Sheep and two lambs in grass field

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Dog walking safety tips for rural areas

Dog owners urged to consider livestock safety during countryside walks 

The British countryside offers a beautiful place for dog owners to exercise their pets while enjoying the great outdoors.

But while enjoying the picturesque surroundings, pet owners must remember it’s important that their dogs are under control to avoid posing a serious risk to livestock.

NFU Mutual surveyed over 1,000 pet owners from across the UK in January 2018*. The survey revealed over 80% of dog owners exercise their pets in the countryside, with over 60% letting them roam off the lead. Almost 7% of owners admitted that their pets had chased livestock in the past.

Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said insurance claims showed livestock worrying costs had increased by 67% between 2015 and 2017. He added: “Attacks by dogs are one of livestock farmers’ worst nightmares. In addition to the suffering to the animals, attacks can have a severe financial impact. Insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, but there is a knock-on effect on farm profits when pregnant sheep chased by dogs lose lambs.”

Advice for dog owners

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking them in rural areas where livestock are kept
  • Be aware that even small lap dogs can attack farm animals
  • Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming  the countryside to local farmers or the police
  • Familiarise puppies with farm livestock from a young age to reduce the risk of them attacking sheep or cattle as adult dogs
  • Don’t let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and worry sheep grazing nearby

*Survey conducted by Petbuzz Market Research on behalf of NFU Mutual.