Our canals and rivers provide many a popular route for walkers, so it is not surprising that this includes large numbers of dog walkers. Whether you’re after a city-centre green corridor, a long rural walk, or a short stop-off on a car journey, the waterways are a great place for you and your four-legged friend to get some exercise.
Paula Boyden, deputy veterinary director at the Dogs Trust says: “Many dog owners enjoy taking their dogs for walks along the canals and rivers because it is generally quite quiet. Many city-dwellers find the peaceful nature of the waterways a wonderful escape from the hustle and the bustle of the city. All dogs enjoy a long walk and exploring with their noses, so all the smells – people, boats and animals - are wonderful for environment enrichment.”
Of course, it’s always important to bear in mind that you have to share the canal and towpath with other users. However, so long as you make sure you are walking your dog in a responsible fashion, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t enjoy the canals along with everyone else.
One of the most consistent subjects for customer complaints is dog mess on the towpath, and there’s no doubt it is extremely unpleasant to come across, as well as being a health hazard.
The Dogs Trust Poop Scoop Week, which takes place each year, reminds all dog owners to ‘grab it, bag it and bin it’. There’s no need to touch anything nasty – simply put your hand inside a plastic bag and place it over the dog mess, then turn the bag inside out, so the dog mess is inside. The Dogs Trust advises that, if no specific dog waste bins are available, you can put the bagged dog mess in a public litter bin.
More tips for responsible dog walking
"All dogs enjoy a long walk and exploring with their noses, so all the smells – people, boats and animals - are wonderful for environment enrichment.”
All these places to go welcome dogs, and are provided with dog waste bins. Some may require dogs to be on leads.
Rickmansworth Aquadrome, Hertfordshire
This Local Nature Reserve consists of a series of lakes, surrounded by woods and grassland, next to the Grand Union Canal. The lakes were formed when disused gravel pits filled naturally with water and there are a variety of walking routes, including a nature trail.
Fradley Junction is where the Trent & Mersey Canal meets the Coventry Canal. There are a number of walking routes around the site, with information boards giving an insight into the canal’s history.
This famous flight of ten locks on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line is the centre of a popular site for walkers, where visitors can view the historic Foxton Inclined Plane – a pioneering boat lift from the early 20th century – and spend time spotting wildlife around the side ponds that supply the locks with water. Dogs should be kept on the lead around the lock and the inclined plane, but there are plenty of off-lead walks nearby. Both the pubs and the café on site have dog-friendly areas.
This picturesque spot on the Grand Union Canal was once known as the ‘stairway to heaven’ by boatmen. The flight was widened in the 1930s and the old narrow locks can still be seen alongside the new ones. A walk here is a great chance to watch the boats go by, and the area is well-provided with dog waste bins at locks 26, 36, 41, 43 and 45.
This two-and-a-half-mile long lake was created to keep the West Midlands canal network supplied with water, and is now a popular leisure attraction for water sports, fishing and, of course, dog walking. The distance around the lake is about five miles, or, if you want to venture further afield, you can join the Staffordshire Way, which runs along the western side of the lake.
This Grade I listed structure dates back to the 18th century and is the steepest flight of locks in the UK. It is a staircase lock, meaning that the lower gate of one lock forms the upper gate of the next. A boat going through the locks is an impressive sight often draws a crowd of walkers who have stopped to watch. Dogs can be off the lead along this stretch of canal, but it is recommended that they be kept on the lead by the locks themselves.
The only remaining interchange between a canal and a tramway, this historic site at the head of the Peak Forest Canal has been restored and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. A heritage trail with information boards guides visitors around the canal, tramways, warehouses and wharves. Dogs are allowed on the towpath on the lead.
Last date edited: 13 May 2016