Walking with dogs
Walking in Glen Coe near the WHW

Walking with dogs: An introduction

Walking guides - see all our background pages

An introduction from Buster

"Hello. No-one loves a good walk like us dogs! There are some brilliant walking holidays that you can go on, and your owners can come too!

But there are a few things we need to know so that we can get out into the countryside safely... and we can't always go everywhere we'd like.

Now, let's get walking!"

(Buster, the Exploratory dog)

Buster, serene amid preparations
Buster, serene amid preparations

Dog-friendly accommodation

Please let us know on booking that you'll be bringing your dog. We can then book dog-friendly accommodation for your walking holiday.

Your dog stays with you, sleeping on the floor (perhaps on a favourite blanket) in your own room. He or she will never be in kennels or yards or anywhere else!

Of course, adding a dog can be a restriction on the number of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses that are available to us when booking your itinerary. We might not be able to use our usual, first-choice establishments. In some cases we might even be unable to put together a schedule as you would like, especially if your holiday is very soon or if some nights are in small villages where accommodation is already limited.

In all cases, dogs or no dogs, we do our very best to make your holiday happen. We've had great success in assembling successful itineraries at short notice, much appreciated by our clients.

Guided and self-guided holidays

Self-guided walking holidays are of course led by you, the walkers. You can go as fast or slow as you like and you can bring as many of your dogs as you like! As long as the route and the accommodation are suitable for dogs then everything is set up nicely.

If you're joining us for a guided holiday as a private group then you're also welcome to bring your dogs, and we're sure they'll have a great time exploring the hills with their human pack!

At the moment, our scheduled guided holidays are not suitable for dogs, we're sorry to say. We might in future bring in such trips, but we must consider those who don't like dogs. A private guided trip is always possible if you have a pre-formed group of family or friends, of 4 or more people; even for smaller numbers, it can still work. Please contact us for details any time.

Pet passports at the ready
Pet passports at the ready

Dog-friendly walking holidays in the UK

As any dog owner knows, the UK has a wealth of mountains and countryside for walking. Access rules are generally very favourable meaning that all of UK Exploratory's walking holidays can be enjoyed by dogs. It's always exhilarating for your dog to get out into the fresh air, along the paths, lanes, fields and hillsides.

Some dogs aren't happy crossing stiles. All of UK Exploratory's holidays involve stiles at some point, and on some routes there are many. If your dog isn't adept at stiles or if you don't fancy lifting him or her over, please contact us for specific information about the routes.

Holidays with no restrictions
These walking holidays can be enjoyed by your dog throughout. Holidays following a set trekking route are open to dogs all the way along. Some routes on some centre-based holidays might have a small number of local restrictions, but there will still be enough choice of routes for your holiday.

Coast to Coast
Coast to Coast West
Coast to Coast East
Lake District Tour
Pennine Way
Pennine Way South
Pennine Way Central
Pennine Way North
West Highland Way

Extra note: West Highland Way
There is one stretch of the West Highland Way on which dogs are not allowed for a few weeks in April and May, due to lambing. This section is easily bypassed by a good alternative route that is actually slightly easier. Your routecards explain it all.

Extra note: Coast to Coast
Some stages of the CTC route in the Richmond area are quite heavy with the particular type of stile that can pose a problem for some dogs. We'll advise in detail when you enquire or book.

Extra note: Hebridean Way
The scarcity of accommodation - of any type - in some parts of the Hebrides makes it harder than usual to offer dog-friendly holidays. We regret this and will keep an eye on things.

Dog-friendly walking holidays in the Alps

We don't feel able to recommend taking dogs on our continental European walking holidays, for UK or other overseas clients. Despite the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme, known as PETS, and the pet passport it can give your dog so that it can avoid quarantine, the practical difficulties of taking your dog abroad are considerable.

As well as the travel aspect, having your dog with you on a trekking or walking trip can be a disadvantage, or dangerous, for 3 other reasons. Firstly your dog's scent can warn wildlife about your presence earlier than otherwise with the result that you might enjoy fewer close encounters with chamois, ibex, marmots and other creatures. Secondly you might not be able to enjoy some of the more scrambly sections of path if you feel it wouldn't be safe to lead your dog up them. Thirdly, watch out for marmot burrows! Your dog might decide to investigate and you could be searching for a while.

As an example of the difficulties, the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve on the North side of the Chamonix valley does not allow dogs, even on a lead. This prevents dog owners on the Tour du Mont Blanc from enjoying the spectacular stretch on the hillside under Lac Blanc, with views over the valley to the Aiguille Verte and Mont Blanc.

We regret not being able to accept our dog friends in the rooms: An auberge on the Tour du Mont Blanc
We regret not being able to accept our dog friends in the rooms: An auberge on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Preparing your dog

Walking holidays can make demands of dogs as well as of humans! The fitter your dog is and the more familiar he or she is with the countryside (stiles, sheep, rocky paths) the easier your holiday will be.

In the weeks leading up to your holiday try walking your dog along some routes of similar distance, height gain and duration to those you'll be tackling on your holiday.

Of course, take care to build your dog up gently to longer walks if he or she is not used to them. It's possible to over-exercise very young dogs. Be alert to your dog becoming too tired, shown by unusally heavy panting or lagging behind.

Please keep your dog on a lead, a sign on a barn near Zermatt
Please keep your dog on a lead, a sign on a barn near Zermatt

Walking your dog responsibly in the countryside

The usual responsibilities of walking a dog, such as cleaning up after it, apply to the mountains and coast as much as any dog walking area and will be well known by dog owners. Some extra considerations apply to the great outdoors.

Wildlife and lambing time
Spring lambs really do leap up and down in a very cute fashion, so it's a season not to be missed, but take care! Avoid letting your dog disturb wildlife or farm animals, especially sheep, lambs and ground-nesting birds. Dogs can frighten birds away from their nests, leaving eggs and chicks unprotected.

At lambing time take great care to prevent your dog chasing sheep; lambs can die even just from being chased, while the parents might attack your dog. The lambing season in early Spring is critical to farmers' finances for the year ahead. You might consider it best to avoid walking your dog near any sheep in this period, roughly mid-March to mid-May but possibly starting as early as February, to avoid any difficulty.

If chased by farm animals
If you and your dog are chased by a cow it's best to let your dog off the lead. Then the dog will hopefully distract the cow from you but also outrun it, while you can get to safety. This way the cow will be less likely to harm you than if you try to protect your dog.

On the lead?
You might be able to let your dog walk off its lead where there is no livestock near, but if it can't be recalled reliably then do use your lead. In the UK, farmers are allowed to shoot dogs that are worrying their animals.

Access land
In the UK the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) opened up access to many areas of rough, open areas such as hills, moorland and heathland. These new areas are known as 'access land' in England. Your dog can enjoy such areas off its lead, except during the period from 1 March to 31 July and at all times when near livestock, when it must be kept on a lead no longer than 2 metres. There might be additional local restrictions.

Poppy takes to Coniston Water
Poppy takes to Coniston Water

Self-guided walking holidays in the UK

UK Exploratory once met a dog and two walkers near St Bees. This particularly fit dog had carried all its own supplies for 14 days - an unusual feat!

Let us organise your next walking holiday for you and your dog. We book your accommodation and send you a comprehensive info pack containing our own routecards (highly praised by past clients), genuine Ordnance Survey or Harvey maps, and all the other logistical notes you need. You are then free to enjoy the walks at a pace suited to you. As well as our standard itineraries we are always delighted to quote for bespoke holidays - contact us for more information. Happy walking!

Self-guided walking holidays in the UK and Ireland - see all our trips

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Poppy the Labrador on the Lake District Tour
  Poppy the Labrador taking on Stage 5 of our Lake District Tour    Lake District Tour

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