Over the weekend, thousands of dogs and owners (over 10,000 of them including us) descended on the stunning Pylewell Park just outside Lymington for Dogstival, the first ever New Forest Dog Festival to take place in the area and we’re sure that many of the four-legged attendees would join us in saying it was a barking success.
The vision behind Dogstival from organisers Domine and Richard Nowell was to give dogs the best day out possible and boy, did Dogstival deliver. Not only was there an action-packed line-up of things for dogs to do and try (more on that in a moment), but there was plenty for the humans to enjoy too and not to mention that it all took place in the gorgeous setting of the New Forest.
We were invited along to cover Dogstival, the first ever New Forest Dog Festival and had been looking forward to attending for weeks as well as having the chance to see more of the New Forest. I was also intrigued to see how the day would be for an older dog like Belinha who wouldn’t be able to take advantage of some of the fun activities on offer like the dock diving or agility. Given that we were planning to spend the whole day at Dogstival, I brought along Belinha’s ‘wheels’ so she could have a chance to rest-up if needed throughout the day.
Although we arrived not long after Dogstival opened, there were already many excited pups and people already exploring what was on offer and as we soon discovered, there was so much to see and do!
For the more energetic dogs, the Dock Diving was very much in demand. Surprisingly, some dogs who looked like they would be naturals needed some extra encouragement to try out the Dock Diving (which the K9 Aqua team were on hand to provide) whilst others needed no encouragement whatsoever, hurling themselves into the water in pursuit of the ball without a second thought.
For dogs that wanted a dip but of a more gentle nature, a stroll to the dog beach at the far end of the estate for a playful paddle or swim was a big hit with dogs of all sizes. The dog beach was a first for a UK dog festival and without a doubt one of the most popular things on the Dogstival line-up.
Other options on the have-a-go activities line-up were four-legged favourites, Flyball and Agility. I’m always amazed at dogs that take naturally to Flyball such as 7-month-old Dalmatian – Collie cross Patch who was a total natural, ears flying in the wind as he raced down the alley.
If your dog is more of a ‘have a sit down’ rather than the ‘have a go’ type (aka Belinha), then there was plenty for them to enjoy too.
With several hundred stalls around the festival, pups had plenty of tasty treats to sample and for humans, ‘essential’ doggy items to buy.
The Doggy Bakery from The Pupcake Princess was one of our favourites with it’s pretty ‘dog bakery and café’.
And not forgetting the Dogstival arenas and stages with dazzling displays from teams such as the Aces Flyball Team (Crufts 2019 Winners), the dramatic Paws for Thought Display Team, the Rockwood Display Team and many more to keep you entertained throughout the weekend.
We particularly liked the ‘Dog House’ behavioural stage hosted by dog behaviourist and trainer Adem Fehmi (Dog-ease) which had been set up like a house to tackle everyday training challenges. Throughout the weekend, Adem and his dog Wren shared top training tips to help you enjoy experiences with your dog that were suited to your lifestyle. As Adem says ‘there’s no point your dog knowing how to stand on two legs like a meerkat if you don’t feel confident in their behaviour when outside the home’. In a world where we actively seek out dog-friendly places and experiences that allow us to spend more time with our dogs, this really resonates.
The Dogstival Lounge was hosted by Anna Webb, co-host on the BBC’s Barking Hour with a variety of different speakers and doggy topics under discussion throughout both days. We popped by to hear Anna interviewing journalist and writer Kate Spicer talking about her book ‘Lost Dog’ accompanied by the star of said book, (the fortunately no longer lost) rescue hound Wolfie as well as Kate’s journey to becoming a ‘dog person’ with some entertaining highlights along the way.
We also caught up with Molly the Pet Detective and her owner ex-policeman Colin Butcher who hosted a spot in the Dogstival Lounge talking about how they spend their days seeking out Britain’s missing pets…primarily cats!
Aside from the action-packed programme, there were several impromptu events such as the Insta Dogs Meetup hosted by The Somerset Sausage and Designed for Dogs as well as a Sausage Dog Meetup too.
Humans (and hounds) could also take a break and enjoy live music at the Acoustics stage, ride the vintage funfair or sample the scrumptious food on offer from the many artisan and gourmet food stands. We were particularly impressed with the quality and variety of food on offer…even a simple ice-cream was given an upmarket New Forest makeover.
We had originally planned to go along to Dogstival for one day only and then explore some of the other dog-friendly things to do nearby (see our feature on 7 dog-friendly things to do in the New Forest for inspiration) but we enjoyed it so much we went back for the second day too!
Did Dogstival, the first ever New Forest Dog Festival give dogs a fantastic day out as it set out to do? For us, yes it did. Dogstival was all about dogs having the best day out with their humans whilst putting their enjoyment and well-being first and Dogstival did just that. Every dog (and human) we spoke to said what a great time they were having and that was clear from the smiles all around.
Before we headed home, we did find some time to explore nearby and came across a herd of the famous New Forest ponies at Hatchett Moor including a mum and baby foal which was the perfect finishing touch to a brilliant weekend.
Thank you Dogstival for putting on such a fantastic New Forest Dog Festival…we’ll be back next year!
Dates for the doggy diaries…Dogstival will be back on 16th and 17th May 2020
A Few Words On Getting to Dogstival
To take advantage of being at Dogstival and the New Forest we drove to the event and stayed overnight at the Stanwell House Hotel in Lymington. Friends of ours travelled down by train from London which only takes a couple of hours however, you are then reliant on taxis to/from the station or getting a lift. For this reason, we highly recommend hiring a car when coming for the day or the weekend as this will allow you to enjoy your time at Dogstival as well as explore the area. Parking is available onsite at Dogstival for a small charge.