10 tips for walking the West Highland Way with a dog
Many people enjoy walking with their dog – and you might be wondering whether it’s possible to walk the length of the West Highland Way with your favourite pet. Here are our tips for walking the West Highland Way with your dog.
Just like you, it’s important that your dog is fit enough to complete the daily miles of the 96-mile West Highland Way. You should ensure that they have adequate training in the build up to the long-distance Scottish hike. Read How to train for the West Highland Way.
The training should build up bit by bit and follow a similar pattern to your walking training programme.
There are general recommendations about a dog’s age and longer distance walks. You should check with a vet to ensure your dog is old enough to walk the daily distance day after day.
The right breed
There are some dogs that are naturally able to cope with long-distance walks, while others are more suited to shorter walks. It’s important that you do not over walk a dog. Have a read of this guide to the best dogs for hiking.
The West Highland Way can be busy with other people, including walkers, runners and cyclists, as well as other dogs. It is not advisable to walk a dog on the trail if they are not happy around strangers, or other dogs.
Think about walking the 96 miles over more days than you might if you were going without your dog. You favourite pooch will thank you for shorter days, rather than trying to walk many miles every day.
You could take rest days so that both you and your dog can recover between each walking section from Milngavie, near Glasgow, to Fort William in the Highlands.
Having a company move your overnight luggage for you along the West Highland Way makes sense for both you and your dog. It’s far easier to walk each day with only a lightweight day pack. Ask Highland Transfers for information about luggage transfer.
Food for thought
Your dog will need adequate nourishment to cover the daily miles. Make sure you bring enough food to carry with you on the trail, as well as their favourite food for mornings and evenings at your overnight accommodation.
You dog will enjoy treats for extra energy as well and it’s important to carry drinking water for your furry friend. There will be plentiful streams and rivers along the route but you won’t be sure where these are so water and a bowl should be essential kit items.
Keep the cool
Dogs can suffer in high temperatures, so it's a good idea to plan your West Highland Way walk in the cooler months, or walk earlier and later in the day. It might be a good idea to take a rest in the shade when the sun is at its warmest in the summer months, for example around the hours of mid-day.
While Scotland rarely has very high temperatures, it is usually July and August when the sun is at its hottest.
Note: Likewise a West Highland Way walk in winter might be too cod for some breeds of dog.
Take a lead – and other kit
Some sections of the West Highland Way have livestock, including cattle and sheep. Make sure your dog is on the lead when approaching animals and if they are not good with people, or have poor recall, it could be you have your dog on a lead for the entire trail.
Other important dog kit will include poop bags, a blanket or bed for overnights and, possibly, dog boots or socks if you are worried about them getting sore feet. There is a lot of hard packed trail on the West Highland Way and this could lead to sore paws for dogs that are only used to softer terrain.
If you plan to walk the West Highland Way in the spring, autumn or summer, it might be a god idea to have a dog jacket, whether it’s for warmth or to keep the worst of the rain off their fur.
Happy dog = happy walker
Just like choosing a friend or partner to walk the West Highland Way with you, it's important to consider whether your dog will enjoy the trail. Make sure your dog is keen to walk daily miles, otherwise you will be better leaving your pet at home or booking a boarding kennel while you head off to walk solo.
Are you planning to walk the West Highland Way?
If you want to discuss any plans or ideas you have for walking, running or cycling the West Highland Way, you can give Highland Transfers a call. We can help with luggage transfer between your overnight accommodations and we have a wealth of other information at our fingertips.