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Dog walker on a forest trail.

Dogs for life: a people issue

Probably more than any other issue in the natural environment, the UK’s 6 million dogs can provoke passionate feelings and intense debate by all those touched by their presence.

A cartoon of a dog on a leadA lack of understanding or sensitivity by even a small number of dog owners can seem like a big issue at a local level; in wider society this has traditionally led to negative and restrictive management interventions.

Despite this, dogs remain an enduring part of our society due to the many tangible ways they enhance people’s everyday lives, often at a very deep emotional level.

This fact explains the passions aroused about dogs, and in turn provides the key to much more effective and balanced management approaches. In short, dogs are - in reality - a people management issue.

Dogs contribute towards a healthier, more inclusive society by:

  • Encouraging more active lifestyles and reducing stress through taking regular walks, even on the dullest of days.
  • Making people feel more confident and less conspicuous when out for a walk.
  • Acting as an icebreaker for contact with others.
  • Helping children develop better social skills.
  • Preventing loneliness and isolation for older people.
  • Reducing their owners’ blood pressure and doctors visits.
  • Giving independence to over 5,000 people with disabilities such as mobility and visual impairments, deafness and epilepsy.

Dog facts

  • Around 15 million people are involved in the care and exercise of the nation’s 6 million dogs.
  • Between 30% and 60% of visitors to Forestry Commission sites have dogs with them.
  • From sales of their food alone, dogs are worth around £1 billion to the UK economy.
  • There are over 170 breeds of dog, the top five being: Labrador, Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd (Alsatian) and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
  • Over 2 million dogs can be uniquely identified by a microchip at the base of their neck, or from a tattoo in their right ear.
  • There are over 1,000 Kennel Club Good Citizen training clubs across the UK, helping over 80,000 owners to have happy, healthy and sociable pets.
  • The largest breeds of dog live to about 10 years old; the smallest dogs can live to up 20 years - the record is 29 years!
  • Hidden and potentially fatal dangers for dogs include: car antifreeze, chocolate, slug pellets, firelighters, sweetcorn cobs, blue/green algae, raisins and grapes.