Walking has physical and mental benefits for us and our dogs. It can also be a low-cost way to share quality time with your dog, as Julie Hill discovers.
Andrew White, who shared 10 of his favourite dog walks with us last issue, loves walking, especially with his dogs, and is enthusiastic about sharing the enjoyment with others. As well as being an ambassador for Get Outside, an initiative to inspire people to get the most out of being outdoors, Andrew hosts ‘Walks Around Britain’.
“My dad got me into walking,” he recalled. “He was always an outside sort of person, and he encouraged the outdoor bug in me. When I was at Wolverhampton University I did more walking — although admittedly it was mainly pub crawls! Then, when I met my wife-to-be, she had Border Collies, and they always want to walk.”
Andrew now shares his life with six Border Collies, and one of them, Mac, regularly accompanies him on longer walks. He has lots of advice to help you enjoy new walks with your dog, starting with how to discover walks in your locality.
Andrew with his walking buddy Mac.
“Ordnance Survey (OS) maps are the best way,” Andrew advised. “We’re all used to the paper maps, but they’ve got a great app now. It’s subscription based, and gives you the ability to have proper OS mapping throughout the country on your phone. You can download tiles of maps in advance, so running out of signal’s not going to be an issue. You can plot routes, and they act like a satnav while you’re walking, which
If you have trouble envisaging the landscape from looking at the map, don’t worry, as the app also has an aerial view layer to show you what the terrain actually looks like. One important aspect this view offers is the ability to see whether the area has livestock, although Andrew warned that this is just a snapshot of a specific moment in one day.
“It’s important to keep your dog on-lead until you know there’s no livestock around,” Andrew said. “More countryside livestock
is being killed, and in a new location, you just don’t know what’s around the corner — apart from livestock, it could be a road or a railway crossing. All of our dogs go on-lead until there’s a place where it’s absolutely safe to let them off.
“On the TV series, we never let them off-lead and we’ve had a lot of criticism from people who think it’s not a good dog walk if the dog can’t go off-lead. But in my view, that’s wrong; your dog should be able to enjoy being with you, and one of the most fundamental things you have to teach your dog is to walk nicely on-lead.”
On-lead walks can be enjoyable, shared experiences. “When our dogs’ leads go on, they go into sniff mode,” said Andrew. “If you let them take time, let them sniff at everything, they end up just as tired because they’ve used their brains. Running off a load of steam is good, but in
a situation where you can’t do that, letting them sniff plenty of things is calming.”
Once you’ve explored your local area, you’ll probably want to wander further afield. Andrew recommends honestly assessing your dog. “It’s about knowing your breed, because not all breeds want, or are designed for, long walks. It’s the same for humans — not all of us are going to be trudging up The Three Peaks, or doing all the Monros in Scotland in record time. Know what your individual dog is capable of, and increase the mileage gradually and regularly.”
As well as respecting livestock and wildlife, familiarise yourself with the countryside code. Be aware of what regulations are in place, for example on open access land, between March 1 and July 31, and at all times near livestock, your dog must be on a lead no longer than two metres.
If your dog is not as agile as Mac, it is possible to choose easier access walks.
Regulations vary from country to country. “Scotland has a ‘right to roam’, so you can pretty much walk anywhere with some exceptions,” said Andrew. “The downside of this for a novice is that it’s quite daunting to have this big choice, but there are core routes in Scotland that are good to walk.
“Even if you have an older, or less active dog, you can still enjoy a walk. It’s about accessibility. A lot of walks are now designed for people with limited mobility. If you’ve got a dog with mobility issues, you can be fairly certain there isn’t going to be anything that will restrict the dog’s ability to finish the walk, like a stile for example.”
Read the rest of the feature in the February 2022 issue. Buy the latest digital edition and read instantly on your computer, mobile or tablet device.
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