Countryside canines

For guidance on how you and your dog can enjoy the countryside responsibly.

Paw Print zones

Hampshire Countryside sites are colour coded into red, amber and green ‘paw print’ zones.

These zones are a straightforward way of showing people where dogs can exercise on and off lead.

Whether you’re a dog owner or not, follow the Countryside Code and help make the countryside safe and enjoyable for everyone.

  • green paw print
  • Green
    Dogs are allowed off lead. Follow the countryside code so that everyone can enjoy the countryside.
  • orange paw print
  • Amber
    Restrictions in place - read the on-site instructions for details. It might be that dogs must be kept on leads because of grazing animals, or people and dogs must stick to the paths due to ground nesting birds. Other amber areas are BBQ and picnic sites. This is to keep dogs safe from eating anything harmful and to protect people's picnics.
  • red paw print
  • Red
    Dogs are not allowed in red areas. It might be because it's a sensitive wildlife site or livestock is present.
Help protect the natural environment

We all have a responsibility to protect the countryside now and for future generations. Take care by making sure you don't harm animals, birds, plants or trees and try to leave no trace of your visit.

When you take your dog into the outdoors, always ensure it does not disturb wildlife, farm animals, horses or other people by keeping it under effective control.

This means that you:

  • keep your dog on a lead or always keep it in sight
  • be aware of what it's doing and be confident it will return to you promptly on command
  • ensure it does not stray off the path or area where you have a right of access

Special dog rules may apply in particular situations, so always look out for local signs - for example dogs may be banned from certain areas that people use, or there may be restrictions, bylaws or control orders limiting where they can go.

Pick up after your dog

It's understandable to think it's OK to leave it when out in nature. But, because of the food dogs eat and medicines they take (i.e. to treat worms), it becomes harmful to people, animals and the environment.

Dog walking code

When spending time with your dog out and about, it is important that you adhere to the canine code of conduct.

Ensure your dog is under effective control, which means:

  • you have a short lead with you and use it when needed
  • you do not let your dog off the lead unless you keep it in sight and close enough to come back to you on command
  • prevent your dog from approaching horse riders, cyclists, or other people and their dogs uninvited
  • keep your dog with you on paths or access land and don’t let it stray into crops including fields of grass, fruit and vegetables
  • never let your dog worry or chase wildlife or livestock
  • always bag and bin your dog’s poo wherever you are - you can use any public waste bin or your bin at home
  • never leave bags of dog poo lying around, even if you intend to pick them up later
  • ensure your details are on your dog’s collar and it is microchipped, so you can be reunited quickly if it is lost
  • keep your dog’s vaccinations and worming up to date. Ask your vet for more information.
Dog walking along the coast​

Hampshire’s coastline has a variety of habitats. This makes it the perfect place for thousands of birds to spend the winter. Some of these birds migrate here to feed and build up fat reserves before returning to their breeding sites in the summer. Some use the coast as a pit stop to grab a quick bite to eat before carrying on with their migration.

People love to visit the coast too, but birds can see people (and their dogs) as a threat. When people get too close, birds can sense danger and stop feeding. They may walk, swim or fly away. It can take them an entire day to refuel the energy this uses. This means they lose valuable feeding time and waste precious energy. If disturbance happens often the birds may avoid the area completely. That means more competition for food elsewhere and some birds will be unable to find enough to eat.

The access rights that normally apply to open country and registered common land (known as 'Open Access' land) require dogs to be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, to help protect ground nesting birds, and all year round near farm animals.

Follow the Bird Aware Coastal Code to help protect the birds of the Solent coast.

Dog walking and grazing animals

Some of our countryside areas have grazing animals on them. These animals are a valuable tool in conserving the wildlife of these areas. Many of the important wildlife habitats in the UK have been shaped by centuries of grazing with animals. To ensure that these are not lost we still use animals to graze these areas.

Grazing helps prevent scrub and trees from taking over and creates a patchwork of different vegetation. This gives rare plants and invertebrates a chance to thrive. Without this management, these precious habitats would gradually revert to woodland.

Visitors to grazed reserves are requested to observe the following and stay SAFE around grazing animals:

Stop, look and listen before entering a field; be aware of any animals present
Always keep your dog on a short lead
Find the safest route around animals, giving them plenty of space and using paths or access land where possible
Exit the area calmly and quickly if threatened, releasing your dog to make it easier for you both to reach safety

It's always good practice (and a legal requirement on 'Open Access' land) to keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and horses, for your own safety and for the welfare of the animals. A farmer may shoot a dog that is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog's owner.

Projects and partnerships

We have been working in partnership with The Kennel Club and others since 2005, carrying out research and producing guidance to assist public and private landowners and land managers in minimising the impact of dogs in the countryside.

Taking the Lead

A good practice guide that aims to provide public sector land managers with some thoughts and ideas to try on their own sites.

Dogs on your land

A guidance note for those managing private land such as farms and nature reserves with public access. It clarifies the legal situation and provides some practical information on how to reduce the impacts of walkers with dogs.

Planning for Dog Ownership in New Developments

This shows how good housing and greenspace design can support the benefits of dog ownership, while also reducing any conflicts with neighbours, wildlife and local farmers.