Walking your dog in the countryside 

By Vet Graham Lewis 

This is one of the nicest times of the year when spring days tempt us out for more walks.

Exercise is great for our health and wellbeing, and important to keep our dogs fit and happy too.  Here are a few tips to help you and your dog enjoy the countryside at its best.

Spring is lambing time and increasing numbers of livestock appear in the countryside now.

It is essential your dog is not a nuisance to any livestock, horses or wildlife. Dogs must be on a lead from March to July on ‘open access land’ such as fells, forests and around lakes, to protect ground nesting birds, and at all times around livestock.

Every year sheep and lambs are killed and injured by dogs running loose. Chasing can cause miscarriages and mismothering of lambs, too. Many owners are caught out because their dog behaves well at home or in the park. But all dogs can suddenly give chase when they encounter livestock, or when an animal appears unexpectedly or startles and runs.

Always keep your dog on a lead around livestock, keep to footpaths, and take extra care in any situation where you might encounter other animals unexpectedly.

It is a good idea to stay away from cattle. Cows with calves can be aggressive, especially towards walkers with dogs.

At this time of the year ticks become more common. They can transmit Lyme’s disease so check your dog for any which have attached to the skin. You can get a tick remover tool which makes the job easy, as well as tick preventative treatments from your vet.

You might look forward to hot weather but bear in mind that dogs can suffer heatstroke, which can be fatal. 

Any dog can develop heatstroke but overweight, young, elderly, flat-faced, giant-breed and heavy-coated breeds are especially vulnerable. It’s best to avoid exercise at the hottest times, and don’t leave your dog in the car on a warm day as they can overheat easily in vehicles. 

A paddle or swim might be tempting but beware of blue-green algae which is toxic to dogs and humans.  It is found in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, estuaries, and the sea.

The algae may look blue-green, brown, red or black and can be a large bloom or in small areas of the water.  If in doubt it’s best to stay out. 

  • Paragon’s new guide to the best Cumbrian dog walks is out now. Get your copy of Come On, Let’s Go: The Cumbria Dog Walking Guide from our surgery at Townhead Road, Dalston.