Countryside codes and Outdoor Access Code

When you're out and about with your dog, it's important that you're aware of the Countryside Code. Being aware of this code can help to keep your dog safe, protect the environment and show that you are a responsible dog owner.

The England and Wales Countryside Code states that:

  • You control your dog so that it doesn't scare or disturb farm animals or wildlife
  • When using the new access rights over open country and common land, you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July - and all year round near farm animals. You may not be able to take your dog at all in some areas or at some times. Please follow any official signs
  • In general you don't have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as they are under close control. Though please be aware of any local laws that may be in place.
  • As a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on their obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals
  • If a farm animal chases you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead - don't risk getting hurt by trying to protect them. Please see our guides on keeping safe around horses and livestock
  • Take particular care that your dog doesn't scare sheep and lambs, or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife
  • Across the UK, 7 in 10 livestock attacks are caused by unaccompanied dogs, e.g. dogs that have escaped your garden. Make sure your garden is escape-proof
You can read more about these rules, or if you have a particular query, please call 0845 100 3298.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code is based on three key principles:

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code is based on three key principles:

  • Respect the interests of others
  • Care for the environment
  • Take responsibility for your own actions
Access rights apply to people walking dogs as long as their dogs are kept under proper control. Your main responsibilities are:

Farm animals:

  • Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals
  • Don't take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young farm animals
  • If you go into a field of farm animals, keep your dog(s) on a short lead or close at heel and keep as far as possible from the animals
  • If cattle react aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field

Crops: Don't take your dog into fields of vegetables or fruit unless there is a clear path, such as a core path or right of way, and keep your dog to the path

Ground nesting birds: During the breeding season (usually April-July) keep your dog on a short lead or close at heel in areas such as moorland, forests, grasslands, loch shores and the sea shore to avoid disturbing birds that nest on or near the ground

Recreation areas and public places: Avoid causing concern to others by keeping your dog close at heel or on a short lead

Dog waste: Pick up and remove your dog's faeces if it defecates in a public open place

You can read more here.

Northern Ireland Countryside Code

The following simple messages make up some of the NI Countryside Code:

Respect people who live and work in the countryside.

Know where you are allowed to go: Most land is private property and access is only available with the goodwill and tolerance of the owner. Whilst most landowners do not object to recreational users on their land, some do. Always respect a landowner's wishes.

Keep to paths across farmland:

  • Help stop damage to crops by walking around the edge of a field unless there is an existing path across it.
  • Avoid fields where there are animals, as your presence may cause them stress and endanger your own safety.

Leave gates as you find them.

Don't interfere with livestock, machinery and crops.

Keep dogs under control

  • Keep your dog on a lead when walking on roads or when close to farm animals. A dog can cause distress to animals and endanger you.
  • Keep your dog under control always so as not to disturb wildlife or annoy or frighten other visitors.

Take your litter home.

Respect other recreational users: Behave responsibly. Where possible, warn others of your approach and slow down or stop if necessary. Irresponsible behaviour could lead to you and your activity being banned from the area in the future.

You can read more here.

Places to walk your dogs

Below is a selection of resources that provide suggested walks that both you and your dog can enjoy:

Access laws are complex and can vary greatly even within the same local council area, so in the case of a specific issue or concern, please your local council.