Should You Take Your Dog With You On A Mountain Walk?
If you own a dog, you will no doubt know that going on a long country walk with them is a great pleasure. Most dogs love the freedom of the outdoors, with new sights and scents to explore, and of course so do we! However, there are certain factors that you should consider before deciding whether or not to take your dog on a challenging mountain walk.
Sky News recently reported on the story of an Akita dog who had to be brought down from England’s highest peak by the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team. The 33 kg dog, named Rocky, had become exhausted by the long trek up Scafell in the Lake District and refused to move another step.
The concerned pet owners initially called the police before being redirected to the mountain rescue team. Rocky was made comfortable in a warm casualty bag before being escorted off the mountain by a 13-man team bearing a stretcher. The whole operation lasted for over four hours and fortunately no serious harm was done.
The National Trust have issued advice following the incident, to warn pet owners that their dogs should be fit and used to long walks before tackling higher peaks such as Scafell. Here are some points to bear in mind.
The natural athleticism of the dog breed
Some breeds of dog are naturally athletic, such as border collies and labradors, and they should be well able to cope with a mountain walk. Smaller breeds with shorter legs will find rough and steep terrain more difficult. Sometimes, large heavy boned breeds with thick coats such as the Atika may struggle.
It is best to seek advice from a vet or other qualified person such as an animal physiotherapy specialist if you are unsure what your pet might be able to cope with.
The fitness of your dog
The best way to prepare your dog for a mountain walk is to build up their fitness gradually with a series of shorter walks. Start off with smaller hills with no rocky scrambles to negotiate, and move on to steeper and higher slopes when you think they are ready.
Bear in mind that dogs need recovery time just like we do, so don’t take them out on consecutive days or force them to go with you if they are tired and reluctant. The age of the dog is also a factor to consider; puppies under one year old are still growing, so it is important not to place them under too much strain.
Older dogs may be prone to stiffness and aching muscles and joints just as older humans are, so take them for regular checks up with the vet and don’t overface them.
Toughen up their paws
Dogs that are not used to walking on hard surfaces will have soft paw pads, and will find stony mountain paths very uncomfortable. Therefore it’s important to toughen them up on paved surfaces to avoid cuts.
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