Over winter many dog owners find themselves choosing shorter, more sheltered walking routes to protect themselves, and their dogs, from the less pleasant weather. It’s little wonder that spring and summer signals a renewed interest in outdoor exploring and fresh places to walk.
However, with new territory comes the risk of hidden dangers. Use this handy guide to anticipate hazards and help prevent injury to your dog.
With new roads being built all the time it’s not all that surprising that many accessible walking routes are near, or even surrounded by, traffic. Where possible you can attempt to plan your walks further away from busy roads and motorways, and keep your dog to heel or on the lead near the roadside. Please refer to our guide to traffic risks for further information.
Things to chase
Even if you make sure to walk far away from hazards, if your dog has a prey drive you may find that they are willing to run a long distance in pursuit of a bird or animal. This will be particularly true of certain breeds, like spaniels and terriers. Practice recall as often as possible to make sure you can command your dog to return. If you know your dog likes to chase birds and animals do your best to avoid places with lots of wildlife, and walk them in the middle of the day when fewer animals will be about.
Insect stings and bites
There are various stinging or biting insects that are more common during spring and summer. Please refer to our insect stings and bites guide for further information.
While it is unusual for dogs to encounter an animal that will try to eat them, especially in the UK, there is a small risk of snake bites or altercations with larger animals. Keep your dog under control, don’t let them out of your sight, and read our guide on snake bites to know what to do if you cross paths with an adder or grass snake.
Even the friendliest of dogs might get on the wrong side of a strange person or pet. It’s best to approach any unknown entity with caution and care, and if you see another dog being walked on-lead it is best to avoid them altogether. While the dog may not be dangerous, they might feel threatened or claustrophobic if they are approached by another dog while they are restrained, and may lash out in fear. Similarly, unfamiliar people could have issues with dogs or even be a dog thief. Exercise due vigilance with any strangers you encounter.
During the warmer weather there is a higher incidence of parasite infestations. Some of these are insects that are visible to the naked eye, while others are microorganisms that live inside the body. Visit our parasite guide for more information.
If you live and walk in the countryside it may be inevitable that you will happen upon a field with livestock in it. However, it is still legal for a farmer to shoot your dog if it gives chase and you are unable to recall them. Be very careful around fields with livestock; if your dog has a prey drive, likes to chase, or is just overfriendly, keep them to heel or on the lead.
Most dog breeds enjoy a paddle now and again but unfamiliar waters can hold a whole set of risks of their own. Why not check out our guide to waterborne hazards?
A dog’s paws are well-evolved to deal well with various ground surfaces, however some terrains will prove slightly harder to navigate. Loose earth or stones, slopes or potholes could all prove perilous. If you are unsure of the topography of a route you may wish to walk it alone once and thoroughly explore, or use Google Maps to get a better look before you head out. Keep your dog within sight and recall them regularly to prevent them from straying too far.
You may come across numerous dangerous or poisonous plants while you are out and about. Why not have a look at our plant guide for more information?
Trips, slips and falls
If your dog is very young, very old, injured, unwell or simply a little clumsy, even a normal walk could present small tripping hazards or things they could slip or fall on. You know your dog better than anyone, and if they aren’t particularly sure-footed for any reason you need to take extra care.
Our dogs are precious, and for most of them a walk with their loving owner is the greatest fun in the world. With due caution you can make sure your walks are accident-free and enjoyable for all involved.