Hannah Cole for Whistlefish
Good dog walks may be local or somewhere you visit. How to find good dog walks can be tricky, if you are new to an area, or live in an urban area. If you are new to an area, always do a ‘test walk’ (on your own or with dogs on leads) to ensure it’s safe for your pooch. What may be good for someone else may not be for you (some dogs chase cats, others don’t care). Different dogs, different escape routes! Obviously don’t walk dogs off-leash near cliffs, and only a test walk can sometimes see hidden risks, which may not be in dog-walking guidebooks. Also see how to become a volunteer dog walker.
Dog Walks App from Countryside Books includes over 400 of the best dog walks in England, with route maps on your mobile handpicked and tested on dogs. There are easy and short walks, or longer ones for young fit dogs, with detailed route info, time to the nearest refreshments and where to park. Try for fee, then unlock the full version for £5.99. Not yet on Android. Other good sites to visit are:
- Walkiees has 1000 reader-submitted walks
- Two Dogs and an Awning has 700 walks
- Countryside Dog Walks & Countryside Books publish nice books
- Driving with Dogs (walks near motorway exits)
Tips for Safe Dog Walks
- Walk dogs in mild temperatures to avoid heatstroke (pavements too hot for your hand are too hot for paws). Wash paws after walks to remove river bacteria or rock salt.
- Check parks and beaches are dog-friendly (no bans or sinking mud) before travel (also check tide times). Don’t let dogs play with seaweed (can expand in the stomach, as it dries).
- Let dogs forage off-lead (vets are not fans of constantly throwing balls as they can cause joint issues – if you use one, choose a brand name the right size for a dog’s mouth). Don’t throw sticks (these can cause mouth injuries if they land wrong). Also train in pet first aid.
- Pick up poop to avoid infecting other dogs, wildlife or children. Keep hands-free with a Dicky Bag (empty when you find a bin).
- Wear hi-glo items to be seen, and don’t listen to iPods while walking dogs. Tell people where you are going, and carry a phone/alarm.
- Positive dog training teaches dogs to recall. Learn how to prevent dog bites and attacks (and know what to do if this happens).
- After walks, brush fur to check for embedded grass seeds or foxtails (look at ears, nose, eyes, underbelly, between toe pads, under collar, private parts, and inside mouth/around lips). Call vet, if concerned.
- It doesn’t happen so often in England. But avoid walking (especially small) dogs near hovering birds of prey.
Wisdom on Dog Walking
- How to Walk a Dog is by Mike, who has been walking his rescue dog in New Zealand’s dog parks for 10 years, and become part of a remarkable community.
- Walking Wisdom is the story of a man whose family dogs taught him about curiosity, wisdom and passion. He wanted to pass this wisdom on to his own child, just like his father did to him. The difference is that this book is by Gotham Chopra, son of Deepak Chopra.
- Walking with Peety is the story of Eric O’Grey, who was overweight, depressed and sick with diabetes. After a lifetime of failed diets, his doctor prescribed adopting a shelter dog. So in came Peety, who was overweight, middle-aged and like Eric, had seen better days. So the two adopted each other. And over a year of walks, play and good food, both lost their excess weight, and Eric reversed his diabetes and married his high-school sweetheart.
Where to Find Good Dog Walkers
If you are in a situation where you need to employ someone, then do your homework first. Dog walking is now big business, so be sure to choose companies that are reputable. If you are older or have illness, see where to find volunteer dog walkers. Good questions to ask dog walking companies include:
- Can you give references?
- Do you have insurance?
- Do you have first aid training?
- Where do you take dogs?
- How many dogs do you walk at one time?
- Is your vehicle air-conditioned?
- What are your emergency plans?
- Do you clean and dry dogs after work?
- What is your cancellation policy?
Some companies offer short walks and ‘pee breaks and cuddles’ walks for older pets who just want a a quick potter, and a bit of fuss. Other companies offer more extensive services like house-sitting and pet taxi services. Although sites that list independent dog walkers like Tailster and Pawshake offer safety checks and take references, do your own checks too.
If using a house sitter like Barking Mad (people live in your house to look after pets and water plants, if you are away), do your own checks again. Many plants are toxic to pets (including houseplants and herbs), so learn about ones to avoid to make homes pet-friendly.
If you use services like Borrow My Doggy (people who would like dogs but don’t have space or time, pay a membership fee to walk dogs of those who need them), read important safety info. A great idea for those on a budget, but could be abused by dog thieves or illegal puppy mills. Always ask for multiple references (and follow them up), and ensure you have full contact details.