You might not think owning a dog in Hong Kong, much less getting out and exploring with one is feasible. However, out of 1,108 square kilometres of land, three-quarters is countryside! With 24 country parks, managed by AFCD, to explore – some just a short walk or car ride away, Hong Kong is a great place to explore with your canine companion, and we’re here to help you navigate your way around.
Rules and etiquette
Whilst we’re very fortunate to be able to visit our country parks with our dogs, there are some rules and laws, dog owners must abide by.
By Hong Kong law, all dogs of 20kg or over must be kept on a leash no longer than 2 metres when in public areas. Although dogs may be off leash whilst out in the country parks, it is the handler’s responsibility to ensure that the dog is always under control, and not a nuisance to other animals, wildlife or country park visitors.
If you can see that your dog is a cause for distress or discomfort to any of the above, it is always best to grab a hold of your dog or leash them until you are in the clear, no matter, how friendly your dog is.
Protected areas and reservoirs, are strictly off limits to people and dogs, and come with hefty fines.
According to the Waterworks Ordinance, any person who enters, bathes or washes in a reservoir can be liable to a HK$50,000 fine and up to 2 years’ imprisonment. So under no circumstances should one allow their dog to enter, foul or drink from a reservoir.
Parks and gazetted beaches are strictly off limits to dogs. However, in recent months there have been an increase in pet-inclusive parks.
Around 5,000 species of wildlife call Hong Kong home, and although most of these animals are placid and have grown accustom to encountering humans, it is important to respect their space, and give them a wide berth to avoid distressing these animals.
Whenever you encounter a wild animal, it is best to remain calm, leash your dog and allow these animals to pass or move on of their own accord, rather than try squeeze by them or scare them away.
Most accidents occur when the animal feels aggravated or threatened, so under no circumstances should you allow your dog to approach them, no matter how friendly either may seem.
The best times to go hiking in Hong Kong is usually between October to early May, when its cooler.
Summer’s (from late May to September) are usually very hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 31 °C.
During this season, it is best to walk your dogs early in the day, or later in the evening – and to avoid walking your dogs around the middle of the day, if it can be avoided.
The summer seasons usually bring periods of heavy rain and typhoons, which can cause landslides, and heavier flows of streams and waterfalls, so be sure to always check the weather forecast and avoid visiting these areas if heavy rain is predicted.
We had a particularly traumatising incident where a dog entered a pool atop a 50 foot waterfall a few days after a T10 signal, and was swept over the edge. Luckily she survived the drop – but it was pure, dumb luck and NOT worth the risk.
Breeds most at risk
Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with short-muzzles or a flattened face, such as pugs, bulldogs, Pekingese, French bulldogs, to name a few) are very susceptible to heatstroke as they lack the ability to regulate their body temperatures in the heat and, in some cases, have died as a result of going out for their regular walk during a summer’s day.
Even if your dog is not brachycephalic, temperatures can swell to dangerous levels and cause road surfaces to heat and cause burns to their paws.
Black dogs may also be susceptible to overheating, so it may be worth considering getting a cooling vest when out and about.
What to bring
It's always a good idea to do your research of the area you will be exploring before you leave for your trip, and to pack accordingly.
What is the terrain like? Is the walk covered or near a stream? What is the weather forecast? Is the trail safe for dogs? How long will we be gone?
Some staples that we always take with us are:
First aid kit
Some form of waterproof
Collapsible water bowl for the dog
Water (depending on the season you may want to bring between 1-2L per person)
Fully charged phone (and a portable charger)
Although most trails on Hong Kong island usually have pretty good mobile coverage, this varies the further out you go, so it might be a good idea to have a physical map on hand so you can find your way back, instead of relying on your phone. Maps can be purchased from the Lands Department for $30.
What to wear
For humans; you’ll want to invest in some decent hiking, outdoor or trail running shoes – particularly if you plan on making a habit of exploring the trails.
A good quality walking shoe can save you from a bruised bum, ego – or worse! So we always recommend that you don’t skimp here.
As for clothing, you’ll want sports clothing that is breathable and sweat wicking.
Although you may be tempted to wear shorts in the hotter temperatures, the warmer weather usually comes with an increase in mozzies and midges. This is also not a good idea if you plan on doing a little exploring off-piste, as these pathways are not maintained and are usually over grown. Therefore, some coverage of the legs (and maybe arms) is usually a good idea for these instances.
If hiking in cooler climates, it is advisable to wear layers to keep warm, so in the event you do feel warm as you walk, you can always remove them as necessary.
For dogs; it is always recommended that your dog has some form of ID tag on them, and that they cannot easily get out of whatever you attach this to (collar, harness).
There have been an increase in lost dog reports because dogs have slipped out of their leash, collar or harness. In the unfortunate event this does happen, you want to ensure whoever finds or spots your dog is able to contact you or report your dog missing.
This requires a good-fitting collar or harness – ideally you should only be able to fit in your two fingers at the neck and armpit areas.
You could go one extra step and even acquire a pet tracker or GPS device for your dog, for extra peace of mind. Tidy up after yourselves
And last but definitely not least, it's important that we clean up after yourselves, and our dogs, wherever we are. If you are out in town, it is always best to pick up and dispose of any dog waste, and bring a bottle of water with you to wash away any waste or urine out of respect for others and the country parks.