The clocks have changed, the days are getting longer and the daffodils are in bloom, Spring has well and truly sprung! What better time to grab your coat and boots (some paths are still a bit muddy), whistle for the dog and head outdoors to dust off the cobwebs and get some good old fashioned fresh air and exercise.
Dogs are family pets so dog walking should be a family activity. Dog walking is something that the whole family can enjoy together and better still, it doesn’t cost anything at all!
Every dog owner has a duty of care to make sure that their dog gets at least one walk every day. During the week most people don't have time to drive to a dog walking destination but that doesn't mean you can't have fun. Take a ball to a local park, race in a field or do your own 'nature trail' in the woods!
On weekends, when you have more time, rally the troops, pack a picnic and head out for a day of exploration. There is nothing children and dogs love more than being in the great outdoors.
Both your family and your dog will reap the reward of regular walking; although dog walking is not a high intensity work out it is great for cardiovascular development, strengthening of muscles and bones and lowering blood pressure.
- Walking (and running in circles in the case of most dogs) in hot weather is thirsty work so take some water for both yourselves and your dog (there are some great dog water bottles available in the market to save you having to carry a bowl)
- If you are going on a long or remote walk be prepared; take layers, waterproofs, a mobile phone, snacks and basic first aid kit
- If you are planning on making a day of it pack a picnic or check online for dog friendly pubs and cafes along your route for pitstops
- Take a pedometer with you to see how many steps you have taken - kids will love to set targets and keep a track of the total in a given period (a single walk, a month or throughout the school holidays)
- Make it a nature trail; take a book of birds or wild flowers and try and find and identify as many as possible (kids love collecting leaves and flowers for pressing or making pictures and paintings)
- Know your route or follow a set trail to avoid unknown dangers (roads, railways, rivers and steep drops)
- Beware of cyclists and horse riders; many trails (especially Woodland trails) are popular with cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers; to avoid collisions keep your dogs on a lead in heavy traffic areas
- Be fully aware of the Countryside Code and your responsibilities as a dog owner
- You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience
- Keep your dog on a lead and under close control on farmland, whenever you see farm animals or where notices tell you to (by law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals).
- Be a responsible dog owner; take poo bags, always pick up after your pooch and dispose of the poo bags correctly. This helps to ensure that dog bans aren’t imposed, spoiling the enjoyment of open places for other dog walkers (you can also face a fine)
- Ensure that your dog wears a collar and an identification tag stating your name and address (you are obliged by law to to this). It is also advisable to get your dog microchipped
- Dognapping of fashionable breeds for breeding is big business. Spaying your dog will minimise this risk
- During your walks, stay alert and always try to keep your dog within a safe distance
- If you become separated from your dog take immediate action (time is of the essence)
Happy dog walking!