Dog walking professionals help care for the Forest
Professional dog walkers have teamed up with the New Forest National Park Authority to create a best practice checklist for responsible businesses.
The New Forest dog walkers’ charter lists 24 ways that businesses can help care for the Forest and provides a standard mark for pet owners to find responsible dog walking businesses.
The New Forest has rare wildlife, protected habitats, livestock, farming and forestry operations and is a very popular place for dog walking.
All professional dog walkers that walk in the New Forest National Park are being encouraged to abide by the best practice standards set out in the charter, which has three main themes: ‘operating the business in a professional manner’; ‘staying safe and respecting the environment’ and ‘being considerate to other Forest users’.
Jeanette Muldoon, Director of The Family Dog Club based in Exbury said: ‘We have been training dogs and their owners for 10 years now in the New Forest, and we are lucky enough to enjoy working with Forest organisations promoting responsible dog walking in the Forest, for example a National Park ranger chatting with our puppy clients. We think the new Charter is a fantastic idea which can give owners reassurance that the person they choose to walk their dogs adheres to guidance on best practice whilst respecting the New Forest National Park.’
New Forest Dog Owners Group represents more than 1,000 dog owners and supports the new Charter. ‘The way to preserve our freedom in the Forest is to behave responsibly, whether that’s individual owners or professional dog walkers,’ says NFDOG Chair, Heather Gould.
‘Clearly dogs need to be under control. A maximum of six not only seems fair but ties in with other aspects of professional dog walking such as insurance. Equally, if someone is trusting their dog to a walker, they can be reassured that things like emergency first aid have been thought about. No one wants an accident, but dogs are mostly regarded as family members and can’t speak for themselves, so they need the best care and welfare standards.
“Of course, most professional walkers and dog owners are already responsible. But it takes just one or two to not behave and we all have a bad reputation. The Charter helps prevent this. I am keen to recommend to our members and other dog owners that if they use a dog walker, check they’ve signed the Charter and behave responsibly. A lot of discussion went into this Charter, many professionals contributed, and there were meetings and workshops to consider the widest range of views and experience.’
While a survey1 conducted in 2018-19 showed professional dog walkers were less than 1% of people in the New Forest’s open heathlands and woodland, they visit very frequently, often with multiple dogs.
A recent national survey2 revealed that since the initial Coronavirus lockdown dog ownership has increased. 41% of current pet owners got a new pet during lockdown and 30% of dog owners also say they would spend more money on dog walking services in the near future.
The Charter is supported by the New Forest National Park Authority, New Forest District Council, Test Valley Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Constabulary, Natural England, Forestry England, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Bird Aware Solent and New Forest Dog Owners Group. The Kennel Club also fully supports the initiative.
The Professional Dog Walkers’ Charter for businesses builds on the Dog Walking Code to guide individuals which we developed with New Forest Dog Owners Group and is now well established.
New Forest National Park Authority member Patrick Heneghan said: 'By committing to this charter, local dog walking businesses are able to demonstrate that they will operate both in a professional manner and in a way that takes into account the unique characteristics of the New Forest landscape.
‘We and our partners have worked closely with such businesses to develop the New Forest Professional Dog Walkers’ Charter. Companies who sign up to the charter will be listed on the National Park website enabling dog owners to be reassured that their dogs will be cared for by professional dog walkers following industry best practice in care and welfare, and that every effort is will be made to respect the special qualities of the National Park.’
The charter backs the existing campaigns led by Forest organisations such as:
keeping to the tracks to protect rare ground nesting birds
parking only in designated car parks
keeping your distance from the livestock
picking up and disposing of dog waste
having dogs under effective control at all times.
Sam Jones, Head of Recreation and Public Affairs for Forestry England, said: ‘Forestry England welcomes the introduction of the New Forest National Park Authority’s new charter for professional dog walkers. As a key partner, we are keen to find effective ways to engage with dog walkers. It’s essential that all dogs are exercised responsibly in the New Forest. We look forward to the roll out of this new charter and hope that all local dog walking businesses sign up to the best practice standards it sets out, taking vital steps to protect nature and being considerate to other Forest users.’
To see the full charter and to sign up, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/pdwc. A vinyl sticker is available for businesses to display on their vehicles to demonstrate and promote their good practice.