It’s a sunny day and you’re heading into the hills with your doggy friend at your side. With a spring in your step and your dog proudly trotting beside you, all is well. Then ahead, a stile emerges from between the trees. It is too high for your dog to get over on its own, and your dog is too big to lift. What are going to do?
Situations like this are common when walking in unknown areas. In a way, not being sure what’s around the corner is all part of the fun of exploring the countryside with your dog. But if an obstacle ruins the whole walk, it’s no fun at all.
However, with some planning you can get around these sorts of issues. First, it is much easier to overcome obstacles like stiles if you just have one dog, rather than three. People often think of getting a second dog to accompany the first, but this makes walking them in more challenging areas quite a commitment. Then there is the size of the dog to consider. Lifting a terrier over a stile is easy. Equally, medium-sized dogs like spaniels can often be trained to climb up obstacles or be lifted over them with relative ease. But when it comes to larger breeds, you either need to train them to climb stiles or find a route that has no obstacles, as they are a real handful to lift.
Of course, this insight into choosing the right dog for hill walking in is all a bit late if you already have a dog. But if you are thinking of getting a dog, then planning ahead now may save you lots of difficulties and muscle strain in the future.
To make route selection easier, there are some good guidebooks for dog walks. For example check out countrysidedogwalks.co.uk or the Dog Walker’s Guide books at countrysidebooks.co.uk as well as Dog Friendly Lake District Walks at dogfriendlylakedistrictwalks.co.uk as these contain walks that either avoid stiles and obstacles, or at least tell you where they are on the walk.
With any walk it is also a good idea to plan escape routes so you have a means of retreat that does not simply retrace your steps. This not only accounts for obstacles like stiles, but also areas where there are lots of sheep, cows, horses or shooting that may make the walk more of a challenge to complete.
Mountain walks can be particularly committing, so escape routes are essential to consider. Even the smallest of rocky scrambles can be a challenge for some dogs. Are you prepared to walk all the way home without summiting? Probably not, so some walks may be best carried out without your dog unless you are sure you can get it over tough terrain safely.
Then there is the length of the walk. Just like people, dogs get tired and injury is something that can happen at any time. What about hydration? In summer, streams often dry up so you need to take plenty of extra water for your dog.
Finally of course, a good supply of poo bags is essential equipment. NEVER leave a poo bag behind a wall, on a fence post or in a tree. Be prepared to carry it to the nearest bin, which could be 10 miles away. Plan ahead - take a Dicky Bag (dickybag.com) with you.