Dogs Welcome – National Trust up their game to welcome four legged friends

The National Trust, in partnership with Forthglade, have launched a new initiative to improve access for four-legged friends across the beautiful places that the Trust cares for in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

From introducing more dog-friendly trails, dog waste bins, wash down areas, and drinking stations, as part of the Dogs Welcome project, the National Trust will be taking several steps to ensure dog owners and their pups feel welcome.

With improved facilities and overall making it easier for those with dogs to plan visits, the initiative will help dog owners make the most of their time spent outside with their canine companions as well as enjoying connecting with nature.

As part of the Dogs Welcome project all National Trust places have been assessed for dog friendliness and will be given a special Pawprint rating. This will appear on the National Trust website and in the member handbook in January 2022.  3 Pawprints (Best), 2 Pawprints (Good) and 1 Pawprint (Standard), helping visitors plan great adventures with their canine companions.

Across the National Trust in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you can expect to see:

  • Improvements to access, such as increasing the number of gardens that let you visit with your dog on a lead.
  • Increasing the number of places that have dog welcome and orientation information, maps for people visiting with dogs, including suggested walks and more.
  • Increasing the provision of dog water stations and dog poo bins.
  • Supporting National Trust staff to balance dog access with exceptional nature conservation.
  • Working with the Trust’s tenant farmers and dog walking visitors on critical issues like keeping livestock, dogs and their owners safe.

©National Trust Images – Megan Taylor

Forthglade and certified animal behaviourist, Caroline Wilkinson’s expert tips to prepare for and enjoy days out or staycations with your dog:

Preparation is Key

Doing a little preparation work with your dog in advance of your day trip will help you all better enjoy your day out. Take a look at the terrain to make sure it’s safe, if there are livestock you need to bear in mind and are there places for your dog to enjoy both on and off the lead. For example, the ‘Dog’s Welcome’ initiative from The National Trust and Forthglade takes all this into consideration when you plan any visits to the places taken care of by the trust.

If your dog isn’t used to long car journeys, start to build up the frequency they’re going out in the car slowly. If they usually sleep in a crate or pen but you can’t take it with you, you could get them used to a pop-up travel crate to try out.

If your dog hasn’t been out for many meals with you, practice having on-lead “pub lunches” in your own garden. Teaching your dog to settle on a specific mat or blanket can also be good practice for calmly relaxing during human mealtimes – you can then take this with you when you go out.

Consider writing a list of things not to forget, collars with ID tag, long and short lead if useful, healthy treats to encourage and reward good behaviour and finally, toys to keep them busy.

Adventures with Puppies

With many owners welcoming new puppies during lockdown, they may feel daunted at the prospect of day trips with a young dog. Creating positive early new experiences can be a good way to set your dog up for a lifetime of successful adventures! Try to take a relaxed approach and don’t cram the day with too many activities. All dogs need lots of quality sleep to be calm and comfortable, but puppy owners should be especially mindful of balancing fun with sleep!

Home from Home

Going on staycations can bring many new experiences for dogs, starting with living in a completely new environment! Pack items that will make your dog feel more comfortable in these new environments – their own bed (full of familiar smells), their usual food, and some of their favourite toys. You may find your dog is a little less comfortable sleeping in a room on its own in this new environment, so support them by moving their bed closer to where you’re sleeping.

Seek Out Calm Spaces

We all want to be able to switch off and enjoy the calm that being out in nature can bring. Consider avoiding the busy local beach – any other holiday hotspots – so that you can avoid the crowds.Seek out special off-the-beaten track walks or consider visiting a National Trust site to take advantage of their ‘Dog’s Welcome’ initiatives. Walking in quiet spaces will allow you to fully engage in your environment – and with your dog – you will both be happier and healthier for it.

Too Much of a Good Thing

While it can be tempting to share your lovely cafe lunches or ice creams with your dog, it may wreak havoc on their behaviour as well as their tummy! Too much sugar could leave you with a hyper dog who is much more likely to act up than be a calm companion for your day out or staycation. Adding too many new foods at once – especially when they’re not ideal for our dogs – can end up in multiple toilet trips… not very relaxing! Make sure you take your dog’s usual food and treats – or check with a local pet shop in advance to see if you can pick it up there. If staying overnight, it can also be useful to bring some of your own tap water from home or buy some bottled water to keep your dog’s tummy happy.

Solo Time?

If staying away, not all B&B’s or holiday rentals will allow you to leave your dog unattended so make sure you check what the rules are of the place you’re staying in advance. For some dogs, a little human-free downtime between all the new adventures can be gratefully received! But if your dog hasn’t been left alone in a new space before you want to make sure they’re not getting stressed. Never leave them alone within the first 24 hours as they won’t have had time to get used to the new environment. When you do try to leave them, take a pet camera with you so you can check if they’re relaxing or stressing when left alone. If you see any stress signs, go back to them immediately. Not only do we not want to have stressed dogs, but you also want to avoid any damage to the place you’re staying in.

Safe and Calm Travels

One of the biggest areas of concern for pet owners when taking their dogs anywhere is that of car travel. It’s really important that we set our dogs up for success, by getting them used to longer periods of time in the car slowly in advance of any long trips. Make sure you have them safely secured in a crate or with a crash-tested car harness. Plan regular comfort breaks so they can have a toileting opportunity, stretch their legs, and have a nice sniff. It can be wise to feed a slightly smaller meal (or for some dogs no food at all) before you set off. Depending on the length of your journey, you can always give them a snack along the way.

Make Memories

One of the best things about days out, or staycations with your dog is the uninterrupted time you get together. Computers have (hopefully) been left behind and your focus is on having fun together. Many pet owners find going on adventures with their dog strengthens their bond and provides the chance to really switch off and relax together. Try to avoid checking in on social media or work emails while you’re out – a digital detox will prioritise your enjoyment of the small moments of the day. Take lots of photos and enjoy the fun moments of running on the beach together or paddling in streams!

©National Trust Images-Chris Lacey