Letting your dog off lead is an excellent way for them to burn off some of that excess energy, give them a sense of freedom, and allow them to independently explore their surroundings. However, sometimes letting your dog off leash is not safe for them or the other people and animals around them. We're here to take you through everything you need to know about letting your dog off the lead in the UK. From when it is safe and legal to when it is best to be avoided...
So what does the law say about walking your dog off leash? Here in the UK, there is no law which requires owners to keep their dog on a lead in public. However, there are certain public and private areas that have restrictions for dogs, which can include them being on a lead. This includes places such as beaches and farm land. When walking your dog, it is important to be aware of these requirements and follow them at all times. There may be different penalties and fines for not abiding by these rules.
Although there is no specific law on dog and leads, it is against the law in the UK for a dog to be “dangerously out of control anywhere”. According to the gov.uk website a dog is considered dangerously out of control if:
- it injures someone
- it makes someone worried that it might injure them
- it attacks someone’s animal
- the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal
If your dog is considered “dangerously out of control” you can get an unlimited fine and even receive a maximum prison sentence of 6 months. Your dog can be put down and you can also be banned from owning a dog in the future.
Dog owners should never take their dog off lead on farmland / around livestock as a farmer legally has the right to shoot and/or kill a dog if it’s upsetting their livestock.
This is why it is important to ensure that your dog is properly trained to be walked off lead (more on this later). If you are concerned that you cannot control your dog, it is best to keep them on their leash until you have trained them further. Always be sure to read signage carefully and ensure you are following the rules.
It's a big, wide world out there full of wonderful places for your dog to safely explore off lead. It is important to recognise what is safe for your dog, as every pooch is different. Generally, it is a good idea to only walk your dog off leash in open areas away from roads, cycle paths and busy public places. Remain aware of your surroundings and remember to practise good etiquette. Don't let your dog off lead if there is the potential for them to bother others or cause a potential risk.
Good places to walk your dog include open fields, woodlands, nature trails and beaches. Some local areas will even have specific dog parks where dogs can safely play and explore off lead without any of the risks that come with shared public spaces. Wherever you walk, just be sure to always keep an eye on your dog and put them back on a lead if a situation begins to feel unsafe.
We have already covered the places that are illegal to let your dog off lead, but there are also other places that pose a potential risk. You should avoid letting your dog off lead in areas with ponds, deep water, around wildlife, children's play areas, sports pitches, busy beaches or in the city.
It is also considered good etiquette to keep your dog on the lead around other dogs that are being walked on lead. Owners may have kept their dogs on a leash for a range of behaviour or training reasons, such as their dog being reactive, health reasons such as being post-surgery or their dog being nervous around other animals. If you see an on lead dog approaching, always recall your dog and put them on their lead until that dog has passed to keep both animals safe.
It is vital to ensure your dog has sufficient training to keep them and others safe when walking on or off lead. You should never let your dog off lead in public if they are not trained and if you’re unable to get them under control. Good recall is the most important command when letting your dog off lead. Experts advise starting early with recall training, though it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!
Other commands that are helpful when walking your dog off lead are "heel", "sit", "stop", "leave it" and "drop it." The Blue Cross have a free guidebook on basic dog training which you can download here.
Is it Wrong to Keep my Dog on Lead?
You may think it is cruel to keep your dog on a lead, but in fact, they can have just as good of a walk whether they are on or off lead. Dogs strongest sense is smell, and this is often what they are most interested in when it is time for walkies. As long as you take your dog somewhere they can sniff and wee, they will be perfectly happy! Looking for the perfect lead, wherever the journey takes you? Have a look at these multi-use, cross body leads.