This popped up on my Twitter feed earlier today. There’s a lot of good information, and sensible advice, in this article from the British Mountaineering Council website, with regards to bringing your dog out walking with you, and it’s well worth a read:
Whilst our laws regarding rights of way are a little different here in Ireland, ultimately if you’re taking your dogs walking with you wherever you are, you are 100% responsible for their behaviour at all times.
For the sake of a simple life, with no desire to be shouted at by angry landowners, Parks & Wildlife rangers or Coillte officers, I tend to just keep mine on their leads. When I’m walking the local lanes at home, I generally have 2 with me at any time, and want instant control whenever I hear an approaching vehicle. And when we’re out walking on the local hills, we tend to just take one with us at any one time, on a long flexi-lead. Don’t get me wrong, they get regular of off-lead exercise, but its on well-fenced, private land, next to our cottage, with the landowner’s permission, and using common sense in choosing which field to let them off in, when the livestock are turned out. We’re surrounded by ewes and lambs at the moment, which is utterly adorable, but it’s making off-lead exercise sessions a bit challenging.
On very rare occasions, if the location allows and the geography suits, I may let Millie off the lead whilst out walking. She’s a ‘home-bird’, and never goes very far from us if she’s on her own (if she’s running loose with Monty, that’s a whole different story!). She likes to keep us in sight at all times, thus in trees and woodlands and other suited locations this is perfect for allowing her an off-lead mooch. At worst she might flush a bird or a squirrel, but she can’t fly or climb trees, so the ‘chase’ is generally over within a few yards. I also let Dee accompany us off-lead during a recent ramble around Knockbarron Woods. Her head and heart might be willing to seek out wildlife, but after about 20 metres, her creaky old joints and her ageing physiology catch up with her all too quickly, and she just gives up…demonstrated perfectly when a doe crossed the path in front of us, and after a few animated strides in the direction of the deer, Dee gave the canine version of a shrug, and slowed to a walk before turning back to us.
I also now make a point of carrying a spare slip-lead in my pocket or day pack, it’s a short section of rope, with a metal ring on one-end, weighs almost nothing, and takes up no space at all…the times when a good lead or collar breaks, are generally the times when you need a lead! The last time I had a lead snap, I was ill-prepared, with my least-reliable dog, and a couple of miles from home. I felt like I was stooping for days after walking the rest of the way bent over, with the my finger snagged through the collar. I’ve also used my spare lead in the past to collect up a straying dog we’ve come across on more than one occasion, to bring it to safety, and/or return it to its owner.
When this photo was taken, we were out in the middle of nowhere, with no one around. Five minutes later a small group of deer crossed the track in front of us. If Dolly had been off her lead, I think I could well still be out searching for her now… perhaps a slight exaggeration, but she’s a fast dog, with incredible stamina, who can can cover a lot of ground extremely quickly, and can be a good distance away from you in no time at all. I would estimate that her recall is 95%, but that 5% of selective deafness could get her into a lot of trouble, very quickly, and it’s just not worth the risk to her, or indeed to whatever has caught her attention.
I love having our dogs accompany us on our walks, it wouldn’t be the same without them…and with a bit of common sense and respect for our surroundings, we aim for happy trails and happy tails 😉