Places to go with your dog
1 On the beach
A day out — or a holiday — at the beach can be fun as well as educational: take toys for your dog to play with, plenty of towels to dry him off if he takes a dip in the sea, and a bowl and supply of fresh water so he doesn’t make himself ill trying to drink the salty stuff when he gets thirsty. Stick to areas where dogs are allowed — sometimes access is only to certain parts of the beach, or isn’t permitted at particular times of the year. Visit www. goodbeachguide.co.uk to find places where your pet will be welcome. Remember that other people are there to enjoy themselves too, and, as well as pedestrians, holidaymakers, and other dogs, you might meet kite fliers, paragliders, sand yachts, off-shore anglers, swimmers, and sometimes even cars. Make sure you keep your dog under control and don’t allow him to interfere with others — apart from spoiling their fun, it could be dangerous for him too.
2 Hit the history trail
You don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy a visit to a historical site, and it can be a great way for your pet to meet lots of new people. Lots of sites are free, and many are open to dogs, although at some you might be asked to keep them on leads — but where this is the case, at least you’ll know that encounters with other dogs will be controlled. There’s a wealth of places to explore all around the country, from standing stones and prehistoric burial sites to hill forts, Roman ruins, medieval castles, and open-air museums featuring rescued and reconstructed buildings. Do a little research before your visit, as knowing a bit about the site can help make it come alive for you and ensures you don’t miss anything. As well as visiting www.english-heritage.org.uk and www.nationaltrust.org.uk to find dog-friendly historical places to visit, pop into your local tourist information office for details of other local attractions which might not be featured on the heritage websites.
3 Take to the water
Enjoy a relaxing break with your dog, as well as giving him a new experience, by taking him on a narrowboat holiday; a quick search on the internet will produce lots of results for dog-friendly companies all around the country that you can choose from. When you get bored watching the world go by, simply hop out on to the canal towpath to stretch your legs and enjoy a different view. Do take a few safety precautions though, especially if your dog’s a water lover: don’t let him swim as the water quality might not be great, and hidden hazards can lurk just beneath the surface.
With sheer sides it will also be hard for him to get out without assistance. Take care when he’s getting on or off the boat to make sure he doesn’t fall in; a lifejacket is a good idea, especially if it has a handle on the back which you can use to help support him at such moments.
If you need a little inspiration, try reading ‘Narrow Dog to Carcassonne’ and ‘Narrow Dog to Indian River’, both by Terry Darlington (Bantam)* to help you get in the mood.
4 Out for a meal
Enjoying a meal you haven’t had to cook yourself can make a nice midday break during a day out, or form the perfect end to one. Although health and safety regulations mean you won’t be able to take your dog into a restaurant, there are plenty of pubs where he’ll be able to accompany you for a meal. It’s likely that you’ll have to sit in the beer garden, but as long as you choose a nice day that won’t be much of a hardship. Depending on your personal tastes and where you go, food can vary from basic pub grub to top-notch cuisine. Visit www.doggiepubs.org.uk for recommendations. Make sure you teach your dog to sit or lie down quietly so you can eat undisturbed, and keep him close by you on a lead. Give him a tasty long-lasting chewy treat to keep him occupied, and a bowl of water.
5 Attend a show
Keep an eye on the local press for details of village fêtes, which can be full of novel sights and sounds, especially if a carnival procession is involved. Lots of fêtes also have companion dog shows as part of the attraction where your pet can strut his stuff, or you might like to go along to a game or country fair where all sorts of have-a-go activities will be on offer.
6 Picnic site
Taking your dog for a picnic can be the perfect outing for dogs of all ages, and especially for elderly dogs who, unable to cope any longer with the more challenging excursions of their youth, find themselves being left behind at home. A short gentle stroll (as you won’t want to lug a picnic hamper too far) to a scenic spot where he can lie down, relax, sniff the air, and enjoy a few special treats is a different matter; while keeping within his physical ability, it will help him feel he’s still a part of things, and the change of environment can also provide some often much-needed stimulation for him.
7 Special events
Re-enactments of different periods of history can be another fun family day out, and one which will help broaden your dog’s experiences. He’ll be able to meet Romans and Saxons, Roundheads and Cavaliers, or soldiers from the two World Wars, all of whom will look a little different from the people he usually meets. Take care at events which involve firing guns or cannons if these are likely to frighten him; they’re usually scheduled to take place at certain times, so you can avoid being nearby if you check the timetable first.
Re-enactments often take place at heritage sites and other historical attractions around the country — check websites and your local tourist office for details.
8 Back to school
Training classes aren’t just for those with puppies or new dogs — they’re for everyone, and lots of clubs cater for all levels. Once you’ve got basic training under your belt, ask if there are other classes you can join so you can add a bit of polish and fi nesse to what you’ve already learned.
If formal obedience isn’t your thing, you can always join a club which specialises in activities such as agility, showing, heelwork to music, trick training, or rally obedience — choose something you both enjoy and it will be easier to stay motivated and not let training lapse. Advice on choosing a trainer plus a list of Association of Pet Dog Trainers’ members can be found at www.apdt.co.uk.
9 Woodland walk
Woodlands have an ever-changing beauty as the seasons pass, and all are different in character, ranging from ancient forests such as Savernake, Wiltshire, and Burnham Beeches,
Buckinghamshire, to more modern plantations of conifers; many wooded areas are also home to sculpture trails with artworks. Woodlands can be hugely exciting places for your dog, who will happily scamper from one place to the next, snuffling through piles of leaves and chasing squirrels.
Woodlands might also be home to deer, badgers, foxes, and other wildlife which your dog might not be familiar with. Take care not to lose sight of him and make sure you have excellent leave and recall commands — keep him on a lead if not. Watch out for other visitors your dog might not be accustomed to meeting, such as horse riders, plus logging activities and treetop adventure courses. Find woodlands at www. woodlandtrust.org.uk and www.forestry.gov.uk.
10 Long distance hike
Set yourselves a challenge by tackling a long-distance walk; if it’s not possible or practical to complete it in one go, there’s no reason why you can’t walk it in shorter sections, covering a little bit at a time. It’s a great way of getting away from your usual haunts and for your dog to encounter a whole host of new sights, sounds, and smells. Details of walks plus plenty of practical advice can be found at www.ramblers.org.uk and www.ldwa.org.uk.