Setting up a dog exercise field? Here’s what you need to know

Jul 18, 2023

Anyone who spends even a short time in the British countryside can’t fail to have noticed the rise in the number of dog exercise fields.  

These are one of the fastest growing forms of farm diversification and it is easy to see why. They can utilise small pockets of marginal land, they take very little investment to establish, they are very low maintenance, and they introduce a new revenue stream for farmers which can add up to a significant income over time.  

So, what factors do farmers need to consider when setting up a dog exercise area? In this article, we take a look.  

Planning requirements  

Because creating a dog exercise field involves a change of use of the land away from agriculture, you will need planning permission.  

However, the good news is that because there is no physical, permanent development on the land, planning authorities tend to look favourably upon such applications.  

Couple this with the fact that converting the field back to agricultural use is very easy, so achieving planning consent, unless there is a specific set of circumstances that could prevent it, should just be a rubber stamping exercise.  

Where to place a dog exercise field 

Generally, dog exercise fields work best on marginal land with the least agricultural value. However, there are a few other factors to consider when deciding on the location for such a diversification project. These include:  

  • Public access 

Whereas low value, marginal land is preferred for such a project, such a field might not be close to a public highway. And as dog exercise areas can be very popular, you don’t want to have to direct members of the public through your stack yard.  

So, the site must be easy to find, easy to access, and have room for parking in all weathers. Details of the location and access considerations will need to form part of your planning application.  

  • Dog Management Plan 

When it comes to dogs, as with any other animal, expect things to occasionally go wrong. So, your planning application will need to include a detailed health and safety plan, as well as a dog waste management plan, as a minimum. Your planning authority will be able to advise on other factors you will need to include to achieve planning consent.  

  • Secure fencing 

Nobody knows better than farmers the havoc loose running, untrained dogs can wreak. So, good fencing is an absolute must, especially if there is livestock in the area. The fence must be high enough so even the biggest dogs can’t jump it, and with no gaps so the smallest dogs can’t get through it.  

  • Security 

One of the benefits of dog exercise fields is they can be operated unmanned, leaving you to get on with the day-to-day running of the farm. However, this does mean there is a requirement for onsite security. CCTV is a useful addition, and coded padlocks that prevent anyone using the field who hasn’t booked and paid are also a great idea.  

  • Booking arrangement 

Other details that will need to be included in your planning application are the number of dogs you will be able to have on site at any one time, and your opening hours, so these will need to be considered before you progressing any application.  

  • Public Liability Insurance  

Although not part of the planning application, Public Liability Insurance is essential to operating the facility. For a pet business, which a dog exercise field is classed as, the good news is it is relatively inexpensive. Cover of up to £2m pounds can usually be obtained for around £150 annually.  

Marketing your dog exercise field  

Of course, once the site is established, you will need to market it. In areas close to urban settlements, this might be as simple as erecting a sign at the field, advertising it for use. These facilities are becoming very popular, so this might be enough to generate word of mouth awareness of the field and entice customers.  

However, online marketing such as social media channels – Facebook and Instagram are particularly effective – offer inexpensive ways of promoting your field. An advantage of these channels is that they have facilities to take bookings, as well.  

Creating a website might seems extravagant for such a diversification project, but some farmers have done this. Often, these are established sites that offer more than just an exercise area, such as picnic areas for people to eat while their dogs play, or even dog grooming services. So, a website might be something you want to consider further down the line. But if you plan on growing your exercise field into a larger concern, it could definitely be worth considering.  

Tax implications  

Once your field is set up and making money, of course you will have to consider the tax implications of the venture.  

Ian Parker, tax expert and director of Whitley Stimpson, recommends that a dog exercise field should be set up as a separate entity to the farm as this avoids having to charge VAT, meaning fees can be kept competitive.  

Ian said:

“The best arrangement is for the dog exercise field to be rented from the main farm for a nominal fee. This way, it can be kept separate from the farming operation.” 

He added that although the change of use could have implications for IHT, these could easily be reversed by putting the land back into agricultural use when required.  

For more information about starting and operating a dog exercise field, contact Ian Parker on (01295) 270200 or email 

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