Written on 14/07/19 by Paul Oldham

Your Dog and Other Animals

Only you know how your dog will react when you come across livestock and wildlife but we do have some tips, based on our experience.


In the Lake District sheep are the livestock you're most likely to come across pretty much anywhere from the roadside verges to the upland fells.

Herdwick Sheep and juniper bushes
Herdwick Sheep - a traditional Lake District breed

Some dogs love to chase sheep and some, sadly, will also chase, bring down, and kill lambs. The farmer is completely within their rights to shoot and kill your dog if they are seen sheep worrying so do ensure that you have complete control of your dog when there's sheep about - be that through voice commands or by using a suitable lead.

For us we find Jessie can generally be controlled by voice alone whereas Jack is less reliable and needs an extendible lead.


Although less common you may also come across cattle on your walk. Cows present a real problem as they are a danger to both you and your dog and every year people are killed or seriously injured by cows, with fractures to arms, ribs, wrist, scapula, clavicle, legs, lacerations, punctured lung, bruising, black eyes, joint dislocation, nerve damage and unconsciousness being among the reported injuries.

The numbers aren't huge - in the fifteen years from 2000-2015 74 people were killed of which 18 were members of the public - but it is a danger and you don't want to be a statistic. Most of the fatalities are farm workers but a quarter are members of the public walking on footpaths or commonly used rights of way and about two thirds had dogs with them.

For the public it's not bulls that are the problem but cows and the time when they present a particular danger is when they have calves with them as in this situation they may regard your dog as a threat.

The best strategy is to keep a good distance between you and the cows and ideally not be in the same field at all but if you do have to pass through a field with cows in then:

Ground Nesting Birds

On the high fells in particular some species of bird nest on the ground so you need to be particularly careful to keep your dog under control during the nesting season (usually April to July) when this is happening. Don't let your dog go off the path to run around in the heather as it can frighten birds from their nests leaving eggs or young vulnerable to the cold, or to predators such as crows.

Remember too that The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to disturb any wild bird while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young; or to disturb dependent young of such a bird. So this isn't just sensible dog ownership but also ensuring you don't break the law.

Photo of cows by Tobias Nordhausen and licensed under a CC BY 2.0 licence.

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WalkLakes recognises that hill walking, or walking in the mountains, is an activity with a danger of personal injury or death.
Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.