Forest Friendly Dogs Seminar
Also issued on behalf of New Forest National Park Authority; Forestry England; Verderers
Professional help for responsible dog ownership
The problems caused by some dog owners have been the focus of a unique seminar held in Brockenhurst, uniting the New Forest’s authorities with professionals whose businesses relate to dogs.
The seminar was put together to try to bridge the gap between the official organisations and other groups who manage the Forest or are concerned with dogs, and dog owners themselves. The delegates who took part all interact on a daily basis with dog owners through their businesses, and often discuss related issues. It’s hoped the professionals will contribute to managing problems which affect the reputation of all owners.
The two-hour event was organised by the New Forest Dog Owners Group for around 60 professionals, including walkers, pet shop owners, groomers and kennels, discussed current issues as well as hearing from the experts. The National Park Authority, Forestry England, the Verderers, and a qualified dog trainer all spoke, and other attendees included the Police, Wild New Forest, and NFDC’s Dog Warden. The seminar was chaired by Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, former chairman of both the Verderers, and the New Forest National Park Authority.
“This has been a long time coming because of Covid, but we thought it could be a useful way of getting messages to dog owners who don’t behave responsibly,” says Heather Gould, Chair of the New Forest Dog Owners Group. “It may be worrying livestock, not picking up poo, or chasing the wildlife, all are behaviours we need to stop.
“It could be a case of laziness or lack of education, but this minority of dog owners harm us all and that needs to change. We won’t convince everyone, but this is yet another way of trying to develop better behaviour. It’s also the case that visitors as well as local residents can contribute to the issues and some of the discussion focused on what more we can do to help those who come here enjoy the Forest, to behave responsibly.”
The issue of Ground Nesting Birds was highlighted, as this is the start of the season. Signs are in place, but it was agreed that it was far better for dog walkers simply to avoid the areas where birds nest, if they can.
“It was great to have the opportunity to speak with local dog businesses to discuss ways of working together to help care for the Forest – including signing up to the Professional Dog Walkers’ Charter and the Love the Forest charity scheme,” says Gillie Molland, Lead Ranger for the New Forest National Park Authority. “We covered issues such as keeping to the main tracks during ground-nesting bird season, and picking up after dogs. It was also beneficial to hear everyone’s ideas about how they can help pass on messages to customers about responsible dog ownership when they visit the National Park – keeping this special place safe and enjoyable for all.”
Other ideas put forward to promote responsible dog walking included sponsorship of dog poo bins in car parks; children’s education to remind parents to behave properly; and more information on forest releases such as stallions and pannage (pigs).
Charlotte Belcher, Community Manger, Forestry England, says: “Caring for the New Forest’s precious landscape and wildlife can only really be effective if we all work together. All of those who enjoy spending time here need to be involved and dog walkers are critical to this. We were really pleased to be part of this positive session and will continue to work closely with this group to help educate and support responsible behaviour amongst dog owners right cross the Forest.”
There was also a presentation from Dr Fiona MacDonald, who is one of the leading researchers into CRGV, or Alabama Rot. The organism which causes the disease, was first identified in the New Forest and is very close to being specifically identified through DNA. Once this step is accomplished work will begin on providing better treatments. Dr MacDonald thanked NFDOG for the tens of thousands of pounds it has raised for research over the last decade.
1) Dog Professionals discuss ideas to promote good behaviour with official bodies
2) Verderer and Commoner Robert Stride talks to dog business professionals about his experiences at the NFDOG seminar