Outdoor Adventures: Keeping Your Dog Safe and Happy on Hikes and Walks
There’s nothing quite like setting off in the great outdoors with your four-legged friend. We’re spoiled in the UK, with incredibly beautiful and diverse landscapes to enjoy. From rugged coastlines to rolling hills, there’s the perfect trail just waiting to be discovered.
In this blog post, we will discuss some things to keep in mind when planning your next outdoor adventure to ensure your dog is happy and healthy.
Assess Your Dog's Fitness Level
It's crucial to evaluate your dog's capacity and fitness level before venturing out on those challenging hiking trails. Like people, various dogs have varying levels of activity and skills. Age, weight, and overall health can all have an effect on how much they can do throughout the day while still having fun and avoiding discomfort or damage.
The Kennel Club claims that while some breeds, like Bulldogs or Pugs, may benefit from shorter, simpler walks. Others, like Border Collies or Labradors, are incredibly energetic and like spending hours on walks.
Speak to your vet before any new adventures if your dog has any health issues or is overweight. They can advise you on how to safely improve your dog's activity levels.
Plan the Perfect Route
Research and plan your route in advance to ensure it's dog-friendly and suitable for your dog's abilities. Look for trails or parks that allow dogs and have well-maintained paths. All Trails has a useful tool to use, where trails have been ranked with difficulty, duration and reviews. The Kennel Club advises checking local authority regulations and guidelines to ensure compliance and to protect wildlife habitats.
Pack the Essentials
Failing to plan is planning to fail! Being prepared ensures a more enjoyable outdoor adventure. Pack a backpack for your dog with essentials such as:
- Sufficient water and a collapsible bowl to keep them hydrated during the trip. The Dogs Trust recommends bringing enough water for the entire outing.
- Nutritious treats or snacks, to provide them with energy and rewards along the way.
- A lead and harness for better control and to ensure their safety. The Dogs Trust recommends using a lead no longer than two metres.
- Waste bags for responsible cleanup, keeping the environment clean and protecting public health.
- A doggy first aid kit that includes items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and any necessary medications. The PDSA provides a helpful list of items to include in a pet first aid kit.
Ensure your dog's safety by following these safety guidelines:
- Keep your dog leashed unless in designated off-leash areas, as recommended by the Dogs Trust.
- Use a sturdy harness to provide better control, especially on challenging terrains, according to the Kennel Club.
- Stay alert for potential dangers like wildlife, toxic plants, or busy roads. The Woodland Trust advises keeping your dog away from plants like giant hogweed or blue-green algae, as they can be harmful.
- Regularly check your dog's paws for cuts, thorns, or signs of discomfort, as suggested by the Dogs Trust.
- Be cautious of extreme weather conditions and adjust the activity level accordingly, following the Kennel Club's guidelines for hot weather safety and cold weather safety.
- The Control of Dogs Order, 1992, states your dog must be wearing an identification tag. This law also states that the owner’s name and address must be included. Whilst this is the legal minimum, we’d recommend including your contact number and any medical information your dog may be suffering from. This ensures that, should the worst happen and your dog goes missing, the correct care is given and a quick reunion occurs. Need a new tag? Get yours here.
Train for Success
Basic obedience training is essential for a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. Ensure your dog responds to commands such as "sit," "stay," and "come." The Kennel Club recommends positive reinforcement and consistency in training, and they offer resources and classes to help with training.
Respect Nature and Others
As responsible dog owners, it's important to respect the environment and other outdoor enthusiasts. Always clean up after your dog and dispose of waste properly, following the Dogs Trust's guidelines on responsible dog ownership. Be mindful of other walkers, cyclists, or wildlife you may encounter, keeping a safe distance and avoiding any disturbances.
It’s important to note that there may be some seasonal restrictions due to nesting birds etc. More guidance on walking your dogs on open access land can be found on Gov.uk.
Outdoor adventures with your dog can create lasting memories and strengthen your bond. By assessing your dog's fitness level, planning your route, packing the essentials, prioritising safety, training for success, and respecting nature and others, you can ensure that your dog stays safe, happy, and healthy during your hikes and walks. So grab your gear, put on your dog's lead, and embark on wonderful adventures together in the great outdoors!