Helping wildlife conservation as a dog walker

Check out our top tips for helping with wildlife conservation while walking your dog!

17th June 2024

Our canine companions often lead us out and about in all sorts of different landscapes and backgrounds, from woodlands and forests to vast rolling hills, grasslands and wetlands through to sand dunes and beaches. 

However, while exploring nature with our best fur-iends, it’s our responsibility to protect the precious environments we encounter – which are vital for the health of local wildlife, ecosystems, and biodiversity

Here are our top tips for nature etiquette and how you can do your bit to support our beautiful countryside and creatures while walking your dog, as part of our ‘Tails’ of UK Wildlife campaign… 

Keep your dog on a lead

While walking through the countryside with your canine companion, it’s important to take notice of any signs around you and keeping your dog on a lead if you’re unsure of your surroundings

Although it’s tempting to let our dogs bound through meadows or splash into lakes, their presence can scare and harm wildlife, as well as potentially damage their habitats. Keeping your pooch on a lead can avoid disturbing livestock and wildlife including deer, sheep, ground-nesting birds, and squirrels. 

It can also keep your dog safe, protecting them from snake bites, insect stings or defensive animals as well as helping you avoid toxic substances and other hidden dangers you might not see. 

To help your dog feel comfortable, calm, and content to walk on a lead, visit our articles about positive reinforcement and loose lead walking.

Top tip: If you’re concerned your dog’s missing out due to staying on their lead, an alternative is to visit or hire secure dog walking fields regularly to let them exercise off-lead safely. 

Clean up after your dog

The ‘pocket pat’ to check for poo bags that we perform before taking our dogs out for walkies is part of our daily routine! So, no-matter where you walk your dog, it’s important to clean up after them for the health of those around you – as well as for the benefit of nature. 

If there are no bins available where you’re walking your dog, it’s best to carry your dog’s mess until you’re able to find a suitable bin for it. 

To enjoy walkies without worrying about what to do with your pooch’s poo, visit our article all about dog poo dangers and disposal etiquette.

Take litter home

This one is for everyone that enjoys an escape to the countryside or coastal areas, but us dog owners might carry a little more rubbish with us without realising, such as dog treat packets, hand sanitizer, tissues etc. 

It’s important to properly dispose of any litter and take all these added nasties home with you if there are no bins around. This is because wildlife can often get hurt by choking on rubbish, being tangled up in it, or getting stuck. 
Toxic particles, from products like plastics, also break down and end up ingested by marine life or wild birds – causing long-term harm to their health. 

Top tip: Why not carry a backpack with you and put a disposable bag in there to store litter in one place? This will make it easier to throw away when you’re able to find a bin. To manage dog waste, you could invest in a special dog poo carrier to safely seal in smells until you can throw the poo bag away. 

Since walking your dog is part of your daily routine, you could help wildlife by picking up a piece of litter and throwing it into a bin every day. Provided you wear protective gloves to help keep you safe, picking up litter while walking your dog could be a wonderful step towards a wildlife-friendly future!  

Respect signs

It’s vital you stick to designated footpaths or signposted dog-friendly routes, and not be tempted to stray off the path when out walking, for the safety of you, your dog, and the wildlife around you. 

You’ll need to follow signs and keep away from wildlife-only spaces, like nesting sites. Through paying attention to these signs, you’re supporting nature by making sure your dog doesn’t disturb wildlife (e.g. running through fields, digging in sand dunes, or jumping into lakes). 

Another sign that should always be respected is to close gates behind you – if livestock gets out, they could be harmed and/or damage local habitats.

Know dog first aid

All the above tips should help you and your dog enjoy your adventures safely. However, understanding basic canine first aid can make all the difference when dealing with an emergency in a remote rural or coastal setting. 

For example, a few of the dangers your dog could face while out and about include:

  • Being attacked by wildlife (e.g. geese protecting their nests).
  • Getting injured (e.g. slipping on rocks).
  • Water-related risks (e.g. swallowing too much sea water).

Please call a vet for advice immediately if your dog is involved in an emergency.

Top tip: For an added layer of safety, let people know where you are and download the ‘what3words’ app – this should hopefully enable help to reach you sooner. 

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