Kirsty McGovern is a Pet Supplies Buyer at Millbry Hill, a retailer of pet equipment and accessories. Here, she shares her top tips to get the most out of country walks with your four-legged friend.
There’s nothing quite like a long walk in the great outdoors with your dog. Here in the UK, we’re lucky enough to have over 140,000 miles of public pathway to explore— and as our furry friends are welcome on almost all public paths and bridleways, there’s plenty of countryside for you to explore together.
Walking is a great bonding activity for you and your pooch, and a long stroll through new terrain will give your dog plenty of exciting new scents, sounds and sights to enjoy. While walking in the wilderness with your pooch should be fun for all, there are a few things to bear in mind to make sure that everyone stays safe and has a blast. Here, I’ve shared the four essential things you need to know before setting off an adventure with your furry friend.
Remember to watch wildlife with respect
Our dogs — much like us! — are naturally curious creatures, and it’s perfectly normal (and even healthy) for them to enjoy the scents and sounds of wildlife, like rabbits and birds. It’s therefore not uncommon for our canine companions to get a little overexcited and want to bound after smaller animals. If your furry friend’s instincts sometimes get the better of him, it’ll help to take a few steps to make sure everyone stays safe.
If your dog has a habit of trying to sniff out the local wildlife, you’ll need to be a little more careful about where you let him off the lead. This can be especially important during the nesting season for pheasants and waterfowl, as these birds tend to nest on the ground, which makes our dogs even more likely to attempt to make friends! You’ll need to take extra care between April and July, which is when many ground-dwelling fowls will nest. Always carry a short lead with you, and if you find your dog is more responsive when you carry pet treats, be sure to have some stashed in your pocket in case they try to make a break for it.
Take the right equipment and supplies
As with any excursion with your pet, a bit of preparation is often the key to a successful and enjoyable outing. So, when walking in the countryside, you’ll need to remember a few basics, including a waste bags, treats, and a short lead that’s strong enough to keep your dog close.
While you’re unlikely to have any problems while out and about, it’s always a good idea to prepare for any mishaps. A pocket first aid kit is a great investment, as you’ll be able to treat blisters, cuts, scratches, and stings so they don’t spoil your walk: you can even buy specialised pet-friendly kits for your dog, too. On longer walks, it’s also likely that both you and your dog will need to quench your thirst, especially during warmer weather, so take a large bottle of water for you and a collapsible water bowl for your pooch.
Keep to the path when exploring new ground
If you’re a keen walker, then chances are that you’ve crossed through land which is owned by a farmer or the military without even realising. These wide-open spaces can be great spots for a dog walk, with plenty of interesting new scents for your dog to investigate. It’s perfectly legal and safe to walk in these areas, and for the most part it’s just the same as a walk in the park, but there are still a few things you’ll need to bear in mind.
When enjoying a stroll through farmland or military land, you should stick to the path. This way, you can be sure you won’t get lost, and you won’t accidentally disturb the landowner as they go about their business. You can still let your dog off the lead if they like to explore, but you should only let them off where you’ll be able to see them. Also, keep your eyes out for red flags, or lights, which are used on military land to denote danger, and no public access is allowed at these times.
If you’re not fully confident in your dog’s recall skills just yet, then it’s probably best to keep them on a lead — after all, you don’t want them to bound off over a brow! An extendable lead is a handy tool to have when walking in an unfamiliar place, as it allows your pooch a bit more freedom to explore exciting new areas, without letting them wander out of sight. Plus, you’ll be able to convert it to a shorter lead should you need to keep your furry friend close to you.
Stay safe around livestock
Our dogs love to explore farmer’s fields: after all, they’re full of interesting animal smells and sounds. Larger livestock — like cattle and horses — are harmless most of the time, but they’re still powerful animals who can move very quickly when spooked and should be respected at all times. Although they tend to be peaceful animals, and they’re unlikely to try to harm you or your pooch, it’s still wise to know how to behave around them, so you can keep both you and your furry friend completely safe.
If you approach a field with livestock in it, you should stop and put your dog on their lead while you consider the best course of action. For instance, is there another route you could take to avoid the animals? Do the animals seem agitated or energetic? And can you see any bulls or mothers with calves or foals? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you will probably be better off finding an alternative route.
If you can’t avoid walking near livestock, then you should make sure your dog is kept on a short lead as you walk through the area where they are grazing. Try to keep your distance from the animals as much as possible and if you can walk around the herd, not through it. Walk quietly and calmly, as this will show that you aren’t a threat and remember to close all gates after you.
Walking in the country is great fun, and it’s a brilliant way to keep yourself and your dog happy, healthy and fit. So, whether it’s a ten-mile hike or a short stroll, bear this advice in mind and you’ll be sure to all have a ball. Now just to plan you’re next pet-friendly adventure!