The better weather and lighter nights means that more of us decide to take a walk out in the countryside with our dogs.
Whilst this is a great pleasure for ourselves and our four legged friends this environment is one that needs to be respected. Wildlife, livestock, rural traffic, rivers/lochs, boundaries, littering and dog waste issues all need to be considered before heading off.
With regards to the last point there is growing evidence for a link between livestock diseases and infected dog waste that is not picked up on rural land. The two main issues are Neosporosis which causes abortion in cattle and Sarcocystosis which causes neurological disease and death in sheep.
These parasites can be transmitted to livestock from infected dog waste and as such all poo should be bagged in all rural areas where livestock may come into contact with it. So, as well as specific grazing land, this also includes grasslands, bridlepaths and any unfenced roads, tracks and lanes.
It is believed that the parasites may enter the dog via raw meat so even if you occasionally give them a raw bone this could be a source.
Although there is a general principle of a right to roam there are still responsibilities within this that we should all bear in mind. With regards to wildlife please note that March to July inclusive represents the main period for ground nesting birds.
These require their sites to be undisturbed and as such we need to ensure we keep our dogs on a lead when in the area. Please look out for the signs relating to these sites.
During the same period farms are very busy with the lambing season. Again for this reason we need to be extra vigilant and ensure we have full control of our dogs at all times.
The rural environment is highly stimulating to canines, especially if they don’t experience it very often. Anything that moves is an invitation to ‘play’ but also dangers, such as fast flowing or deep water, are alien to many. Again we just need to make sure that we have appropriate control to keep them safe from harm.
A golden rule should be that we leave the countryside in the state that we found it. Close gates behind us, pick up our dog waste, pick up our litter and, above all, adhere to the countryside code.