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Walkies by water

There are few things our four-legged friends love more than a nice, long stroll. Taking your dog for a walk helps them to stay fit and healthy, gives them a chance to explore, and reinforces that special bond. With plenty of dog-friendly walks, our canals and rivers are ideal for a spot of fresh air and fun with our canine pals. And as it’s National Pet Month this April, we thought it was the perfect time to bring you some doggy-related tales from the towpath.

We asked some of our Canal & River Trust colleagues, Rebecca Knight, Emily Ding, Pearl Smith and Roy Gibson, to share a few of their own shaggy dog stories.

A person walking a dog along the canal

With hundreds of miles of safe, accessible towpaths, our network has some great places for our four-legged friends to stretch their legs. So, what's so special about taking your dog for a walk along the canalside?

“It's so peaceful and scenic,” says Rebecca, who takes her chihuahua pug mix, Opie, for walks along the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. “It's a nice little escape from the noise and the traffic, and just a lovely change of scenery. When you live in a built-up residential area as I do, having a canal on your doorstep is such a lifeline.”

A young person in a blue jumper with a dog

For Pearl, who goes on regular walks with her friend's cockapoo mix, Mordy it's the sense of community that sets our canals apart. “I do think people are a lot friendlier by the canals than they are on other walks,” she says. “I find that people are more likely to wave and say good morning; there's definitely much more of a community vibe.”

Emily, who walks whippet, Murphy, along the Rochdale Canal at Hebden Bridge, agrees: “When you're out with your dog on the canal, you just naturally strike up conversations. People are like, ‘Oh, it's Murphy', and you just get chatting.”

Picture shows Pearl and Mordy on the Stourbridge Canal

As we know, taking a brisk stroll along the towpath is a great way to stay in shape, and having your best pal by your side gives you a little extra motivation. As Pearl tells us: “Basically, Mordy's a great excuse to get out with my friend and go on all sorts of walks and adventures along our local canal.”

And it's not just our physical fitness that improves when we spend time by water. For Roy, walking rescue dog, Pringle, along the River Ouse in York made a huge difference to their mental health. After suffering episodes of anxiety in a previous job, a friend suggested they take Pringle for walks over their lunch hour. To Roy's surprise, it worked wonders.

“I can't really imagine a lunch break without a dog walk.” Roy says, “We just go off together and get lost for a bit. It's so nice to be out in the fresh air, not thinking about anything, just totally switching off. It's essential for my wellbeing, I think.”

A small black dog outside next to water
A young person and their dog sitting on a sofa

With an array of wildlife on our canals, including ducks, geese and swans, there's always a risk that a curious pup might end up in the water. We asked if any of our dogs ever taken the plunge? “Mordy has gone in the canal once,” says Pearl, “but that was enough to teach him a lesson, and he hasn't gone in since.”

As Mordy's impromptu dip shows, it's always important to be aware of the potential hazards when you're walking your dog along the towpath. Keep an eye out for wildlife, make sure your dog's wearing an ID tag, and be particularly careful in winter when canals might be frozen over. And, of course, always pick up after your pooch and pop it in a bin.

Picture shows Emily and Murphy relaxing after a walk by the towpath

Send us a picture of your best friend

To celebrate National Pet Month, we'd love to see your own doggy photos and hear your shaggy dog stories from the canalside, just like Rebecca, Emily, Pearl and Roy's. Simply drop us a line at [email protected] and you could both appear in future editions of Waterfront.

In the meantime, if you'd like to find a new path to follow with your furry, four-legged pal, why not take a look at this selection of dog-friendly walks on your local canal.

Last Edited: 22 March 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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