The NFU has joined forces with The Kennel Club to make countryside dog walks safer and less stressful for both pets and farm animals.
Together the organisations have created new footpath signs which farmers can display on fences, encouraging responsible dog ownership, reinforcing the year-round need to keep dogs on leads around livestock and emphasising that it is safer to release a dog if threatened by inquisitive cattle.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “The NFU is delighted to partner with The Kennel Club for the first time to encourage responsible dog walking in the countryside. These signs are designed to provide guidance and inform the public of the risks and dangers of walking their pets across farmland.
“Now spring is here we tend to see an increase in the number of people out walking their dogs. But it’s important to remember that farms are working environments so please be aware of your surroundings.
“The advice is that if you have a dog with you, keep it close by your side and under control. Where there are cows and sheep, put it on a short lead.
“Remember, cows are inquisitive and may come to investigate; if you feel threatened, walk calmly towards the field boundary and release your dog so you can both get to safety separately.”
Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: “Government figures show that dogs are taken on half of all countryside visits, and in the vast majority of cases these walks are problem free for dog owners and farmers alike.
“It is important for dog owners to be aware of the need to put their dog on a lead at certain times and to always pick up their dog’s waste on farmland, to make sure that everyone can continue enjoying the countryside safely.
“We are proud to be working with the NFU on this new partnership, which will help walkers in the countryside make good choices about what they can do with their dogs and we are looking forward to the new signage being well used.”
The move follows similar calls for vigilance from the CLA in the North East.
The organisation pointed out that in lambing season, pregnant ewes can abort if they become stressed by loose dogs.
Sheep fleeing from dogs can likewise be killed or seriously injured by their panicked attempts to escape, causing damage to fences and field boundaries.
CLA North director of policy & public affairs Douglas Chalmers said: “The majority of farmers and landowners welcome walkers - most people are very understanding and walk with their dogs on leads near livestock. But there are some who do not even consider doing this.
“Dogs should always be under close control when walked on farmland, and unless the dog stays closely to heel, this normally means that it should be on a lead.
“A lead should always be used when close to livestock unless being chased by cattle or horses when it is safer to let dogs off the lead.”