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Take the Lead

Lots of you visit the South Downs National Park because it is a great place to walk your dog. With miles of footpaths and bridleways there’s lots for them to explore including hilltops, riversides, heathlands, forests, farmland and historical sites.

Responsible dog walkers are very welcome in the South Downs National Park.

It’s pretty simple to be a responsible dog owner while out enjoying the countryside. Here are some easy ways you can ensure that you and your dog stay safe and have an enjoyable day out in the South Downs:

  • Keep dogs on a lead near livestock and wildlife.
  • Bag and bin your poo, any public bin will do.
  • Protect ground nesting birds – stick to the paths, especially between 1 March – 15 September
  • Do not enter military training areas when the red flags are flying

Taking responsibility for your dog is especially important in spring when young livestock are particularly vulnerable and pregnant ewes are in the fields.

Did you know that if a pregnant sheep is chased she can abort her lamb through fear and stress.

You might wonder why dog poo needs to be picked up in the countryside when lots of other animal faeces is allowed to linger. It actually comes down to a dog’s diet. Eating meat and processed biscuits not from the natural environment means that your dogs poop contains worms and germs which can be harmful not only to the livestock and wildlife who eat the grass, but also these germs can filter down into the water beneath the ground which is used for our drinking water! Urgh!

Be safe and always pick up after your dog – it’s the right thing to do.

The South Downs is also home to many ground-nesting birds, and any disturbance can stop a successful brood. It’s best to keep your dog on the path so they don’t think an egg found in the undergrowth is a tasty mid-walk snack!

Take a minute to watch our Take the Lead animation which is full of helpful tips on how to keep you and your dog safe while exploring the South Downs, while at the same time ensuring it’s a space for wildlife, livestock and other users to enjoy as well.