Dog-walking in wildlife (or not!) – leave only pawprints

One of our Teacher Naturalists at Montrose Basin is also a dog owner and dog-walker.

Read on for advice from Kim on how to be a responsible dog walker at these particularly difficult times, but also at any time of year – with wildlife in mind!

There hasn’t been one aspect of life or one person that hasn’t seen drastic change in the last month. During this time, one of the measures our government has taken is limiting the general public’s access to the great outdoors – reducing our time to one form of outdoor exercise per day. Since the government restrictions have come in, they have also limited us as to where we can go to walk our dogs, with more people turning to walking their local streets or new routes they haven’t considered before rather than their favourite countryside walks. For me, as a dog walker and a lover of the outdoors, not being able to go outdoors as much as I used to is a struggle but it has been something I have had to adapt to. Everyone has had to make sacrifices and in the grand scheme of things, for dog owners this is nothing in comparison to others.

I have always enjoyed being outdoors and I am lucky enough to live in Scotland where we have The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 which ensures everyone has statutory access rights to most of Scotland’s outdoors. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides information on these rights and responsibilities, with respect for people’s privacy, safety and livelihoods, and for Scotland’s environment. As a dog owner, the most relevant points of the SOAC I adhere to are keeping a dog on-lead or under close control (never 2m away from the owner and easily recalled at any time) and picking up dog waste and disposing of it correctly. These guidelines are pretty much common sense, but they are hugely important for the environment – especially at this time of year. They can help ground nesting birds such as skylarks, meadow pipits and eider ducks, to name but a few, during breeding season (April-July) as it prevents dogs from running around and disturbing nests that are usually well camouflaged and hidden on the ground.

Eider nest. © Scottish Wildlife Trust

When talking about dogs there’s always one subject that always pops up and unfortunately, it’s a very visible sign that dog owners can sometimes leave behind: dog poo. Put simply, “it happens” – producing waste is simply a part of life. Unfortunately, it has always been a problem that a minority of dog owners, for some unknown reason, choose not to clear up after their dogs. During these government restrictions, has anyone else noticed an increase in people not picking up after their pooches?

It really is as simple as “Bag it & Bin it”. In fact, it should be much easier to dispose of dog waste around towns and villages because public bins are never far away. Any bin can be used, it does not specifically need to be a red dog poo bin, and all bins (as of posting this blog) are still being emptied. I found a rather ingenious app called Pooper Snooper, which is an absolutely great idea but I don’t think it is widely known about…yet.

If you’re caught without a poo bag, which can happen, look out for (or perhaps start up your own) community poo bag dispenser scheme – the simple idea of plastic bottles filled with bags which are attached to lampposts or fence posts for anyone to use, with the expectation that you replace the bag in another bottle for someone else to use. They have saved me on the rare occasion I have run out – not that it happens often because my jacket pockets only ever have poo bags (or dog treats) in them!

When the time comes that we can enjoy the great outdoors again as normal, wherever we go be it streets, farm lanes, beaches, mountains, please “Know the Code before you go” and remember to “leave only pawprints”.

Teacher Naturalist Kim on one of her many dog walks.

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One of our Teacher Naturalists at Montrose Basin is also a dog owner and dog-walker. Read on for advice from Kim on how to be a responsible dog walker at …

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