Winter Dog Walking

Getting your walking boots on in the depths of winter dog walking, walking in the rain, wind and sometimes snow, is not very appealing, but that is part and parcel of dog ownership. Dogs still need to be exercised whatever the weather, but it can be said that even dogs are not always so enthusiastic either! However, you can learn to love your winter walks with the right preparation and kit and still make it fun.

It is best to try and stay within well lit areas and wide pavements and when walking in built up areas, keep your dog walking by your side away from the traffic. When walking in the dark, always make sure you can be seen. Safety comes above fashion, so invest in some high-visability gear for yourself and your dog. Hi-Vis collars and also dog jackets will make sure he is seen by motorists and by you, especially if he is off lead. Always carry a torch and a head torch is a really good idea to keep your hands free. Walking with friends is a good too, but if you are alone make sure you walk in familiar surroundings and consider carrying a personal alarm for added safety.

Make sure you wrap up warm. Investing in a good quality Gortex waterproof jacket is well worth the cost and will last you years. Add a good pair of waterproof walking boots and/or wellingtons with thermal socks and you are good to go. Don’t forget a waterproof cap or hat, gloves and scarf. Consider getting your dog different types of dog coats for all occasions and always keep a spare in the car. The fleece dog coat and jumpers are ideal for putting on your dog after a cold, wet walk for the journey home or during the walk as they are weatherproof, lightweight and warm. Avoid having your dog’s coat clipped too short during the winter months, but having the hair around his feet trimmed will help prevent the build up of ice balls between the pads and toes.

Mud and rain are unavoidable during the winter, so make sure your car and house is mud and wet dog friendly. Dirt trapper house and car mats will absorb mud and moisture and help keep your home and car clean. Another good tip is to recycle old towels and keep handy in the car or by the door to dry your dog off and wipe paws before he goes inside. High absorbent dog towels are also useful to keep in the car for drying off after very wet walks or a hose down to remove mud when you get home.

Always check the weather before you plan your walk so you are prepared for the conditions and if it does start to snow heavily, always recall your dog and put on the lead as snow can affect his sense of smell and could make him feel a bit disorientated.

Does this sound off putting?

Well, popular areas that are normally jam packed during the summer, tend to be a lot quieter during the winter and you cannot beat a frosty winter walk with a touch of winter sun – perfect for some photography. But do beware of flood water as there is often a strong current, so keep your dog under control.

Winter walking often means you have to keep your dog on the lead, but that doesn’t have to be boring. Let him sniff – smells are very important and using the nose keeps your dog’s brain busy. So give him time to check out the wee-mails. Changing your usual route helps or walking the other way round to make it a bit more interesting. Take a toy with you and stop regularly for a game. Balls are great. Also if your dog needs to top up his training, this is the best time to do it, so make the most of your time together and brush up on basic commands like sitting at the roadside before you cross the road.

Another consideration is that walking through mud and snow means that you have to lift your legs higher and use more energy and that means more calories are burnt! So, when you get home after an invigorating walk, there is nothing better than a well earnt mug of hot chocolate and a favourite treat for your dog and a soft and snuggly blanket and dog bed!

Lead Walking

Most dog owners just want to have relaxed and enjoyable walks with their dog. It is not necessary to achieve competition level of heel walking with the dog glued to the leg, but a relaxed happy dog walking at your side on a loose lead. It’s okay to have them a little in front or behind as long as the lead is loose.

Are you being pulled around by your dog when you lead walk? It’s not much fun and a very common problem and probably one of the hardest behaviours to correct, especially if you have a high energy dog. Once you start lead training you will need to be consistent and it may take some time to achieve, so patience is a virtue!

Dogs pull because :

  • their comfortable pace is at a trot and we are not walking fast enough
  • the environment is stimulating
  • they pull and they get to sniff where they want, get to the park for play, greet another dog etc., so they are getting rewarded for pulling
  • because we allow them to

When there is tension on the lead the dog will instinctively pull to make sure he is going to get where he wants to go.

There are many harnesses and head collars on the market which are designed to stop your dog pulling. In my opinion, the only best method to stop pulling is to train your dog not to pull on the lead using a flat lead and a traditional collar. Using other equipment may be a quick fix solution, but as soon as you take the harness or collar off, your dog will instinctively pull again. The use of choke and prong collars or anything that inflicts pain on the dog, is absolutely not an option.

There are many methods to use in training, but the best solution is to stop giving your dog the opportunity to move forward as soon as he pulls on the lead. Start the walk with your dog walking nicely at your side, as soon as he pulls you immediately stop in your tracks and give a command for him to come back to you. Wait for him to return and ask him to sit and give a treat as a reward for returning. Start off again and repeat. You may not get far from the house on the first few occasions, but do persevere as this will work. As your dog progresses and manages to stay at your side for a few trots, reward with a treat whilst walking and praise him. If it is worth his/her while walking at your side they will do it! Gradually you can decrease the food treats but always praise and talk to your dog so he/her knows they’re pleasing you.

Remember to always walk purposefully and at a good pace which is also good exercise for you!

Aldwark Ramble

Approx 4 miles, easy walking along bridleways, woodland and farmland.  Lots of birds and wildlife to be seen, including red kites makes the Aldwark Ramble a exciting walk.

Aldwark Ramble Aldwark is a small village approximately 12 miles north of  York.  It has a very unusual church (St Stephens) which was  commissioned in 1852 by Lady Frankland Russell who lived  in Aldwark Manor.

The walk starts at The Aldwark Arms pub, (YO61 1UB for sat  nav) which is dog friendly and has a very good daily food  menu and fab Sunday lunches.

From the pub take the bridleway on the right which is Rice Lane. The bridleway runs for over a mile and then turns right, crosses a dyke and follows the edge of Haddock’s Plantation. At this point it is worthwhile putting your dog on the lead as the woodlands is a nesting area for game birds.  Go right along the woodland edge then right again through the plantation.The path passes between Grange Cottage and the outbuildings.

Aldwark Ramble  As you join the grassy track heading towards Rising Sun  Farm (where roe deer have been seen) you’re treading  ground which was once the edge of the ancient Royal Forest  of Galtres, used for hunting by kings since Norman times  when they stayed in York. This land used to be dense forest,  teeming with deer and wild boar, but Henry VIII had the  trees cut down to build his fleet.

The route continues past The Fisheries, used for coarse angling and you then head down Straight Lane and right along the road back towards the village.

Useful sites

 

 

Walking in the Durham Dales

If you haven’t visited the Durham Dales, you are missing a treat. Fabulous dog walking and stunning scenery. Stanhope (pronounced Stanup) is a tranquil and picturesque market town at the heart of the Durham Dales and is a great place to base yourself for outdoor activities. It has a brilliant visitor centre and plenty of amenities, good bed and breakfast and a dog friendly pub! We stayed at Unthank Hall, which is a large fabulously refurbished historic Grade II listed 16th century country house. It can sleep 7 people and is dog friendly with beautiful views and a large walled paddock for safe dog exercising, area for children to play and BBQing, or just to sit and enjoy the surroundings.

Walking in The Durham Dales

The River Wear runs through the town and walkers can cross  the river at the ford using massive stepping stones. There is  also a riverside walk.

Stanhope has the county’s only open-air heated pool, where  swimmers can enjoy the relaxing experience of a warm  outdoor swim within stunning countryside. Another  fascinating thing to see is the famous fossil tree which sits in the graveyard of the 12th century church of St Thomas and is approximately 320 million years old!

Tried and tested Durham Dales walk through woods and farmland with streams and rock valleys and open moorland : Stanhope Burn and Crawley Edge – circular walk 4.5 miles moderate varied terrain. From B6278 to Barnard Castle leaving Stanhope, take farm track at green and white finger post on right hand side. Follow track with burn on right hand side, past farm buildings keeping right of stone outbuilding. Then take right of the farmyard on to a grassy track towards the burn.
Don’t cross bridge over burn, but keep left keeping burn on right hand side (path runs between fences towards 4 bar metal gate). Enter woods and keep to major path. Cross small footbridge, then another concrete bridge with metal handrails. At this point woods and burn are now mainly on right hand side. Farmhouse in distance on left hand side. Valley gets deeper and rockier on right hand side.
Cross another footbridge over small stream that joins the burn then shortly keep left as a bridge turns right across the burn – do not cross burn.

Walking in the Durham Daleswalking in the Durham DalesWalking in the Durham Dales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Path bears left down into a gully  then crosses a side stream via a  small wooden bridge. Keep  going ahead up a number of  earth and wood steps. At top of  steps there is a field on your left  hand side and burn on your  right. Keep to path close to  fence then follow it as it bears  right and downhill into valley.  The path climbs again to reach  another fence on your left –  stone farmhouse a little further away in distance ahead. Follow path as it bends left along the bank of steam on your right hand side as you walk. Look to your right after a short distance to see a small waterfall in the valley. Keep ahead until you reach stile – cross to reach large 6 bar metal gate. Turn right through gate and follow enclosed track between farm buildings until you reach a fork. Take right hand fork downhill (not through metal gate). Cross bridge over burn and follow track as it bears right past disused building. Turn left uphill a short distance before a warehouse type building and cross stream. Follow clear semi made track along a fence at first and then left hand side of a stone wall.

Continue ahead through 6 bar metal gate marked by a circular footpath sign and open access land sign (also dog restriction sign other than for public right of way). Keep to main track as it bears right and downhill. Track bears hard right uphill towards B6278 road passing metal seat as it goes. Cross directly over road onto a track, then after less than 50 mtr, turn right on to a clear track. Track uses an embankment for part of the way as it runs towards buildings and is parallel with the road. Just before buildings, bear left with the track away from the road (Crawley Side Bank). Follow obvious track away from buildings and road (i.e. going broadly east with a higher ridge and communications mast to your left).

Some way on, track starts to descent and take right hand fork. After approx 80 mtrs track joins another coming from the left. Turn right towards building and pine trees. The track passes to the right of largest buildings to reach a lane (East Lane) via a 5 bar wooden gate. Turn right and follow lane downhill back to Stanhope.

Useful links for Stranhope:

  1. http://www.thisisdurham.com/explore-durham/durham-towns/stanhope
  2. http://www.durhamdalescentre.co.uk/