Walking with Dogs in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley
Where to Walk
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 and 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 and there may be livestock (see below) in some of the more open areas.
We also recommend a book, 20 locations in the Forest of Dean which are ideal for dog walking.
Health & 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.
In the Forest of Dean we have a 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 read our page on wild boar. In general boar and other wildlife are safe but you should exercise particular care if walking with dogs as they can startle the wildlife. If you do encounter wild boar:
- Do not approach them – if possible leave the area by the same route you approached by, or make a detour giving the animals a wide berth.
- If you have a dog off its lead, call the dog to heel and put the lead on it immediately.
- If your dog is not trained to call to heel please keep it on its lead at all times.
- If your dog chases a boar, stay at a safe distance and continue to call the dog back – do not approach the boar or interfere. Your dog is a threat to the boar and they will defend themselves if threatened.
Dogs and Livestock
We recommend that you keep your dog(s) on short leads (not more than 2 metres) and keep as much room between you 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. Even well behaved dogs can then turn into a predator. Furthermore, pregnant ewes can abort their lambs when frightened.
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 of less than 2m 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. Clear up after you dog where required to do so by law (public areas, parks, streets, playing fields etc) and please try to clear up after your dog in the wider countryside by bagging it up and taking it home or to the nearest bin. 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.
Information was 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.