Dog walking

Responsible behaviour by the public

The information below is a short summary of the key things to remember from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

The Access Code says:

Access rights apply to people walking dogs as long as their dogs are kept under proper control. Your main responsibilities are:

  • Farm animals:
    • Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals
    • Don't take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young farm animals
    • If you go into a field of farm animals, keep your dog(s) on a short lead or close at heel and keep as far as possible from the animals
    • If cattle react aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field
  • Crops:
    • Don't take your dog into fields of vegetables or fruit unless there is a clear path, such as a core path or right of way, and keep your dog to the path
  • Ground nesting birds:
    • During the breeding season (usually April-July) keep your dog on a short lead or close at heel in areas such as moorland, forests, grasslands, loch shores and the sea shore to avoid disturbing birds that nest on or near the ground
  • Recreation areas and public places:
    •  avoid causing concern to others by keeping your dog close at heel or on a short lead
  • Dog waste:
    • Pick up and remove your dog's faeces if it defecates in a public open place

Download this leaflet for dog owners to find out more:

Scottish Outdoor Access Code leaflet for dog owners

Other information

The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC), led by Police Scotland, has provided further guidance to help prevent dog attacks on livestock.

This leaflet from the British Horse Society Scotland has some very useful advice on how to stay safe with your dog around horses.

Responsible behaviour by land managers

The Access Code says:

Do not allow a guard dog or working dog to alarm people, especially close to paths and tracks.

Guidance on managing any access issues linked to dog walking can be found here. If you are encountering problems linked to dog walking, you could discuss this with your local authority (or National Park Authority) access officer.

Further information

Help prevent rural crime and protect your own and your neighbours’ livelihoods by reporting anything unusual or suspicious you see in the countryside.

  • Police Scotland recognises the impact of sheep worrying (and the worrying of other livestock) on the animals as well as the emotional and financial impact this can have on the farmer and any witnesses
  • Police Scotland encourage farmers and members of the public to report sheep worrying incidents and "near misses"

You should report:

  • any stray dog out on its own
  • a neighbour who lets their dog out to roam on its own
  • a dog you know that escapes from its owners garden
  • a dog worrying or attacking sheep

All of the above indicate a dog that isn’t being properly looked after. A roaming dog could get injured if out on its own or cause an accident if it’s crossing roads with traffic. If a dog is not under proper control it can be a danger to livestock. It is a dog’s natural instinct to chase and livestock worrying attacks often result in serious or fatal injuries to sheep. In some circumstances the farmer can kill the dog to stop it attacking the sheep.

  • Contact your local authority Dog Warden or equivalent member of staff to report a straying dog
  • If you witness a dog attack on sheep call 101 for non-emergencies, in an emergency call 999. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.