Crufts – everybody’s walking the dog

Another year, another Crufts. Whether your favourite group is the pastoral, working, terrier, hound, toy or gundog, or if you love the fast pace of fly-ball or the fun of the agility competition, the stars of the show are always the dogs. 

One thing all dog owners have in common is that they have to walk their pets and in the summer months it’s a real pleasure. Just like any other form of exercise, walking needs preparation and a sensible approach if injuries are to be avoided. Our physiotherapy team offers their advice.

Look at your feet

You need to look after your feet. Walking boots should be light and supportive, and always wear proper walking socks. If your boots are new, break them in before you start serious walking. Good footwear is the best foundation for a good walk.

Warm up

Before your walk, make sure your muscles and joints are ready for action. Build up your strength gradually before walking any distance, and always start a walk with a thorough warm up session – that way you are less likely to injure yourself. Don’t just focus on your legs and feet – do a warm-up for your whole body, especially if your walk is likely to involve throwing things for your dog to retrieve.

Take it long, short and slow

If you’re new to serious walking, give yourself plenty of preparation time and take things slowly to start off with. Start with short distances and build up to longer distances. The same goes for your dog – always choose a distance which is comfortable for both of you.

Be prepared

It sounds obvious advice, but if you’re new to a walk take a map and make sure you know where you are going – that includes doing some research into the sort of terrain and gradients you are likely to encounter. Make sure you are dressed for the walk – if you are climbing hills or crossing rivers, a pair of flip-flops, shorts and a tee-shirt might not be the best option. If you need extra support, take a purpose-designed walking stick with you – it doesn’t have to be expensive. Always let people know where you are going and how long you expect to be away, and take a mobile phone with you.

Remember to drink – and eat

Always take on plenty of fluids when you are walking. A mixture of water and energy/electrolyte type drinks are recommended, and plain water for your dog. You may be walking for several hours, so unless you have scheduled a break (at a favourite dog-friendly pub perhaps!) make sure you have something to eat as you go for you and your pet – that way you will maintain energy levels.

If you’re injured

Stop – do not try to push yourself. Apply standard first aid treatment for small injuries. For the more serious injury call the emergency services. To assist with your recovery seek treatment from a registered physiotherapist and follow their advice – it is easy to undo their good work by returning to training too soon.