Would you and your dog enjoy a holiday in hill country? Well in general, dogs love running about on hills and mountains, that’s why so many of them get jobs as rescue dogs or herding sheep. So taking your dog on a holiday to somewhere like the Lake District will be the best thing ever for them, the equivalent of allowing them to chew your favourite slippers before jumping on the furniture and eating your dinner.
It’s also beneficial to you – the fresh air, the exercise, the views – all with your best friend by your side. They’ll happily keep up with you, won’t criticise your navigation and won’t bother you with inane chatter, but will quite happily put up with yours. A perfect walking companion.
But taking your dog for a trek in the hills isn’t something you should attempt without preparation and forethought. Firstly you need to tailor your walk to your dog’s abilities. (And yours, it’s going to be very embarrassing if your dog has to run and fetch help in a Lassie-style rescue, just because you thought you could conquer a Munro in flip-flops). Dogs may seem full of boundless energy at all times, but charging around your local park after squirrels and small children is a far cry from a three hour trek to the top of Helvellyn. Take into account their age, size and especially experience – start small and build up if this is a new venture for either of you. You know your dog best, and you’re the one responsible for their welfare.
Having said that, the vast majority of dogs will happily cover twice as much ground as you, and that’s another thing you need to be aware of. You may be a long way from ‘civilisation’ but there are still plenty of distractions for your dog – sheep, cows, other walkers, other walkers’ dogs, other walkers’ food, – so be realistic about how much control you have over your dog, and if you’re in any doubt attach the lead. There’s also plenty of raw nature out there, and your dog will probably want to jump or roll in most of it, so be prepared to give your dog a clean-up at the end of the walk unless you want the inside of your car to resemble a cattle barn. You should always check them over for ticks and other parasites and treat them appropriately.
Plan your walk in advance by using the internet, guide books and locals to get an idea of the terrain ahead. You’ll need to look out for things you wouldn’t necessarily worry about if you were without your dog, for example very stony ground can damage a dog’s paws, and if there’s any scrambling to be done will your pet manage it? Are there any sharp drops that you’ll need to keep them away from?
Finally, don’t forget the cardinal rules of hill walking still apply, whether you’re with your dog or not. Follow them and you and your dog will have a fantastic time in the hills. Here's the guide to Mountain Safety