let your dog approach other visitors without their permission hang dog-mess bags in trees – carry them to the nearest bin leave your dog locked in the car on a warm day let your dog swim in lakes and ponds unless permission has been granted to go can prove complicated for dog owners and as ever it is best to check ahead and read the small print. At Mottisfont in Hampshire, for example, the NT website seems to trumpet its dog-friendliness. But closer inspection reveals that dogs are not allowed into the celebrated rose garden, which is the main reason to visit in the first place.
According to Steve Jenkinson, access adviser at The Kennel Club, the “least restrictive” approach is best. While he accepts that gardens have a right to set their own rules, “we want people to respond in a fair way, rather than just ban dogs. We would like [custodians] to ask the question, ‘How can we accommodate responsible dog owners?’ In the end it comes down to how much the property values its visitors who do own dogs. After all, restrictions on dogs are restrictions on people.”
This sentiment is certainly familiar to those of us who holiday with family (including dog) anywhere in Britain: any historic garden that does not welcome dogs can simply be crossed off the list of potential outings. The alternative is to leave the dog locked in the car in the car park – which I cannot countenance – and on a hot day could prove fatal.
Ultimately, it seems that any decision about dogs has more to do with the attitudes of those in charge of the garden than it does with justifiable concerns about the behaviour of dogs and their owners.
Jenkinson points to a formal agreement recently ratified between The Kennel Club and the Crown Estate (which runs the Valley Gardens at Windsor). It’s a lengthy and detailed document – a kind of Geneva Convention for dogs in gardens – but is ultimately extremely dog-friendly. As Jenkinson opines, “If it’s good enough for the Queen…”