Ah the Summer Holidays; a time to head to the beach or off on a family holiday, desperately trying to entertain your children for days on end, as well as trying to get them to do at least some of their holiday work before September rolls around.
But what if the creature you have to entertain isn’t a child, but a dog? Nowadays there’s no need to leave your dog gazing sadly at the door while you head off on a day trip. Lots of activities are now designed specifically with the dog – and the dog owner – in mind.
It might sound barking, but we hunted down some of the best activities for you and your doggy friends to enjoy this summer.
For the salty seadogs
When summer gets a bit much, there’s nothing a hot dog enjoys more than a quick dip to cool off. When I accidentally flooded part of the garden the other day (don’t ask), my dog Puffin was delighted to discover her new impromptu paddling pool. Of course, there’s always the sea or a river or stream for your dog to swim in; but there are lots of other places who host special swimming events for aquatic pups. Outdoor pools such as Saltdean Lido, in Brighton, host their annual dog swim over two weekends in September, where humans can join their dogs in the pool (or vice versa). Sandsfords Parks Lido in Cheltenham also has a dog swim weekend, as do many other lidos. Alternatively, in London there are a number of dog ponds where your pup can go for a swim, including in Hampstead Heath, Clapham Common and at Ruislip Lido.
For the cultured hound
Most outdoor museums and galleries allow dogs to come too, such as the Ryedale Folk Museum in Yorkshire, or the Beamish open air museum in County Durham. But lots of other cultural attractions open their doors to dogs. Newlyn Art Gallery in Cornwall welcomes well-behaved dogs, as does their second venue, The Exchange in Penzance.
In London, Southwark Park Galleries are always open to canine visitors, and in fact their current exhibition, DOG SHOW, is entirely curated by a selection of cultured canines. There are also a number of dog-friendly cinema evenings, such as Tuesday nights at the Fulham Beach, and the Puppy Love screenings at the Exhibit, in Balham.
For the culinary canine
While many pubs are dog-friendly, especially in the countryside, it’s rare to find a pub that actively caters for dogs. They do exist, however! At the Orange Tree in Thornham, Norfolk, dogs are welcomed with a choice of probiotic salmon, chicken or lamb for their main course, with pigs ears, doggy sausage rolls and bones with marrow if your mutt is simply after a light snack. They’re also welcome to stay in the pub’s downstairs bedrooms. The Lamb Inn in Rusper, West Sussex, also offers a ‘doggy roast’ on Sundays, while the Seagrave Arms in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire, serves up Snuffle dog beer, meaning your pooch can join you for a pint. All Star Lanes, in Westfield White City, are also running ‘Barking Brunch’ events throughout July and August.
For the energetic mutt
It’s all very well taking your dog to the cinema with you; but let’s be honest, he’d probably be happier on a nice long walk. Luckily, even for most city dogs there are plenty of lovely walks to be had. Dogs are allowed at most of the National Trust’s properties and estates up and down the country, and their website is extremely helpful for finding the best walks near you. They also rent out a number of dog-friendly cottages.
For something a bit different, dogs are also allowed on a number of steam trains up and down the country. Head down to the Isle of Wight with your pooch and take a trip on the Isle of Wight steam train, or adventure out of London on the Epping to Ongar steam railway, where dogs travel free. Perhaps the most dramatic option, particularly for all those canine Harry Potter fans, is the Jacobite Steam Train, which travels from Mallaig to Fort William on Scotland’s west coast, over the Glenfinnan viaduct. You’ll recognise this, along with some of the carriages and engines from the Harry Potter films; and best of all, dogs go free!
For dogs that like showing off
There are plenty of fun dog shows throughout the summer; a great opportunity to strut your stuff, meet some doggy friends, and perhaps even come away with a rosette. Keep a look out for your local dog show, for example at your local flower or agricultural show. On 11 August, for example, the National Trust are running a Dog Fun Day at Woolbeding Countryside, where dogs (and their owners) can take part in a dog show, have a go at dog agility, see working dog demos, and learn some tips about how to keep your dog under control around livestock.
If you have a mutt that likes to travel like greased lightning – probably a terrier or a lurcher – then why not have a look to see if there is any fun terrier or lurcher racing on? The Epsom Terrier Derby, for example, which runs on the Sunday of the August bank holiday, is always good fun, whether you have a terrier of your own who wants to take part, or simply for the spectacle. Watching terriers racing hell for leather after a lure along the hallowed turf of Epsom Downs racecourse is always fun, and hugely unpredictable. As terrier owners know, anything could happen. (www.terrierderby.com).