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Dog Friendly? ... It’s Not That Simple

Walking with a dog is a true joy, a daily pleasure that I wouldn’t want to miss out on and, here at iFootpath, we want to help all dog owners to get more out of their dog walks. Why then, we are often asked, don’t we tag the relevant walks as ‘dog friendly’? Our answer is simple, dog friendly means different things to different people. Here we explore what makes a good dog walk and how you can find the right iFootpath walk for you and your canine pal…

Years of experience with our own dog, our closest friends and the wonderful iFootpath community has taught us that there’s no such thing as a ‘dog friendly’ walk. Ask different people and they will give you a different definition every time. According to the PFMA Pet Population Report 2016, more than 6 million UK households have a dog, and one of the joys of dogs is that they come in all shapes, sizes and characters.

bobbie claire walkingThrough emails and walk comments from the iFootpath community we know that dog owners look for wildly different things in their dog walks. Take stiles for a start. This all comes down to the size and age of your dog. Small, young dogs are usually able to squeeze under most fence surrounds and for those gaps that are just too small, it is no problem to lift a small dog over the fence. If you’re walking with an older Rottweiler it is a completely different story; you will probably need a stile-free walk as your dog won’t be agile enough to climb the stiles and is way too heavy to consider a lift over.

Another consideration is livestock. Some people are happy to keep pooch on the lead through field after field of sheep and cattle. Others are (understandably!) nervous of walking through cattle with a dog in case this brings out protective behaviour in the cattle, but are happy to encounter sheep. A third group of dog owners would only consider a walk to be ‘dog friendly’, if their dog can be off the lead for the vast majority of the time – so any livestock and roads are a no-no.

A further requirement for some, is a seasonal one. We have heard from some walkers that consider a walk to be ‘dog-friendly’, only if there is water (a river or stream) where their dog can get a drink and cool down in the hot summer months.

Then there is the character of the dog to consider. While some dogs are well-balanced and will happily handle most situations, some were not lucky enough to have a happy start in life, meaning they are more nervous. For these dogs, a busy town centre would not be an ideal walking environment. In contrast, for our sociable pooch, town centres are one of her favourite places where she gets plenty of attention and cuddles. Many places (like certain woodlands and racecourses) become popular dog walking spots with locals, which is great for balanced and sociable canines, but the worst nightmare for those dogs that suffer from social anxiety.

So, instead of marking walks as ‘dog friendly’, we include all the details about the accessibility within the walk introduction. Here you will find out about the number of stiles (and often a description of the type and adjacent gaps, to help judge suitability for your dog), livestock, sections of road walking and if the walk is known as a dog-walking spot. This should give you all the facts you need to judge if the walk meets your definition of ‘dog friendly’, keeping everyone happy.

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