Welfare of dogs: code of practice

Best practice guidance to help those responsible for dogs meet the duty of care under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006

Section 1: the need for suitable environment

1.1. This section offers guidance on providing your dog with a suitable place to live.

Sleeping and resting areas

Provide a resting area where your dog will feel secure and to which it has constant access

1.2. Dogs should have:

  • their own bed, with comfortable bedding, which should be placed in a quiet, dry, draught-free area
  • their bedding regularly cleaned and replaced when necessary
  • a bed with no sharp corners or splinters as these may cause injury

Keeping a dog outside

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:

  • security
  • adequate comfort and shelter
  • companionship and interaction
  • injury
  • nuisance to neighbours

1.4. The environment that your dog is kept in should be 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 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 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 emotional problems signified by excessive chewing or other abnormal behaviours. Therefore, care should be taken to ensure that your dog is provided with enough company, exercise and 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 and to check on its welfare. Company may be provided by keeping a second dog.

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. Such nuisance behaviour can result in legal action under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.


1.10. Part of providing a suitable environment is making sure that it is safe, clean and hygienic. It is good hygiene practice and a legal requirement to clean up after your dog using a plastic bag or 'pooper scooper' and to dispose of any faeces appropriately. This not only makes the environment cleaner, but also helps to prevent the potential spread of disease.

Household hazards

1.11. Dogs, and especially inquisitive puppies, may eat things that are poisonous to them. Some examples are:

  • 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 should be avoided or placed where your dog cannot reach them. Make sure that any large plants are in stable containers 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 substances that are commonly used and may be attractive to dogs are slug pellets, rat poison and anti-freeze
  • eating or applying medicines intended for people or other animals. It is important that your dog is only given medicine or veterinary treatment that has been specifically prescribed or advised by your vet or, in the case of non prescription medicines, by a pet care specialist

You should always consult your vet immediately if you are concerned that your dog has come into contact with anything that could be harmful.

When travelling

Make sure your dog is transported safely

1.12. Dogs are regularly transported by car or other vehicles.

During transportation:

  • when in a vehicle make sure dogs are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, dog cage of adequate size and good ventilation or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars. You should ensure, however, that when securing your dog in a restricted area, it is not being subjected to constant direct sunlight
  • on long journeys you should regularly offer your dog water and where necessary food. Remember to give your dog the opportunity to relieve itself

Your dog should never be left alone in a vehicle in warm weather

1.13. Dogs should never be left unattended in a car or other vehicle in warm weather. This can cause immense suffering and be life threatening. The temperature in the vehicle can become very high extremely quickly even when the car windows are left open and cause heat stroke or death. However, when using specifically designed boot gates the car boot can safely be left open allowing full air circulation.

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