A happy dog runs through a field with yellow dandelion flowers.

The warmer weather and longer days have put a spring in our step, and we have really enjoyed seeing brimstone butterflies, singing skylarks and bleating lambs – beautiful beings that characterise our countryside and make walks wonderful.

As we all start to get outdoors more, here are some top tips that will help you and your dog enjoy hassle-free, relaxing springtime walks, while protecting the animals that call our coast and countryside home.

Plan your route

If you’re keen that your dog has a really good run around, consider taking them to an open, grassy space where wildlife and livestock aren’t close by. Our recommended walks all include an ideal area for off-lead play – find a route near you.

Running on flat, predictable grass causes less wear and tear on joints than most other surfaces, and the open space makes it easier to keep an eye on your dog.

More sensitive environments like coastal habitats, woodlands and rural areas where livestock are around are better for calm, sniffy walks, where you and your dog explore side by side.

A grey and black, medium sized dog runs on grass with a ball in their mouth.

Pre-walk checks

Before you head out, check that your dog’s collar, lead, and harness are undamaged and fit properly to avoid unplanned escapes and unnecessary stress. You also need to be sure that the information on their tag and microchip is up to date and accurate.

A tan coloured dog wearing a brown collar and a purple harness.

Know your dog

If sensitive wildlife or livestock are nearby, loose-lead walking on established pathways is an enjoyable way to have a safe, stress-free walk with your dog.

If this isn’t your preference, keep your dog within sight and really get to know their body language so you can see if they look like they are about to chase.

Here are some signs that your dog might show before chasing:

  • Suddenly stopping and staring
  • Stalking (a low, slow creep forward)
  • Ears alert
  • Tense body posture
  • Suddenly looking in a different direction
  • Intense sniffing, especially if they appear to be following a trail

Recall your dog and put them on lead if you think they are about to chase and remember to reward them when they come back – they followed your instructions and stopped doing something very exciting! Lots of praise and treats also means that they are more likely to repeat this good behaviour in future.

Chasing is a normal, natural behaviour for dogs, so it’s up to you to make sure that you can recall your dog before they see, hear, or smell an animal that they are likely to go after. Once your dog is mid-chase, it can be much more difficult to get them to come back to you.

Visit our training tips webpage to find a step-by-step guide for training recall.

Walks in the forest and heathland

If you are heading out for a walk in a forest or heathland this spring, there may be birds nesting on the ground like lapwings, nightjars, and meadow pipits. If they are disturbed, they might abandon their nests, so it’s important to give them lots of space.

The easiest way to do this is by sticking to established pathways and, if your dog does not have a strong recall, putting them on lead. With loose lead walking, your dog will enjoy a rich, interesting walk as they get to explore at their pace alongside you.

Keep your eyes peeled for signs that tell you about the area – there may be important information about safety, wildlife, or livestock.

A liver and white spaniel runs on the path in a woodland

Walks on the coast

During nesting season, some species like skylarks rear their chicks in sand dunes, while ringed plover nests are often found on shingle beaches, camouflaged amongst the pebbles.

Look out for signs that tell you if nesting birds are around, and what you need to do to help them. You may also see areas that have been temporarily fenced off, this is to protect the vulnerable eggs and to give young chicks the best chance of survival.

A small, fluffy dog stands on the path by the beach

Walks near livestock

When farm animals feel unsafe, they can panic and hurt themselves, and pregnant animals may even lose their young.

It is your responsibility to prevent this from happening by keeping your dog close to you at all times around livestock, for their own safety as well as the animals around them.

Gemma, Community Engagement Ranger from Hampshire County Council shares her top tips for walking near horses and livestock in this video.

We hope this blog helps you to enjoy fun, stress-free walks this spring! If you’re keen to work on skills like recall and loose lead walking with your dog, visit our training tips page to browse our step-by-step training guides.