Dog owners have very particular walking needs, and these vary enormously between different dog breeds, the age of the dog and the health of both dog and owner.
Greyhounds are often hard to prise away from the sofa for a constitutional, whereas collies and spaniels will happily hurtle around all day. Bassett hounds and many elderly dogs find stiles impossible, and I once had a Labrador who wouldn’t walk across footbridges or anything slatted.
On Jem’s regular walk in Sherwood Forest, we meet dogs who are training for CaniX and a team of huskies learning their jobs; there are dogs that help their owners back to fitness after heart operations, and dogs who make it easier for single or shy people to meet new friends in a neutral space. And there are the working dogs too – career police dogs, PAT dogs, and puppies being walked for one of the big assistance dog charities.
So with all this walking going on, you’d think that it would be an easy job to grab a book of walks to find new places to walk with your dog. Not so! And we’ve got a library to prove it.
The point is that ‘walkers’ – those people who yomp over scree and bog with the latest kit and a sensible picnic – are not the same as ‘walkers with dogs’. The latter are rarely to be found fiddling with a GPS, whilst wearing this season’s designer waterproofing. Neither will they be crossing long-distance footpaths off their ‘to-do’ lists, or bagging every Munro.
Walkers with dogs have their eyes on a different landscape. A rabbit is not a furry piece of atmos – it’s a warning that Fido might give chase and go straight across a busy road; a seagull is not the soul of a sailor – it’s an object to chase that might see your pooch flying off a cliff top.
The Driving with Dogs walks, especially the Motorway Walks that we have individually tested with Jem for dog safety, tend to be country parks, canal towpaths, riverside walks and forests. These are places where stiles are rare, and livestock unlikely. We also avoid railway lines and unfenced roads, golf courses and paintballing centres.
There’s a new page in the Members’ Lounge for walking books that we use ourselves for fun weekend walks. The ‘rule’ for a book to be there is that all three of us have really enjoyed more than two-thirds of its walks.
Do send in your own recommendations and reviews, and we’ll add these as well. Hopefully we’ll all save space and money as a result!