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Tips & Advice

The Countryside Code

Taking a walk on the wild side   

Meet Monty!One of the first things I learned when we swapped the Big Smoke for the countryside eight months ago, was the importance of a well-trained dog.  When we moved, Monty our working cocker spaniel, was only a few months old and I thought that I had nailed his 'recall' commands firmly.  Monty was brilliant at coming back to the whistle in the park and I just assumed that it would be the same once we were wandering the bridleways around our new rural home.  How wrong I was!  At the first sign of horses, acres of green and any quantity of game birds, Monty was off like a rocket and refused to come back despite me yelling, cajoling and frankly begging him to come back.  Remember the Fenton YouTube phenomenon?  Much the same. 

The dangers of dog walking

I soon stumbled upon the pitfalls of walking a 'deaf' and mostly untrained dog - irate gamekeepers worried about their pheasant pens and alarmed farmers concerned for the welfare of their livestock.  I recently met a local sheep farmer who explained just why it is so important to have a good 'recall' with one's dog.  A flock of her sheep were victims of an attack by two dogs chasing and catching them during the Dogs and Sheeplambing season last year.  Sadly at least 2 of the ewes died and several lambs had to be stitched up, resulting in an awful wrangle with farmer, dog owner and police over the damage done.  A situation which could so easily have been avoided if the owner had paid more heed to his dogs when they were let off the lead.  A cautionary tale for Monty and I, if ever there was one.  It is easy to forget that the countryside is for many a source of work and livelihood as well as the open spaces we all like to enjoy.  I had just assumed that I would be allowed to walk along our local bridleways and footpaths with a dog off the lead.  However, it is wise to remember that this is not always the case.  To check out the Countryside Code and for more information on walking your dog in rural areas, visit the Natural England site here

Some simple tips to bear in mind:

  • Monty on the leadKeep your dog in sight at all times and only take it off the lead if you are sure that it will come back to you.
  • If you are in any doubt, pop your dog back on a lead.
  • Keep your dog on the lead at all times around livestock - farmers are well within their rights to shoot a dog who is worrying sheep or chasing farm animals.
  • Remind yourself of the Countryside Code and the importance of being a responsible dog owner.

As for Monty and I....well we're busy going back to basics with our training - a 'recall' bootcamp for spaniel and owner alike!



Rebecca Fletcher

Rebecca is a freelance writer who finally upped sticks to rural Hampshire after over a decade in London.  She lives with her husband, 2 daughters, 2 cats, a motley crew of hens and her beloved working cocker spaniel Monty, general gundog dunce and probably the most spoilt dog in Hampshire.  With the phrase 'the more the merrier' being embraced as part of their new rural life, a bundle of joyful furriness named Isadora joined the family just before Christmas 2015 and life has not been the same since. 

They say that you can never have too much of a good thing!  Good job too as now there are two cocker spaniels at home to train, walk and play with, when they are not curled up at Rebecca's feet waiting for her to finish writing for the day!

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Rebecca Fletcher

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