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.
Read this book to keep your dog safe. It covers safe/unsafe plants, toxic foods, collar safety and things to avoid during training & play (rawhide chews, pig’s ears, socks are all choking hazards, as are balls the wrong size and antlers, which can break teeth).
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
- Positive dog training keeps dogs safe If you see a dog fight, use the ‘wheelbarrow method’ to each grab back legs of each dog to wheel away from each other in a circle, then separate to calm.
- Check tide times (and beach bans) to avoid wasted journeys. Avoid tidal causeways or sinking mud (Weston-super-Mare, Morecambe, Holy Island). If used, ensure dog lifejackets are fitted correctly and comfortable.
- Throwing sticks can cause mouth injuries. Ensure dogs are quality brands, the right size for a dog’s mouth.
- In warm weather, walk early morning or evenings. If pavement is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for paws. Some companies offer evaporation jackets that keep dogs cool (some dogs find them uncomfortable).
- Wash paws after walks, to remove rock salt (can cause burns indoors at higher temperatures).
- Wear glo-jackets/armbands for you and dogs in poor light or visibility. Avoid iPods (to hear traffic), tell people where you are going, carry a phone and personal alarm.
- Pick up poop. Some councils keep bags on rolls, a good idea if you forget. Dog poop can harm other dogs, wildlife, livestock and children. Dicky Bag (Cornwall) is an award-winning mobile bag that’s lightweight, airtight, washable and leakproof, to use until you find a bin, if you’re somewhere remote.
- If a dog is heading to you, crouch diagonally to let it come to you. If a dog goes for you, put something solid between you (don’t stare, scream or yell). Slowly walk backwards or sideways.
- Avoid walking (esp. small) dogs near hovering birds of prey.
Follow the Countryside Code
- Keep dogs on leads or in sight, at all times.
- Trained dogs come back on recall.
- Check notices, for banned areas.
- Most ‘open access’ land require dogs on short leads between 1 March and 31 July, to protect ground nesting birds (all-year near farm animals).
- Check beach bans before you travel.
- Keep dogs on short leads, near horses.
- Dogs near cattle could be trampled (even without calves). Farmers are allowed to legally shoot dogs that worry livestock. If cattle chase dogs, Blue Cross say dogs are usually safer let off the lead, as they can (usually) run faster. You’ll have to make that call.
- The Ramblers Association has info on safe dog walking near livestock. Close gates behind you and find alternative paths, if cows are nearby.
Want to Be a Dog Walker?
This is a good job if you like dogs and walking, and are of a calm disposition. Train in pet first aid. Get a Dog Walker Certificate and take Canine First Aid and Dog Law courses. Visit Association for Pet Sitters & Dog Walkers and Dog Walkers Association for more info. If considering a dog-walking career, read the following books:
It’s good to know the 10 hazards to avoid near dogs:
- Over-the-counter medications
- Human food
- Human prescriptions
- Household toxics (paint etc)
- Veterinary products
- Rodenticide exposure
- Garden products
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.