A guide to walking your dog in the Mountains
Taking your dog in the mountain can be one of the most rewarding experiences for both you and your four-legged companion. Wandering the hills with your dog will create a special bond and lots of happy memories.
Remember that when you’re enjoying the mountains, ridges and valleys with your best friend, you have total responsibility for your dog’s safety and wellbeing. Below is meant as a guide to help you enjoy the hills with your four legged friends.
Personal Mountain Skills
Have the skills for the walk you are going on. Footpaths are not signed in the mountains and going the wrong way is very easy. Being competent with a map and compass is a must, even on a clear day. Phone apps are great but are not a replacement for maps and the skills to use them as they can run out of battery or signal to load maps when you most need them!
Weather conditions can change fast and getting lost can be serious. If you’d like to take the stress out of your mountain walk or learn the skills needed to be confident to venture into the mountains alone - visit our Guided Walks page to book a private guide for the day!
Fitness for the hills
Just like their owners, dogs need to build up to a big day on the mountain. Building up the length of walks and gradients is really important. Their muscles and paws need time to adapt (and recover between walks), so progress gradually. A good massage really can help with their recovery and again strengthens the bond between dog and owner. It is not suitable to take puppies up mountains as they only require shorts walks - too much excercise can damage a puppies developing joints. The Kennel club recommends only walking 5 minutes x how many months old they are until they are fully grown! Play in the garden and at home is not included in this calculation.
The right equipment for the hills
Having the right equipment with you really helps make the day go smoothly. This includes sturdy footwear, waterproofs and a warm layer for the humans in the party. Water and food for the dogs. Don’t assume you can find water on the hills, especially in the summer months. On the high top and ridge lines there may not be any watercourses for a while. Keeping your pooch well hydrated is really important.
The use of a dog harness to attach a lead to is really useful in the mountains. There are often lots of livestock and nesting birds (April to June) on the fell. It is your responsibility not to allow your dog to worry these animals. Keep your dog under close control or on a short lead. You may encounter big drops, crags and long ridgelines when on the fell so potentially may need to keep your dog on a lead for a while, therefore using a well-fitting harness, is normally a lot more comfortable for your dog and tends to spread the weight from the pull of the lead.
Temperature and weather in the mountains
Unfortunately, we’ve seen many dogs that have not had access to water on the high fells or are out in hot conditions and as a result, suffering from heat stroke (with can be lethal). Take lots of water and a collapsible bowl! Be aware anything over 19 degrees can bring on heat stroke and if you cannot cool your dog down quickly, it can be fatal.
More info: PDSA - 'Heatstroke in Dogs'
In the winter months or on cold days, a dog coat maybe an idea, especially if your dog has a short coat. It can get very cold and exposed on the tops. An extra layer may really help them, especially if you dog has to stop for a while like over lunchtime. For every 100 metres that you ascend it will be 1 degree colder! Add to that the wind and it can get extremely cold.
Getting a good weather forecast is vital for making good decisions about what to take into the hills and when to go. The Met office forecast is great at sea level but for more information about what the weather is doing up high check out the Mountain Weather Information Service:
Keeping the mountains clean
Cleaning up after your dog is really important in such a beautiful mountainous area. No one wants to see your dog’s poo when out in the fells. Dog poo bags are a great idea if your dog decides to ‘go’ in the car park or around buildings. In open fell land, we tend to refrain from using plastic and tend flick the poo away from the footpath and into the undergrowth. In doing this, it normally falls apart and disperses a little. When exposed to the elements, this will decompose a lot quicker.
At the end of the day
Finally – if your dog is wet - a load of old towels in the car waiting for your return is really important. Towelling the dog off at the end of the walk massages the dog and aids recovery. It also stops your dog getting cold on the way home. This is also a good time to check your dog thoroughly for ticks as there are plenty of them in the Lakes and Scotland.
Have fun and enjoy the hills!