Walking Dogs


Walking with Dogs in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley

In an open access area like the Forest of Dean there are obviously many places to walk a dog. The great majority of the Forest paths are very suitable for walking dogs, there are very few stiles however you do need to be aware of cycle paths and also wildlife.

Similarly, the Wye Valley has a large number of public rights of way so there is no shortage of choice. However, there are several walks which have stiles or gates and there may be livestock (see below) in some of the more open areas.

See our page on Walking for information on a variety of walks including our guide to 12 Easy Walks, the Sculpture Trail and other long distance paths which are dog friendly.

We also recommend a book, 20 locations in the Forest of Dean which are ideal for dog walking.

Health and Wellbeing

Research has shown that walking for just 30 minutes every day gives you more energy, helps reduce stress, can lower blood pressure and helps keep your heart in good order.

Your dog will enjoy the adventure too but there are a few simple guidelines which will help keep you safe and make sure you enjoy walking your dog in the countryside.

  • The countryside is a great place to exercise dogs, but it's every dog owner's duty to make sure their dog is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife or other people.
  • It is worth remembering that the countryside is working land and the place where farmers earn their living, sometimes by grazing cattle and sheep.
  • By law, you must control your dog so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife.
  • Always leave gates as you find them.

Places to Take Your Dog

Our area welcomes dogs (and their owners!) with a great many places to eat and stay which allow dogs as well as plenty of dog friendly attractions and activities:

Wild Animals

In the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley we have a large range of wildlife including deer, boar, foxes, badgers, squirrels, pine martens and in wildlife reserves there are ponies and cattle including Highland cows. If you intend walking your dog in the Forest, we recommend that you exercise particular care as they can startle the wildlife. If your dog is not trained to call to heel please keep it on its lead at all times. Read our pages on deer and boar especially for more information.

Dogs and Livestock

We recommend that you keep your dog on a short lead (not more than 2 metres) and keep as much room between the dog and livestock as possible. The dog should stay on the path with you and not wander in the field.


Sheep are easily frightened and will usually run away, which can elicit the chase instinct in many dogs. Furthermore, pregnant ewes can abort their lambs when frightened. Please keep dogs on leads anywhere near sheep.


Cows can be inquisitive, and if they have calves with them they may be suspicious and perceive you as a threat - especially if you have a dog with you. Keep your dog on a short lead and if possible, between two people if you are walking with someone else.

  • If cattle do start showing an usual interest, for example, they are following close behind, try to veer towards the closest field boundary (hedge, fence, wall etc) and continue towards your exit.
  • If the cattle surround you and start acting aggressively (pushing towards you, lowering their heads or attempting to butt you, pawing the ground or jostling), you will then be able to release your dog through or over the boundary, to safety (although be aware of what is on the other side of the boundary).
  • Once your dog is away from the cattle, you may find they lose interest. However, if you are still being threatened, you will be in a better position to protect yourself and leave the field if you need to. Try not to panic and never run.
  • If you can, let the farmer know about any problems you have encountered so that he can take remedial action to prevent similar occurrences.

Clearing Up After Your Dog

Dog mess is unsightly and the parasites from unwormed dogs can harm farm animals, wildlife and children. Please clear up after you dog at all times by bagging it up and taking it to the nearest bin or taking it home with you. Please do not throw the bag in the hedge or hang it on a tree - the contents are poisonous to many animals.

For your dog's good health, please remember to worm it regularly.

Please also take the time to review the Countryside Code which is here.

Sections taken from 'Walking your dog in the countryside' leaflet produced by Gloucestershire County Council, supported by the Gloucestershire Local Access Forum, an advisory body comprising representatives of walkers and riders as well as landowners and farmers.


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