Walking in Whiteparish with your dog

Walking in Whiteparish with your dog.

While this guide is aimed at dog walkers, it is everybody’s responsibility to do their bit to protect the
environment for the generations to come.

Here in Whiteparish we are fortunate to be surrounded by such beautiful countryside with all the open
spaces, woodland and rights of way for all of us to enjoy.

BUT, it is all too easy for us to spoil that which we love, without us realising it, and that is why the local people, businesses and organisations of Whiteparish follow the New Forest Dog Walking Code. We all love our dogs and we all like to think of ourselves as responsible owners, but what does being a responsible owner mean in this context?

The Dog Walking Code asks us to:

Stay safe and respect the environment.

  • Carry a lead for each dog in your care.
  • All dogs must wear collars with ID tags with the owner’s name and address.
  • Keep dogs on leads alongside roads.
  • Do not allow your dog to chase or attack livestock, deer or any other wildlife.
  • Keep your distance from grazing animals, especially mothers and their young.
  • Dogs must always be under effective control when on a public right of way (for example through farmland); keep them on the path and do not allow them to stray onto adjacent land.
  • Keep your dog to the main tracks when birds are nesting on the ground (usually March – August).
  • Pick up after your dog; put bagged dog poo in a dog waste bin, litter bin, or take it home.

Be considerate to other countryside users.

  • Always keep all dogs under effective control; if you cannot reliably and quickly call your dog back to you and away from people or other dogs, please keep it on a lead.
  • Keep your dog from jumping up at or approaching other people, especially children, horse riders and cyclists and prevent excessive barking.
  • Show respect for other dogs (especially those displaying yellow as this indicates they need space); if an approaching dog is on a lead, put yours on a lead too.
  • Consider moving aside to let other walkers, cyclists and horse riders past.

All of this is common sense when you see it written down in black and white, but how many people walking with their dog in the parish at the moment – or countryside generally – can, with their hand on their heart, say that they always follow this code?

The responsible dog walker will always bear in mind two key things, the first of which is to remember that their dog needs to be under effective control at all times – that means that it should always be in sight and that it should always return the instant that it is called, whether that be away from livestock, wildlife, other dogs or other people.

If out in the countryside and not certain that a dog will come back when called, or that it will keep close to its owner on the footpath, the responsible dog walker walks their dog on the lead, particularly in key places at key times of the year. In Whiteparish it is during late winter and spring when livestock have young, when out on the public rights of way during the spring and summer when ground nesting birds, including lapwing, curlew and nightjar, are nesting and caring for young chicks (they are easily disturbed and can thus be more susceptible to predation as a result), and, finally, during the autumn when the deer are rutting (displaying and mating).

By taking care to keep to the main tracks and keeping dogs close and under effective control, walkers both help care for the parish open spaces and protect their dogs from potential hazards like adders and ticks.

The second key thing that a responsible dog walker will always remember is to pick up after their dog and dispose of the bagged waste in a dog waste bin, litter bin, or take it home.

The vast majority of people will always do this if they are walking on the street or in a park and many will do so if their dog goes to the toilet on a public right of way.

Unfortunately, we know that in the parish, some dog walkers are more likely to “stick & flick” dog poo into the bushes, or even simply leave it, without realising just how harmful this can be to wildlife and livestock – after all dog poo is natural isn’t it? Actually, yes - and no.

Yes, it is natural, but no, it is not natural to the countryside.

Of course, nobody picks up after all the horses, cows and wildlife, but one of the big differences is that those animals are recycling the nutrients that they have taken from the countryside as they feed and are simply putting it back, whereas the nutrients in a dog’s food are adding nutrients from excreted dog food to the countryside soil The waste of our carnivorous pets is also very different to that of the herbivorous horses and cows, you wouldn’t put dog poo on your roses, so why would you leave it out in the countryside

Dog poo may also harbour viruses, bacteria and parasites which can affect other dogs, grazing animals and people, even after the waste has decomposed and is no longer visible. All of these are unpleasant and some, although very rare, are extremely serious, and can for example lead to blindness in people, or deaths or loss of unborn young in other dogs or grazing animals like cattle.

Responsible dog owners will take steps to protect their pets from parasites by treating them with medication. There is growing evidence that the active ingredients of some wormers continue to act in the poo, killing the countryside wildlife (beetles, worms and other invertebrates) that would otherwise help decompose the waste. Bagging and binning this dog waste helps to protect these absolutely vital, but easily over-looked animals, some of which are very rare.

Current research is also revealing that the ecological impact of not picking up after our pets might be  even more complicated and far-reaching than we could have imagined: it is now known that predators like foxes feed on discarded dog waste and, because the poo of our much loved and well-fed dogs still contains much of the nutrients that that the animal has been fed, that this can even make up a significant proportion of their diet. What this means is that the fox population can be sustained at much higher levels than would be the case naturally and more foxes could mean more predation of our wildlife – including, potentially, of our vulnerable ground-nesting birds.

So, for all of these reasons, as well as the fact that nobody wants their walk marred by their stepping in the stuff, the responsible dog walker will always show that they care for the local environment and their community by removing and binning dog waste wherever they are.

If you follow the New Forest Dog Walking Code, please display one of the New Forest National Park Authority dog window stickers available at New Forest Local Information Points and visitor centres - or you can order one by e-mailing them at enquiries@newforestnpa.gov.uk. If you employ a dog walker to exercise your dog check that they are signed up to the Professional Dog Walkers’ Charter.

Leave only pawprints!

Redrafted from “Walking in the New Forest with your dog” by Jim Day, People and Wildlife Ranger, New Forest National Park Authority.