On 22nd November 2014, a workshop was held at Cannock Chase Visitor Centre which aimed to educate and encourage visitors to the Chase to act responsibly with their dogs. The workshop was entitled “Enjoying walks in the countryside with your dog: How to train a solid recall, stay safe around livestock and why it’s vital to be a responsible dog walker in a Special Area of Conservation.” It was advertised locally and on social media. A copy of the programme and Natalie’s slide are included with this report.
In order to ensure that the group was manageable, limited handler spaces were offered for the practical sessions and participants were encouraged to book their place so that we could cater for the appropriate number of attendees.
In total, there were 14 attendees, 8 of whom brought their dogs along with them. We also had several owners with dogs join us for the practical session that hadn’t booked. The attendees ranged from novice dog owners to professional dog trainers.
Feedback forms were distributed and the comments were all positive, with all of the attendees finding the workshop beneficial, in particular the practical training sessions.
“It was a very useful and informative workshop and Natalie was a very good speaker and instructor. Nice to see such positive training methods being used for this situation.”
The follow on dog walk was held on the 4th of December at 1pm from Milford Common car park. Despite additional bookings, only 3 of the participants attended, perhaps due to the cold weather. The following guidance was sent to all participants to ensure that the ground rules were in place and the walk was well managed:
• This is a managed walk and dogs will be expected to be on the lead or long line at all times during the walk. This is not a walk for people wishing to allow their dogs to meet other dogs or play with other dogs, it is about the dog and handler partnership.
• All dogs should be on a flat collar, body harness and fixed lead or long line – no choke chains, shock collars, spray collars.
• Owners should bring food and a toy to keep their dogs engaged with them and to reward them during the training sessions of the walk.
• Owners should leave their dogs in the car when they arrive so that we can get the dogs out in a managed way and give everyone plenty of space.
• There are a few slight inclines but we will be walking steady and there are alternate routes if you feel you may struggle.
• Wear appropriate clothing and footwear, some areas can be slippy.
• The aim is to have a safe, enjoyable walk!
After setting off for from the car park, we had several designated stop points to hear from Ruth about the site and to complete a practical activity with their dog. All of the dogs were kept on long lines or leads during the walk to prevent them from straying too far and to keep them on the paths and close to their owner. Food and toys were used to reward the dogs for paying attention to their owners and scentwork games and recall exercises were practiced by the participants at each of the stop points.
The walk was well received and all participants felt that they had learnt something new to do with their dog when on a walk, along with learning about the Milford Common area and features of ecological or historical interest.
Whilst it would have been desirable to have a slightly larger group for the walk, the attendees that did come along were engaged and on board with the responsible dog walker messages and I hope that they will spread the word with their dog-owning friends.
For me the theoretical section on the Saturday was a good chance to get to know people and convey some messages without the added distraction of the dogs. The practical exercises were very popular with the attendees and was mentioned on most of the feedback forms as the best part of the day. However, it is quite difficult to manage a group of dogs with mixed abilities and ages so perhaps future courses could be directed at either young dogs (under 18 months) or adults.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the partnership for choosing me to deliver the work and to Emma and Ruth for handling the advertising and bookings so professionally and making sure I had everything I needed for both events.
I look forward to working with you again in the future.
Natalie Light BSc, PPG, APBC (prov)