Ttwice a week, in rural Cambridgeshire, Rebecca Lee rents private land for her dog, Moscow, to run for an hour. “Moscow is the toughest dog in the world,” she said. “If you have a dog like him that’s responsive – he barks and pounces on stuff, mainly because he’s actually quite scared – then every walk can be traumatic.”
On the other hand, when she rents the land, she can relax, knowing that they won’t meet any of Moscow‘s “triggers”. These include other dogs, bikes, cars and children.
Lee is just one of thousands of dog owners across the country who regularly rent private land to exercise their pets.
The website dogwalkingfields.com estimates that approximately 2,270 acres – the equivalent of 1,700 football fields – are used for this purpose through the 756 fields in its directory, with more added each week.
“During the pandemic, closed fields became a haven for people who wanted to exercise their dogs away from other, socially distant people,” said Katherine Shields Smith, co-founder of Dog Walking Fields. “The open spaces were crowded, especially with travel restrictions in place. As the restrictions lifted a bit, the fields became safe havens for meeting friends and family and safe exercising. “
Fields typically cost around £ 10 an hour and are usually surrounded by secure fencing. They are used by owners whose dogs are anxious, injured, disabled, reactive, small, elderly, in season or in training. “The owners of these dogs all appreciate a safe place to relax without being approached by other perhaps well-meaning but exuberant dogs,” said Shields Smith.
In a public place, unsolicited and often unwelcome approaches can cause distress in some owners and dogs, leading to conflict – but there is a lack of awareness about this and other aspects of “etiquette. to walk the dogs, “she said:” There are a lot of dogs who are friendly but whose owners have no control over them.
This problem worsened during the pandemic, with many more inexperienced owners. Parks and open spaces became crowded with “pandemic puppies” – many were born during the lockdown, when puppy training classes were closed and most dog owners were social distancing. Many of these dogs are now poorly socialized adolescents with behavioral issues: Over the past six months, animal charities have seen a substantial increase in ‘pet regrets’, with the RSPCA reporting that abandonments have increased. increased by 20% in 2021 compared to the previous year. The figures.
Ben Webster, a farmer from Coton, near Cambridge, spent £ 15,000 to turn one of his fields into a safe dog field last year. He rented it out for sheep grazing for £ 300 a year. Now during the peak of summer he can earn up to £ 400 a week.
“You get quite a mix of people. In addition to owners of dogs who are a little nervous or not very well trained, you benefit from dog training courses. And you have people in the summer who just want to come over and have a glass of wine in the field and let their dogs run around while they sit with friends on the bench and chat for an hour knowing their dogs will be on. security. “
The land has a tunnel dogs can walk through, tires they can jump on, and a water tap. “In the summer some people brought wading pools for their dogs and we had dog parties,” said Webster.
Moscow was born during the first lockdown and was taken to a rescue center by its former owners when they stopped working from home. “He didn’t have a leash or collar on him until he was six months old,” said Lee, an author. “I don’t think he’s ever been walked on the sidewalk. And I think that led to a lot of his problems.
Lee enlisted the help of a canine behaviorist and began using secure dog grounds near her home. This gave him a large, safe space for Moscow. “We are making a lot of progress. He can now take group walks with a dog walker and is great with other dogs he knows.