A Day At DogFest
eDogAdvisor spent last weekend at DogFest. Here is our review of one of the largest dog gatherings in the UK.
The eDogAdvisor team had a fun day out this weekend at DogFest in - not so sunny! - Windsor.
We’d first been back in 2014 when the event originally started and was held in Loseley Park, Guildford. It’s now moved its location to Windsor Great Park and there’s also a Dogfest in Cheshire at Arley Hall. So it’s definitely bigger – last year over 13,000 dogs came and over 20,000 were expected in 2016 – but was it better?
In some ways the organisation of the event didn’t seem to have kept pace with the growth in demand. There were traffic problems in Cheshire and Windsor, annoying for those caught up in them, and spoiling an otherwise lovely day. And it must have been frustrating for those who hadn’t bought tickets in advance (waiting for a better weather forecast maybe?) to find out that the show was sold out and that there were no tickets available on the day.
But the great draw is Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick. His message is one of hope. It’s about never giving up. It’s about pushing boundaries and moving human and animal medicine forward together and rewarding the unconditional love of our furry friends who give us so much and ask so little in return. Anyone who is fortunate enough to hear him speak cannot fail to be moved by his commitment and passion and for many – including us - this was the highlight of the day.
It was disappointing though that the main stage was so small making it difficult for so many to see and hear Noel - a problem that could have easily been solved by simply turning up the sound. The seating in front of the stage was no more than a few straw bales which quickly became soggy in the rain. It was a real shame that more people didn’t get the opportunity to hear this inspirational and unique man.
We were similarly inspired by the people we met from Veterans With Dogs, the UK’s first non-profit charitable organisation which trains Assistance Dogs for British ex-servicemen and woman with invisible injuries to increase their independence and improve the quality of their life. We met the lovely Boo who was already working as an assistance dog and the gorgeous Roo who was in training and learning fast.
It was fascinating talking to Craig MacLellan, the founder of the charity, to understand just how much these dogs help ex-servicemen and women adjust to civilian life. We never cease to be amazed at what dogs are capable of and this is a fantastic charity. You can find out more about Veterans with Dogs here.
And for those of us whose dogs can’t quite match up to those exceptional animals, there were many things for them to try their paws at, including Dog Diving and Dog Agility. As neither of these were our dog’s bag, we entered him instead in the ‘best looking male dog 1 year +’ competition. Looking at the other entrants we were quietly confident (as I’m sure was every other dog owner there), but our dog had other ideas and didn't help his chances by making a dash for it out of the ring when the judge approached. Suffice to say we didn’t get a rosette and we’re having to counsel the dog who says he now has a crisis of confidence and body issues
Fortunately though there were no similar problems for the lovely Monty, winner of the first heat of the ‘Golden Oldie – best dog over 10 years’ category.
As you can see Monty was delighted with his rosette and looking forward to seeing off the rest of the competition in the next stage. We met Monty and his owners whilst sheltering from the one of the several downpours and enjoyed a conversation with them about the many benefits to dogs of Coconut Oil – we’ve used it as a digestion aid in food and externally to cure a cyst. One of the other surprising benefits has been the effect on his coat which is now in fantastic condition. It’s well worth trying.
There were lots of shopping opportunities at DogFest – everything from dog cottages and paddling pools to dog beer and ice cream. With over 9 million dogs in the UK, it’s certainly a big market and our dog was keen to try all the food and treat samples on offer!
Dogfest is a great opportunity to talk to people that you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet. We spent some time chatting to the lovely people from wheels4dogs, the only UK company which supplies wheelchairs and walking aids for dogs, which was originally inspired by the health problems of their own German Shepherd dog Heidi. Sadly, they suffered the same fate as us in the best looking dog competition despite having another German Shepherd with the most beautiful markings. Ah well, there’s always next year.
For us, the move to Windsor Great Park changed the dynamic of the event. At Loseley Park, everything was situated round the main ring, giving the event a focus which seemed to have been lost in the move to Windsor. It didn't help that there were no PA announcements. We missed the start of the Great Dog Walk as it co-incided with a heavy shower and we weren’t sure whether it had actually started. Some of the scheduling seemed strange too – the longer Great Dog Walk clashing with Noel’s talk for example.
We did enjoy our day at DogFest and we all came away tired and muddy. The event is certainly going from strength to strength with the success of Supervet and the rising profile of the charismatic Noel Fitzpatrick. The challenge for future years will be to make sure that the logistics and administration can match the demand.
And it can be the little things. Two years ago there were dog watering stations on every corner, this year we couldn’t find one and the stalls had run out of fresh doggy drinking water by the afternoon. We sincerely hope that the ethos and spirit of DogFest continues and that this doesn’t suffer by it simply becoming too big.