Information issued by DEFRA 2008
Owning and caring for a dog is great fun and very rewarding, but it is also a big responsibility and a long-term caring and financial commitment. You control your dog’s lifestyle; it is your responsibility to make sure that its needs are met, whatever the circumstances. The law requires that you must take reasonable steps to ensure that it:
Has a suitable environment to live in;
Has a healthy diet;
Is able to behave normally;
Has appropriate company;
Is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
These are explained in more detail in sections
1-5 of this Code. For further advice, speak to your vet or a pet
care specialist. Other sources of information are listed in Annex 2.
Every animal is different and as you get to know your dog, you will recognise familiar characteristics. It is important that you are able to notice any changes in behaviour, as these might indicate that your dog is distressed, ill, or is not having its needs met in some other way.
This Code of Practice is issued under section 14 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the "Act").
This Code applies in England only and has been issued by the Secretary of State.
The purpose of this Code of Practice is to provide advice on how to meet the needs of your dog to the extent required by good practice under section 9 of the Act.
Serious failure to meet such needs could also constitute an offence of unreasonable suffering under section 4 of the Act. It covers all dogs for which a person is responsible.
This Code of Practice is split into two parts. Part 1 is a summary of the detail contained in the main Code of Practice.
It is your responsibility to read the complete Code of Practice to fully understand your dog’s welfare needs and what the law requires you to do.
Make sure your dog has a suitable place to live
You should provide your dog with a comfortable, dry, draught-free resting area to which it has constant access and where it will feel safe.
If you keep your dog outside ensure that it is also kept within a secure space to prevent it from escaping or roaming and to stop other animals getting in, unwelcome visitors or even theft. If your dog is kept outside you must still ensure all of its needs are met, including security, adequate comfort, shelter from adverse weather conditions, companionship and interaction and protection from injury.
Ensure your dog is kept away from potentially harmful substances
Make sure your dog is transported safely
Dogs should not be left unattended in a vehicle. In warm weather, this can be life threatening
Make sure your dog has a balanced diet that meets its
Your dog must have access to fresh clean water at all times
Your dog must be fed at least once a day, but
generally, it is advised to feed your dog twice a day.
Leave your dog in peace while it is eating
Your dog must have access to fresh water at all times.
Your dog should not be too fat or too thin. Ideally you should just be able to feel its ribs and clearly see its waist when viewed from above. Obesity is a serious welfare concern in dogs as it increases the risk of developing certain health conditions later in life.
Some dogs have different dietary needs. Your vet is the best person to advise you about the care of your dog in these circumstances
Its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour
Your dog should be able to behave normally
It takes time and effort to train your dog properly. Reward good behaviour with something that your dog finds enjoyable and make sure that you respond immediately
It is very important that your dog receives a suitable amount of exercise. If you are in doubt about what exercise your dog needs, seek professional advice
Watch your dog closely for signs of stress or changes in behaviour
Toilet training is an essential part of early learning. You should provide your dog with regular access to an appropriate place where it can go to the toilet.
Make sure your dog’s social needs are met
Dogs are a social species and need the company of
people, dogs, or other animals
You should be aware of how your dog responds to other animals and keep it under suitable control if it does not mix well with them
Your dog should have plenty of things to stimulate it mentally which can be provided by contact with humans or another dog and by providing safe and suitable toys to play with.
Socialisation with people, dogs and other animals is an essential part of early learning. The important period of learning is from approximately 3 weeks to 8 weeks of age, but can continue for considerably longer
You must arrange for your dog to be cared for if you
are away from home
Dogs should not be routinely left on their own for prolonged periods as they are likely to become stressed and bored, leading to barking or destructive behaviour
Large numbers of animals need a great deal of care and you should not keep a large number of dogs if you cannot meet their welfare needs
You must ensure your dog is in good health
You should regularly examine your dog for signs of injury and illness. You must ensure your dog is treated promptly by a vet if it is injured or ill. Your dog’s vet will also be able to advise you about routine health care, such as neutering, vaccination, and parasite control (e.g. fleas and worms), as well as any health problems it may have
You should ensure that your dog’s coat is properly
A pet care specialist may be able to advise you about coat care.
You must not allow your dog to stray; it must wear a correctly fitted collar and identity tag when in a public place and should also be permanently identified with a microchip. Microchipping your dog is now a legal requirement
Its need for a suitable environment (Section 9(a) of the Act)
1.1 This section offers guidance on providing your dog with a suitable place to live.
1.2 Dogs need:
their own bed, with comfortable bedding, to which they can retire and which should be sited in a quiet place;
their bed to be placed in a dry, draught-free area;
their bedding to be regularly cleaned, washed or removed and replaced; and
a bed with no sharp corners or splinters as these may cause injury.
1.3 If your dog is to be kept outside the home there are a number of additional considerations that should be taken into account. These include:
adequate comfort and shelter;
companionship and interaction;
nuisance to neighbours.
1.4 The environment that your dog is kept in should be
absolutely secure with good quality fencing to prevent it from escaping or
roaming and to prevent the intrusion of other animals, unwelcome visitors,
or even theft.
1.5 When considering the type of fencing, consideration should be given to the size and weight of your dog and its ability to escape by jumping, climbing or digging. Gates should be secured with good quality fixings to ensure that they cannot be accidentally unfastened. Further, there should be no sharp edges or corners on any surface that could cause your dog injury.
1.6 Outside housing should consist of a kennel and run and there should be protection from adverse weather conditions including heat, cold and damp. The kennel should be large enough for your dog to lie comfortably both in and beside its bed and it should be provided with clean comfortable bedding.
1.7 Any area that you provide for your dog should be large enough for it to stretch, walk and turn around in and the run should be large enough for it to be able to relieve itself without needing to walk through the soiled area to return to its kennel. All faeces and urine should be removed at least daily and the run should be regularly cleaned.
1.8 Dogs that are kept outside and away from people or other animals, and denied mental stimulation, can suffer appreciable emotional problems such as excessive chewing, or a range of other unusual behaviours. Therefore care should be taken to ensure that your dog is provided with enough company, exercise or other stimulation to ensure that it remains well balanced and free from stress. You should also regularly visit your dog to ensure that it receives social interaction whilst also providing the opportunity to check on its welfare. Where dogs are kept together, they must be compatible. You should ensure that there is sufficient room for all dogs to be alone when necessary.
1.9 You should also remember that dogs kept outside may react to sights and sounds that they may not normally see or hear inside the home. Your dog may bark, howl or cry for extended periods if it is bored or stressed and this can cause a nuisance to your neighbours.
1.10 Part of providing a suitable environment is making
sure that it is safe, clean and hygienic.
It is good hygiene practice to clean up after your dog at home using a plastic bag or ‘pooper scooper’ and to dispose of any faeces in the waste bin, particularly where there are children around.
This not only makes the environment cleaner, but also helps to prevent the potential spread of disease.
1.11 Dogs, and especially inquisitive puppies, may eat things that are poisonous to them. Some examples are:
poisonous foods such as raisins, grapes and chocolate. It is important to keep these foodstuffs out of the reach of dogs at all times.
poisonous plants. Such plants should be avoided or placed where your dog cannot reach them. Make sure that any large plants are in a stable container that cannot be knocked over;
poisonous chemicals. A dog may drink or eat poisonous substances either by accident or because they find them palatable.
Such chemicals should be kept out of reach and any spillages cleaned up immediately. Examples of poisonous substance that are commonly used and may be attractive to dogs are slug pellets, rat poison and anti-freeze; and
• medicines intended for people or other animals. It is important that your dog is only given medicines that have been specifically prescribed or advised by your vet.
You should always consult your vet if you are concerned that your dog has come into contact with anything that could be harmful.
1.12 Dogs are regularly transported by car or other vehicles. During transportation:
you should make sure that your dog is not able to move freely. In
the event of an accident or sudden and unexpected manoeuvres, an
unrestrained dog can be seriously injured or cause injury to other
A safety harness, specifically for use in a car, or a secured, purpose built cage of adequate size and with good ventilation, will keep your dog in one place. You should ensure, however, that when securing your dog in a restricted area, it is not constantly subjected to direct sunlight; and
long journeys must be planned so they have as minimal an impact on a dog’s feeding regime as possible.
1.13 Dogs should not be left unattended in a car or
other vehicle in warm weather.
This can be life threatening and you could be prosecuted for causing unnecessary suffering.
The temperature in the vehicle can become very high extremely quickly and cause heat stroke or death.
Its need for a suitable diet (Section 9(b) of the Act)
2.1 This section offers guidance on providing your dog with a suitable diet.
2.2 Your dog must always have access to fresh clean water from a clean bowl. This is essential for all dogs unless your vet tells you differently. Many dogs may not drink large amounts but their thirst may increase in hot weather or if you feed dried food. Changes in the amount of water your dog drinks may also indicate illness.
2.3 It is essential to provide a nutritionally balanced
diet from early in a dog’s life to ensure it receives essential nutrients
in the correct quantities for good health. A good diet can help prevent
the effects of many diseases.
2.4 Dogs need a diet containing high quality protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals which can either be given in the form of prepared foods or home-made meals. When feeding prepared foods, you should follow the food manufacturer’s instructions closely and avoid feeding your dog between meals.
2.5 An alternative to a prepared dog food is a home-made diet. Unlike cats, dogs are not totally carnivorous and will, therefore, enjoy some green vegetables added to their food. Providing a homemade diet requires a good understanding of your dog’s nutritional needs and if you choose to feed it this way you should obtain advice from your vet or pet care specialist.
2.6 It is important that your dog has the correct diet in appropriate portions and, if you have more than one dog, that each is fed according to its needs. You should also clear away any uneaten food after each mealtime.
2.7 Leave your dog in peace while it is eating as disturbing it or repeatedly taking its food bowl away can cause anxiety and may lead to food related aggression.
2.8 Dogs should not be given more food than they need
as overeating leads to obesity. An obese dog is
an unhealthy dog
obesity is the most frequent nutritional problem seen by vets. If a dog
eats too much and exercises too little, it will put on weight leading to a
reduced quality of life.
It may also lead to health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Remember that if you are using food rewards for training purposes you may unwittingly overfeed your pet. You will need to adjust the amount of food your dog has at meal times to take this into account.
2.9 An underweight dog may also be ill so you should know the best weight for your pet and try to make sure that this stays approximately the same throughout its adult life.
Ribs and other bony areas can be seen from a distance – less obvious
in longhaired breeds;
Skinny looking and tummy looks empty - be aware of what is normal for the breed;
Loss of muscle mass - small amount of muscle over the back and hips, upper legs muscles feel "stringy", skull bone very obvious when stroking the head. feels "bony" when stroked; and
Waist narrow and small but be aware of what is normal for the breed.
Learn what is normal for the breed;
Ribs can be easily felt without feeling like you are pressing directly on the ribs; and
Waist can be seen from behind the ribs - narrower than the chest when looking from above and from the side.
Ribs not easily felt as covered with a lot of fat.
Lots of fat on the loin area and base of tail.
Waist can barely be seen; and
Belly may be sagging.
2.10 The number of meals per day will depend upon the age of your dog and how much work or exercise it takes. Generally, it is better to feed an adult dog twice a day rather than the traditional once.
2.11 If you do feed your pet twice a day, the food may be divided up into two equal portions, or a third and two-thirds division. Part of the diet may also be offered in dried food ‘puzzle feeders’ that release food gradually and so provide mental stimulation for dogs indoors.
2.12 If you have more than one dog it is important to give each animal the opportunity to eat in privacy
2.13 If your dog stops eating it may be a sign of illness. You should consult your vet if the problem persists or if there are other signs of disease.
2.14 Dogs that are pregnant, feeding their puppies,
ill, old or young may well have different dietary needs from the average
healthy adult dog. Specially formulated life-stage foods are available on
the market to address these varying nutritional needs. Your vet is the
best person to advise you about the care of your dog in these
2.15 Puppies require about two and half times as many calories per kilogram bodyweight as an adult dog while they are growing. Food for this age group should be higher in calories, protein and other necessary nutrients.
2.16 You should avoid feeding your dog from the table or your plate as this can encourage your dog to beg and bark, and do not feed your dog immediately before travelling, to avoid travel sickness. Dogs should not be fed within an hour before or after vigorous exercise as this can lead to bloating which can be painful and dangerous for the dogs health.
2.17 If you need to change your dog’s diet, do it gradually, over a week or so, unless your vet tells you otherwise.
Its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (Section 9(c) of the Act)
3.1 This section offers guidance on your dog’s behaviour. Although this section focuses on puppies, many of the principles equally apply to older dogs.
3.2 Socialisation with people, dogs and other animals
is an essential part of early learning. The important period of learning
is from approximately 3 weeks to 8 weeks of age, but can continue for
considerably longer. The first few weeks when your puppy is in your home
are also very important in terms of it learning how to react to other
dogs, people and the environment. It will also learn to interact and
understand how dogs communicate with each other by mixing with them, and
your vet will tell you when it is safe to allow this. Your dog should
continue to have a range of social and environmental stimuli throughout
3.3 Your puppy should be carefully introduced to as wide a range of noises, objects, other animals and people as possible. If puppies learn at an early age that these items are not a threat, then they will probably be happy in their presence for the rest of their lives. However, it is important not to overwhelm your puppy, and you should always allow it an escape route from things that it finds frightening and stressful. Forcing your puppy to interact may lead to behavioural problems so it is important to make situations as relaxed and positive as possible so that it wants to investigate and interact.
3.4 A puppy needs long periods of rest to develop a healthy body and temperament. A sleeping puppy should not be disturbed but allowed to awaken naturally.
3.5 Veterinary practices, pet shops and other pet care businesses may run ‘puppy parties’ for owners to seek advice about how to care for their new puppy.
3.6 Children, and adults who are not familiar with dogs, need to be aware that a dog should not be disturbed when resting, sleeping or eating, nor should it be forced to play or be carried around. Such interaction can encourage aggressive behaviour. There are various programmes available to teach children how to interact with dogs correctly.
3.7 Social training is important from an early age. It
is easier to change the behaviour of a puppy that nips than to deal with a
dog that bites. Training a dog should be based on positive reinforcement.
You should avoid punishment when training your dog as it teaches response
out of fear; this is bad for its welfare and can cause behavioural
problems later in its life. Good dog training classes can show you
positive training techniques that can prevent and correct different types
of unwanted behaviour. There are a number of suitable training schemes.
3.9 As puppies have very short attention spans, it is best to train them for short periods on a regular basis.
3.11 The amount of exercise your dog needs will vary
according to its age and breed. For example, as your dog gets older it may
prefer a more sedentary life, or your vet may recommend a restricted
exercise regime, where toys for mental stimulation perhaps replaces
3.12 If you over-exercise a growing puppy, you can damage its developing joints, but obviously puppies need sufficient exercise to provide outlets for their physical and mental energy. If you are in any doubt about what exercise your puppy needs, seek professional advice.
3.13 Your puppy is not fully protected from disease when it is first vaccinated. Always ask your vet when it will be fully protected, and do not exercise it outside your home until then.
3.14 It is advisable to keep your dog on a lead in a built-up area and when near livestock; not only are there dangers from the traffic, but also from other dogs. Let it off the lead only when you are sure that it is safe and legal to do so, and it is also important to train it when off the lead to return to you when called.
3.15 You should also avoid walking your dog during the hottest part of the day. Early morning or in the evening are the best times to walk your pet during periods of hot weather.
3.16 Dogs are social animals with active minds and so
they need mental stimulation to be happy. This can be provided by contact
with humans or another dog, by providing toys to play with or an environment where a lot is going on.
However, this should not be too overwhelming.
3.17 Interacting with your dog by playing games using appropriate toys will provide the best mental stimulation for it. It is not advisable, however, to leave it alone with flimsy toys, especially if it chews very vigorously, as if it swallows small parts of them it may develop serious intestinal problems. Toys should be checked regularly to ensure they are not dirty or damaged. Changing them often means that your dog will not become bored with an individual toy.
3.18 Dogs will generally convey contentment through
looking calm and relaxed; they will be happy to approach and interact with
people, dogs and other animals. It is important that you recognise any
changes in the behaviour of your dog as this may indicate stress, which
can vary from dog to dog. Signs of stress include:
• panting, salivation, licking of the lips;
• excessive activity, such as pacing around;
fouling or urinating indoors;
excessively seeking out contact, both with people and other pets;
hiding or cowering;
flattening the ears and lowering the tail; and
yawning, unless tired.
some of the above may also be signs of illness, however, and if you are concerned, you should contact your vet who will be able to advise you on the best course of action. This may include referring your animal to an animal behaviourist.
3.19 Toilet training is an essential part of early
learning. If your dog is introduced to a suitable outdoor location early
on, and is rewarded for using this as a toilet area, it will use it as a
matter of routine. Do not punish your dog when it makes a mistake as this
can make it fearful and lead to problems later on in its life.
Submissive urination, which can be caused by a number of emotions including excitement or intimidation, should not be mistaken for normal urination. This is common in small puppies, especially bitches, There are many available sources of useful information about toilet training your puppy (see Annex 2 - Sources of Information).
3.20 A dog owner, or the person responsible for the dog, has a legal obligation to clean up after it (use either a ‘pooper scooper’ or a plastic bag) when in a public place under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environments Act 2005.
Any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (Section 9(d) of the Act)
4.1 This section offers guidance on providing your dog with suitable company.
4.2 Dogs learn ‘good manners’ by interacting with other
dogs. All dogs learn social skills from other dogs, which is why it is
important for your puppy or dog to socialise with good tempered adult
dogs, within a secure and safe environment.
4.3 You should also be aware of how your dog responds to unfamiliar dogs, cats and other animals and keep it under suitable control if it does not mix well with other pets.
4.4 Your dog should have plenty of things to stimulate
it mentally which can be provided by contact with humans or another dog
and by playing with safe and suitable toys.
4.5 Children and adults who are not familiar with dogs, need to know that a dog should not be disturbed when resting, sleeping or eating, nor should it be forced to play or be carried around.
4.6 You have a responsibility to make sure that your dog is cared for properly if you are unable to take it with you. This may be done by a dog sitter who lives in your home while you are away, somebody licensed to board dogs or by taking your dog to stay with a friend or relative who knows how to look after it. When someone else is looking after your dog they have a legal responsibility to protect its welfare and you should ensure that they understand its needs and any special requirements that it may have.
4.7 Dogs should not be routinely left on their own for more than a few hours during the day as they are likely to become bored, leading to barking or destructive behaviour. Many animal welfare organisations recommend a maximum of four hours. A possible solution if you are regularly away from home is to employ a responsible dog walker. Remember that it is an offence to allow your dog to roam.
4.8 Owners should think carefully about the size of their property and the financial and time implications of having more than one dog. It is also important to take into account your dog’s likely acceptance of other dogs within its home territory. Your vet or pet care specialist will be able to offer further advice on this. Keeping another dog is not an alternative to providing regular exercise outside the living area. All dogs should be exercised routinely.
Its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease(Section 9(e) of the Act)
5.1 This section offers guidance on the health and welfare of your dog.
5.2 Good health is an essential part of good dog
welfare. Your dog’s vet is the best person to advise you about routine
health care, such as neutering, vaccination and internal and external
parasite control, as well as any health problems your dog may have.
As the person responsible for your dog’s welfare you need to consider:
• prevention of disease. There are various vaccinations that are designed to protect your dog from certain diseases, some of which are life-threatening. Puppies are very susceptible to some of these diseases. You should discuss with your vet the best age at which to start vaccinations. ;
• prevention of parasite problems. All dogs (including puppies) need regular –treatment to prevent them developing a worm infestation. Many worming and flea preparations are available and your vet or pet care specialist will be able to advise you on which are most suitable for your dog, depending on its age and lifestyle. provision of a healthy, balanced diet (see section 2)
provision of the right environment that minimises the risk of injury and disease (see section 1);
prompt action if your dog becomes ill or begins to behave in an unusual way; and
good dental hygiene.
This list is not exhaustive and any change in your dog’s behaviour should alert you to the possibility that it may be ill. If you think that there is anything wrong with your dog, call your veterinary practice for advice.
5.4 The future health and welfare of your dog may be
affected by the circumstances under which it was bred. Not all dogs are
bred with appropriate care for their physical and behavioural well-being
and health. It is best to take advice from your vet or other relevant
organisations (see Annex 2) about where to obtain your dog. This will help
to ensure that it is fit, healthy and of good quality.
You should check as far as is possible with the breeder, pet shop, rescue centre or sanctuary:
• that the dog’s parents have been appropriately screened for inherited defects commonly found in the breed (for example hip scores for hip dysplasia or eye screening for inherited eye conditions); and
• the dog’s medical history and background where available
to ensure that you are able to meet its needs. Some rescue dogs, for example, require special care.
Where possible, you should ask to see the puppy with its mother, and see its father too. This gives a good guide to temperament and the size to which the dog may grow. You should be aware that this information is less likely to be available for dogs from sanctuaries and rescue shelters.
5.5 Take your new dog or puppy to a veterinary surgeon for general health care advice within a couple of days of welcoming it into your home. Follow your vet’s advice about continuing healthcare throughout its life.
5.6 A long-haired dog will need more coat attention
than a short-haired one and will need grooming daily to keep its coat free
from matts and tangles. However, all dogs need regular grooming and
occasional bathing to keep their skin and coats well maintained.
You will need a brush and comb suited to your dog’s type of coat.
A pet care specialist will be able to advise you about coat care.
5.7 One particularly important consideration is
preventing the birth of unwanted puppies. You should, therefore, consider
having your dog neutered. Your vet will be able to advise you about the
best age to have this done. There is evidence that neutering has some
positive health benefits in addition to preventing the birth of unwanted
• neutered bitches will not develop a life threatening womb infection called pyometra;
• neutered bitches are thought to be less prone to mammary tumours;
neutering male dogs prevents testicular cancer;
neutering male dogs reduces the incidence of problems with the prostate gland
neutering male dogs may help prevent some unwanted behaviours such as inappropriate mounting, aggression and straying; and
un-neutered animals which are prevented from breeding may suffer frustration leading to behavioural problems.
If you decide not to have your dog neutered and wish to breed from it, there are a number of considerations to be taken into account which include:
• finding suitable homes for the puppies; and
• health screening to ensure that the parents do not carry any inherited defects which may be passed on to their offspring. You should carefully consider whether your dog is a good candidate for breeding and you should discuss this with your veterinary surgeon.
You will also need to consider the potential problem of unplanned mating's.
Help is often available from various charities who offer neutering at a discounted rate for those on benefits or low incomes.
You should discuss with your veterinary surgeon the pros and cons of neutering your dog and the best timing of this procedure.
5.8 Care of your dog’s teeth should be part of its routine grooming schedule. Special canine toothpaste, dental chews and toys are available and can also help keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.
5.9 Your dog must wear a collar and identity tag when
in a public place and should also be permanently identified. There are
many different collars and leads available and it is important you
choose a collar that fits your pet correctly. By law (Control of Dogs
Order 1992) the collar must carry a tag with your name and address and, if
possible, a contact telephone number on it.
5.10 The law now requires you to have your dog microchipped by a suitably qualified person. The ‘chip’ provides unique indelible identification so that if your dog is lost or stolen, when it is found the ‘chip’ can be scanned by a vet, dog warden or rescue centre and this will assist in re-uniting you and your pet.
Your dog will still have to wear a collar and tag, however.
5.11 You should contact local authority dog wardens who are responsible for dealing with stray dogs, vets, local rescue centres as well as those in a wider area as dogs can travel for some distance if lost; you can also put up notices locally.
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