Welcome to Paws for Thought, our new pledge for dog walkers in the dunes!
Dog walkers are a big and important part of the community which enjoys and cares for our sand dunes. As part of Dynamic Dunescapes, the new Paws for Thought campaign encourages you and your pooch pals to enjoy these landscapes while also helping us make these habitats a safer home for the wildlife that relies on it.
We are lucky in the UK to have a wealth of biodiversity which lives in sand dunes, but unfortunately as these dune habitats become overgrown or over-stabilised, many of these species are becoming rare.
On some occasions dogs and this wildlife come into accidental conflict - for example, migratory birds which are nesting in the dunes can be stressed by canine visitors during their breeding season, which means they're unable to raise chicks. Other creatures can also become seriously ill when they come into contact with any dog poo left in the dunes.
How does the pledge work?
We'd love you to help us take care of dune habitats, as well as enjoy their beauty as a dog walking spot, and have come up with several things you can do. To take the pledge, both you and your pup can sign (or paw-print!) the ‘Paws for Thought’ pledge, to show you’re a conscientious dog walker, and agree to help to make the dunes a better place for people and wildlife.
We ask you to pick up after your pooch, keep an eye out for any signs explaining where, when and why we need you to keep your dog under close control, and to stick to paths.
The Paws for Thought pledge
Always bag and bin my dog poo - any public bin will do
- Dog poo is harmful to dune habitats; it changes soil chemistry which is bad news for wildflowers. It can also contain diseases and parasites which may be fatal to creatures that live in the dunes, including the livestock that we use to mow the dune vegetation.
Help protect our special wildlife, by preventing my dog from chasing animals and keeping it away from pools
- Thousands of birds migrate here from as far away as the Arctic - and many of these species are endangered! If disturbed, they cannot build the fat reserves they need to return home safely. Many birds will also nest on the ground in grassy dune tussocks, and when stressed or if nests are disturbed, they may not breed successfully. Pools and ponds here are also important habitats for rare toads and newts, please try to keep your dogs out of these ponds to keep the toadlets and newtlets safe.
Use existing paths and follow guidance on signs
- Some areas of the dunes need more protection than others, and some species are more vulnerable and sensitive to disturbance at different times of year. Keep an eye out for signs which will let you know which areas are sensitive and at which times of year we need you to keep dogs on leads.
Help others enjoy the dunes, by keeping my dog under close control
- Not everyone enjoys dogs the same amount, so please be aware of other sand dune visitors, including horse riders, cyclists and reserve staff working on the dunes.
Take care around livestock to keep me and my dog safe
- Cows, sheep and horses are nature's lawnmowers! We use them on many of our sand dunes to keep vegetation growth low, which helps make sure our dune grassland is healthy. This means that in the spring, we'll have many more wildflowers and be able to support many insect species. If chased or scared by dogs, our grazing cows, sheep and ponies may become aggressive or stressed. Pregnant sheep can even abort their young if stressed by dogs.
How do I take the pledge?
You can download and print off our pledge certificate (below) to sign - there's even room for your dog's paw print too, or you can collect a pledge certificate from one of our Engagement Officers next time you see them at one of our sites in our Dune Dens.
Send us a photo of your signed pledge, or of you and your dog in the dunes for a chance to be featured on this page and on our social media!