Are you going down to the woods today?

Although dogs never need an excuse to scamper and snuffle through the woods, springtime strolls through bluebell-scattered sunlit glades are extra special. Here’s what you need to know if you and your dog are going wild in the country…

Posted: 04 May 2017

Are you going down to the woods today?

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May is Walk in the Woods month and it’s one of the best times of the year to enjoy some forest fun. However, it’s important to respect nature by keeping a close watch on your pet and following the Forest Dog Code.

The wood walkers’ checklist

Before you set off, check out the location you’re going to so you’re aware of trail lengths, facilities and any local issues.

Take a rucksack of essentials including poop bags, water, bowl, spare lead, snacks (canine and human), waterproof jacket and mobile phone. Remember to leave only footprints and to take only photographs.

If you’re planning a long walk take a map and a compass and don’t rely on 4G on your mobile phone – lots of woods are out of signal range.

Pack a basic first aid kit for yourself with plasters for blisters, anti-histamine and sun cream, and one for your dog, with a roll of self-adhesive or crepe bandage, some non-adhesive absorbent dressings, surgical sticky tape, blunt ended scissors, tweezers and tick hook.

Lots of woods have waymarked paths and routes you can follow. Be sure to stay on the paths to avoid damaging important wildlife habitats.

Keep your dog in sight at all times so you know what they are doing/chewing/drinking. While some dogs love puddles, don’t let them drink water in stagnant pools that doesn’t look clean. A blue/green paint-like scum of algae floating on the surface of still water can be irritating or even fatal.

Take time to rest and seek shade in warmer weather and be careful not to over-exert your dog if she is a puppy, an older dog, suffers from an illness or is recovering from an operation.

Avoid a potentially fatal ‘bloat’ or a stomach torsion by not exercising your dog for at least an hour before and after meals, or after drinking lots of water.

Some dogs love sticks, but you should NEVER throw them as they can cause potentially fatal injuries. Throw and play with an approved, tough plastic toy instead, and make sure it’s big enough not to be swallowed.

If you have to go through a field of cattle, don’t panic and don’t run. Put your dog on a lead and walk calmly and quietly through the field, staying away from the herd. Close all gates behind you.

If you spot a horse on a bridleway, remember not to get too close to the animal. Keep your dog calm so they’re not tempted to bark, and don’t shout or run in case you startle the horse.

Always check your dog’s skin for pea-sized ticks after a walk. Remove them immediately with a tick hook (or ask your vet to), as they can spread serious diseases. Never squeeze or pull them off as this will leave tick body parts in your dog. Better still, ask your vet about products to keep dogs safe from tick-borne diseases before you go

Seek veterinary advice immediately if your dog shows signs of being unwell following your visit. Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) is associated with animals which have been walked in wooded areas or parkland, usually in autumn. Cases are characterised by lethargy, vomiting and rapid unconsciousness. Bookmark your smartphone with websites of local vets for when you are away from home, such as Find a Vet .

Always follow the Forestry Commission’s four-point Forest Dog Code

1. Take the lead Forests are great spaces for your dog to enjoy, just make sure you know when to use the lead.

2. Keep your eyes peeled Please respect other visitors and wildlife, keep your eyes open and your dog within sight.

3. Have good control Does your dog come when called? Make sure your dog understands your commands to keep you both safe.

4. Keep our forests clean Bag and bin your dog’s waste where you can, or ‘stick and flick’ it when you are deeper into the woods.

Ruff guides

There are over 1,500 woods and forests to choose from across the UK. To find out more about locations near year visit Forest Dogs

Sources: forestry.gov.uk, woodlandtrust.org.uk, bluecross.org

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