this, then you could face a fine of up to £500.

If you sell or gift a dog to another person/organisation, the details on the microchip will need to be changed to reflect those of the new owner by either yourself or the new owner. However, If you do not ensure that this is done, you could be liable for the dog’s actions if the owner/contact details are outdated and your details are listed as the dog’s keeper.

Petlog, your best friend when a microchipped pet goes missing

Over 8 million pet owners trust Petlog to help reunite them with their lost pets. If your dog ever goes missing, Petlog gives you the best chance of finding them.

Petlog reassurance at a glance:

  • Petlog is the UK’s largest lost and found database for microchipped pets
  • The Petlog customer care line is open 24/7, 365 days a year and it's based in the UK, which means it’s always easy to get in contact
  • Upgrade online to Petlog Premium and enjoy all the added benefits and convenience for a one off cost of £16

Take care of your dog’s health and well-being

As a human, you require a certain standard of living, and dogs are the same, so it is hugely important to make sure your four-legged friend is treated with care and respect.

To ensure this, the Animal Welfare Act (2006) introduced penalties for neglect and cruelty towards animals including fines of up to £20,000, a maximum jail term of 51 weeks and a lifetime ban on certain owners keeping pets.

Know the five freedoms. Under Section 9 of the Act, there is a duty of the person responsible for the animal to ensure that the animal has:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst - provide fresh, clean water and the right amount of food to keep the animal fit and healthy
  2. Freedom from discomfort - animals should be protected from extreme weather conditions such as hot or cold temperatures, wind, rain and humidity. A suitable, clean, dry resting area should be available to animals at all times. This also applies to leaving an animal temporarily in an unsuitable place, such as a hot car, where temperatures quickly rise on both cool and warm days
  3. Freedom from pain, suffering, injury and disease - animals should be inspected regularly to make sure they are well. Animals that appear to be ill, diseased or injured must be cared for without delay. If they do not respond to that care, professional advice must be sought immediately
  4. Freedom to behave normally - make sure the animals have enough space and proper facilities to display normal behaviour, including regular interaction with other animals where appropriate. As the person responsible for the animal, you also need to ensure that they receive appropriate daily exercise
  5. Freedom from fear and distress - make sure the conditions the animal lives and roams in and the treatment the animal receives avoids any type of mental suffering.

A person will commit an offence if they do not ensure these five freedoms for the animal that they are responsible for.

Don’t cook your dog!

As part of knowing how to take good care of your dog, it is important not to leave your dog unattended in a car, particularly during hot days and summer months.

The difference between the temperature inside a car and outside can be extremely different; with car temperatures rising as high as 120 F/49 C within six to 10 minutes. This temperature is almost hot enough to fry an egg. Even with the windows open, it can take just 20 minutes for dogs to suffer from heatstroke and die a painful death.

Please keep these tips in mind when travelling with your dog:

  • Always ensure that there is shade provided. Even in an air-conditioned car, a dog can become too hot if fully exposed to the sun
  • Make sure there are plenty of breaks in your journey
  • Bring fresh drinking water and a bowl
  • Take care that your dog does not burn its paws on any hot metal objects
  • Where possible, take your dog with you when leaving the car. Alternatively, leave your dog at home with a friend or family member to ensure their safety in hot weather

For more information, please refer to our campaign: dogs die in hot vehicles.