Dog Fest is something that Amber and I have marked off in our calendar every year the minute the tickets are released! I have to admit, it’s probably my favourite dog event of the year (No one tell Crufts). We have attended for the past three years now and each year it seems to get better and better.
They have moved the location of Dog Fest north this year from Arley Hall Gardens to Cholmondeley Castle Gardens and although Arley Hall is much closer to us, moving the event definitely made the experience of getting there far more pleasant. With an event this big, queueing to get in is expected but last year I was sat in the car for over an hour, driving to a location that is only 10 minutes down the road! This year our journey time was also an hour, however Cholmondeley Castle is 45 minutes away from where I live, so it’s safe to say they have improved their traffic management.
Upon arrival we went to visit Amber’s favourite people, the Guru Pet Food team!
Whilst we were at the Guru stand we picked up some of their new ‘Reel’ Fishskin treats as well as a couple of Trip Bones and Amber’s personal favourite, a pack of their venison sausages.
Once we had done some treat shopping we ventured off to find the Equafleece stand. For a while now I have been wanting to get my hands on a mulberry coloured fleece for Amber and they finally had it in her size. So thats three she has now… someone stop me!!
We then visited the Soopa stand. Amber tested out all of their treat favours before deciding on the Carrot and Pumpkin dental sticks. Soopa treats are great as their chews are 100% natural and produced to human grade standard. Amber is loving them!
Another product I’ve been meaning to get for a while now is a Pit Pat fitness tracker. This will definitely help me manage Amber’s exercise levels and hopefully enable her to lose some weight. We had a wonderful time hanging out in the VIP are at their stand eating treats and drinking Prosecco!
The Pit Pat stand was just across from the Hound Hangout where we spotted our Instagram friends @flossie_and_family so we ventured over there to say hi! Whilst we were there we met a lovely little Maltese called Ozzy (@_theycallmeozzy_ on Instagram) and the adorable Roshe the Sprocker (@roshethesprocker)
We then went on the hunt for a bed and came across Collared Creatures. They had just what I was looking for, a pillow bed that I could use in the car and would also fit into Amber’s cart so that she has something comfy to sit on when she’s in there. Their beds are great quality and are fur repellent. Amber has barely been off hers since we got it!
Before we left we went back to the Guru stand where we met some more lovely Instagram friends which was a lovely way to end the day. We’re looking forward to next year’s Dog Fest already!
Amber and I had a lovely bank holiday walk planned but the sun came along and ruined it. This is England… We don’t plan for sun! It was far too hot to take Amber on any kind of walk (even with her fresh trim) so we decided to do something different and went to explore Central Bark Manchester. This is a dog cafe with a difference – it’s beach themed! Very fitting considering the weather – we had all the joys of the beach but without the sunburn and dehydration.
Upon arrival you are greeted with a ‘pee station’ which in any other situation would be rather worrying! Once your dog has made use of this facility, you can go inside and find yourself a seat in the cafe.
We were greeted by one of the lovely staff members as soon as we walked through the door and of course, Amber got a lot of attention. We were also greeted by some other furry friends as not only can you bring your dog, they also have some very well behaved pooches wondering around the cafe.
When it came to ordering food the service was incredible quick. I decided on some Avocado toast and being the greedy person I am had a big slice of chocolate cake for pudding!
As well as just being a dog cafe, Central Bark also offeres a day care service. You can even book your dog in for an hours play with the day care dogs whilst you enjoy your food – I decided to keep Amber with me in the cafe as she’s boring and doesn’t really play.
They do also offer a boarding service and I have to say it seems like a great environment for your pup to spend a holiday. They spend time walking the dogs who are boarding with them around the cafe so that they can say hi to everyone! Some of the well behaved ones even get to hang out in the cafe all day along with the manager’s dogs. I think Amber would love it there!
Finally, they have a groom room facility! I imagine some lucky dogs have a great day here – they get a makeover, a play date with loads of other doggy friends and endless attention from the cafe customers.
We will definitely be visiting again and would recommend it to anyone who lives in/ around the Manchester area.
One of my all time favourite places to walk Amber is Lymm. For such a small town, there’s a lot to do. Lymm has it all – fields, a canal, woods and of course Lymm Dam. They also have some dog friendly pubs in and around the village so you can really make a day of it when you visit.
With Amber’s Birthday coming up on Tuesday (10th April) I decided to celebrate this weekend by planning a day out with her friend Skye the border collie!
Luckily the British weather was actually on our side for once and as well as having no rain, we were even graced with a bit of sun. After having a very long lie in, we started the day off with a walk down the canal. Despite the good weather, being the little mud magnet she is, Amber still managed to end up looking like she was wearing brown socks about 5 minutes into our adventure.
The canal runs right through Lymm and the surrounding towns so it’s a great walk on its own – I’ll do another blog about some of our favourite canal walks – but today we used it as a passage to get to Lymm Dam. You can come off the canal into the village then cut through the village to get to the Dam, which is what we decided to do. Walking down the canal is much nicer than walking though the town itself, and far more entertaining for the dogs. Amber got very excited when she saw a group of ducks. She would have gone in after them if she was less of a wimp! Although that might have been a good thing as it would have at least cleaned her up a bit; at this point she was absolutely covered in mud.
After a short walk through the village, we made it to out destination, Lymm Dam! This is definitely up there in my list of all time favourite walks. It’s great for Amber as it’s a circuit which takes about 45 minutes to complete. Since Amber is broken 90% of the time, I usually try to keep her walks to under an hour, so this is perfect for her! If you don’t want to walk the whole way around, you can also cut across in the middle. This takes about 20 minutes off your walk which is what we did today (Since Amber had already walked down the canal to get there). The fact that it’s a circuit is also great for us humans, especially the ones who like taking photos, because it means there is always different scenery to be looking out for and you’re never going back on yourself.
Both the canal and Lymm Dam are especially great places for dogs who enjoy swimming. Unfortunately, Amber is not one of those and would rather stay dirty for days than go anywhere near water. But if you do have a water-loving dog, keep these locations in mind!
Once we had completed our walk around the Dam, we walked back through the Village. The plan was to get food there, but since it was a nice day, everywhere was packed! So instead we went to a lovely little pub that is just a 5 minute drive outside of Lymm called the Saracens Head. Unfortunately they doesn’t allow dogs in the bar but the food was great and there is plenty of outside seating so it’s a great place to consider for summer, or the occasional miracle spring day when it isn’t raining (like today)!
Despite not allowing dogs indoors, they do still keep them in mind and provide dog bowls near the outside seating area. Amber is usually too fussy to drink out of communal dog bowls, but even she gave in and had a little drink, which I’m sure was very much needed after her walk!
All in all, Amber had a great day and is now fast asleep next to me on the sofa as I write this. She had loads of fun looking for ducks on the canal, running around the Dam (yes, she actually ran a little – amazing!) and begging for food at the pub! I’d definitely recommend exploring Lymm if you are ever in the area, as I’m sure Amber would too!
If you follow us on Instagram you’ll know that Amber has recently sprained her ankle. (If not then you can follow us here: @CheshireCanine). This has meant that she has been out of action for the past couple of weeks and it’s safe to say she has not been impressed about it.
Although her primary hobbies include sleeping and snacking on treats, even lazy dogs like Amber get fed up when they’re forced to do this all day every day. She was desperate for a walk, and the fact that she is on anti-inflammatories for a separate health problem didn’t help as although she was limping she didn’t realise her leg was sore. She’s been a nightmare to keep still! The good news is that as of today, Amber is limp free so can start getting back into her normal routine. However, when she was hobbling around the house I needed something to entertain her with so I came us with some easy DIY mind/ scent games for her to play that involved minimal movement.
I thought i’d share these with you all as they’re great fun to play with a fully functional dogs as well as broken ones!
Cake Tin Game
For this game all you need is an old cake tin and some tennis balls – these are items that are usually easy to find in a house that is home to a dog but not for us! Amber has never grasped the concept of playing with a ball – you throw it and she expects you to bring it back to her – so playing this game is probably the most use she’ll ever get out of tennis balls. Luckily they’re not the most expensive of dog toys so I picked up a pack of 6 at Pets At Home for just over £1 then scavenged the house for the very few balls Amber did already own.
Once you have gathered all of your equipment – which was hopefully easier for you than it was for me – all you have to do is fill the cupcake tin with balls and place treats under a few of them. Most of the time amber finds all of the treats within a couple of minutes so we usually have a few rounds to keep her occupied for a while.
This is also a great way to feed dogs that have a problem with eating too quickly. Amber is quite good when it comes to her food but when she gets the occasional treat of some chicken after Sunday Dinner she inhales it in seconds. I’ve taken to using this method to slow her down and I have to say it works wonders!
Treat In Towel
This is a great game as you can make it as easy or as challenging as you like. All you need is a towel or blanket and a few treats. Just pop a treat onto the towel and let your dog search for it.
This really is a game for everyone as you can make more challenging as the dog gets used to playing – I started Amber off with a small blanket and only folded it over a couple of times. She has now moved on to a full sized towel with treats in several places and more folds concealing them.
Hide and Seek
We play this game in two different ways – one of which requires a very good stay and the other which you can do without. The first way i’ll share with you is the game I used whist Amber’s leg needed resting. This involves hiding treats around the room then letting your dog go and look for them. Whilst Amber was recovering I kept it to one small section of the room but if you want to give your dog a real challenge you can build up to using the whole house (If they have free reign of the house that is)! If you don’t want to put treats directly onto your furniture/ the floor you can also use little pots or shoe boxes to hide the teats in, leaving some empty so that you’re not making it too easy for them.
The second way I play hide and seek with Amber does require a good stay but if you haven’t quite cracked that prefect stay yet you could always ask someone else to keep hold of your dog until you have hidden. What I do with Amber is sit her in the kitchen and ask her to stay there whilst I go and hide elsewhere in the house. I take a bag of treats with me because she’d have no interest in finding me if I didn’t have food! Once i’ve hidden I simply call her and she’ll come and find me.
These are all very easy buy fun ways to occupy your dog if they’re broken, on a rainy day or juts in general!
Amber and I were lucky enough to have been invited by Frontline Plus to attend Crufts this year. It was Amber’s first time visiting the world famous event, however it wasn’t mine. I attended in 2017 but had to leave Amber at home – much to her disgust. Having now experienced the show both with a dog and without, I thought I’d share with you the main differences I noticed and which I enjoyed more. Dog or No Dog? That is the question!
Packing for the trip:
With no dog: One advantage to traveling alone is that you are able to pack much lighter! Last year, all I took with me was a small bag which contained my purse and not much else. This was very comfortable to walk around with all day and didn’t weigh me down in the slightest.
With a dog: Packing for Crufts this year was a whole different ball game! I had a backpack full of pooch essentials from poo bags to extra accessories (ok, maybe these aren’t essential but I over pack). Having all of this in my bag did leave me with a bad back by the end of the day – but its a small price to pay if it means your dog is comfortable and well looked after throughout the day.
With no dog: My journey to Crufts in 2017 was pretty straightforward – I hopped on a train and arrived straight into the NEC, which is connected to the train station. That was about the extent of my travel last year – pretty stress free apart from the fact I lost my card and almost turned up to Crufts with no money – but thats a story for another day.
With a dog: This year my journey was quite different. I decided to drive as although Amber is great on the train, I had quite a lot of stuff to take with me so though it would be easier to take the car. Luckily for me I can zoom straight down the M6 for an hour and a half and i’m at the NEC , so again it was quite a stress free journey. The best thing about driving to Crufts is definitely being able to sing your heart out in the car – if you did that on the train you’d get some funny looks.
The event itself:
With no dog: One thing that I found I did more of when I went dogless in 2017 was watching events in the rings. I watched quite a few agility runs as well as obedience and even a bit of doggy dancing! I must have spent half the day stood around the different rings watching the incredibly talented dogs and owners do their thing! This was great however it left me with less time for shopping for goodies to spoil Amber with. Lets just say I don’t think she was happy with what I brought home for her last year.
With a dog: Whilst at Crufts this year I caught about 5 minutes (if that) of the obedience and that was it as far as event spectating went. Amber was not about to stand around watching other dogs compete when she was surrounded by food companies. For this reason we got A LOT of shopping done this year. Amber was in her element, rushing from stand to stand lapping up all of the attention she was getting. We had a great time visiting some amazing companies and learning more about them and what they stand for – I thought i’d share some of my favourites. The first stand we came across was Beco Pets – Naturally Amber lapped up all the attention everyone at the stand gave her. We learned about how Beco was different to other foods and what the benefits of feeding it are – these are outlined on their website if you’d like to have a look. I picked up a bag of their free range chicken flavour and we were very kindly given some samples of the other flavours in their range as well as some poo bags – which are always needed!
We then went to see what was going on at the Lily’s Kitchen stand. They had a great feature where you wrote down your #itsnotloopy crazy dog owner confessions and had your photo taken.
As we were leaving we were given a goodie bag full of treats which Amber loved! We’re definitely going to have to stock up on more treats once they run out as Amber can’t get enough of them.
After leaving Lily’s Kitchen we popped by a few more stands on the way to visit Frontline. Their stand was amazing – they had a giant Cavalier called Titch teaching people about fleas and how to prevent them. Titch was accompanied by a giant sofa and dog bed – which Amber loved sitting on.
One big difference I noticed with having a dog with you is that people are much more willing to talk to you – both at stands and in general! Whilst at the Frontline stand we were approached by so many people asking questions about Amber and taking photos with her – she loves being the centre of attention so she was having the time of her life!
We also swung by at I love Pet Head and Laughing dog food who both gave us some samples which was great.
We then went to find Hannah from @lunas.loft on instagram as she had a snood for Amber that I needed to pick up – We love it! She was at the Ivy and Duke stand where Amber decided to take a nap in one of their beds. I popped her in for a photo and she didn’t want to get out. They almost inherited a dog!
The last company I want to mention is Nineteen 87 who not only had a great deal on (a good sized box of food and a bag of treats for £5) but also had a double decker bus at their stand. This was definitely one of the most creative areas I saw at Crufts – Amber loved meeting the team and sitting on the bus too.
The only part of the day which was made harder by having Amber with me was lunch. She’s very well behaved but when it comes to food she thinks she’s entitled to it – so we had a few instances of her trying to steal my chips. Apart from this I definitely enjoyed the shopping experience more having Amber with me.
So… Dog or No Dog?
To conclude – Although I had to cart round a heavier bag and had a slightly longer journey, I definitely had a more enjoyable day when I had a dog with me. Having said that, I will definitely be having a day without her next year so that I can go and enjoy the shows (without a bored dog trying to pull me away) but I would also like to have a day with Amber – if we are fortunate enough to be invited again!
Despite living a 25 minute train ride away from, and working in Manchester, never until last weekend had I explored the city with Amber!
I came across an MEN article published on National Dog Day 2016 which outlines the 20 best dog friendly places in Manchester and almost instantly decided a trip was in order. So we hopped on the train on a Saturday afternoon and set of on our adventure to Manchester. Notice how I said we took the train, not the car… parking is RIDICULOUSLY expensive! Luckily, I have recently written a blog post on traveling by train with your dog, so you can take a look at that for some tips.
Once departing from the train, we decided to go for a late lunch. I consulted my list and found a lovely little cafe just under 10 minutes walk from Piccadilly train station – Ezra & Gil! Now it’s time for Ellie’s travel complaints, the section of my blog where I spend two minutes complaining about the fact I got lost. Yes, it happened again! When will I learn that following your phone sat nav isn’t the best way of getting around? Anyhow, after a few technical difficulties we made it to the cafe and I have to say I was very impressed! The first thing I saw before even entering the cafe was an AstroTurfed entrance with a couple of dog bowls outside – that was Amber sorted.
Upon entering the premises it was so full that there were no free tables – a promising sign but highly irritating after our stressful journey finding the place (no, I’m still not over that). After waiting a couple of minutes we managed to find a table and get seated. The atmosphere was great however the room and decor were pretty dark, which looked amazing, but it’s a right pain when you want to photograph your dog!
So came the time to order food – I was very impressed by the amount of vegetarian friendly food they had on the menu! I ordered a veggie breakfast (yes, I had breakfast for lunch) and a latte. Both very nice, my only complaint is that it was a little pricey – but then where isn’t when you’re in a city?
When ordering my food I came across a free dog treats jar on the window ledge, Amber was very pleased! Although she did embarrass me by barking at me because she knew I had another treat in my hand, there’s not tricking her when it comes to food.
After a lovely first dog friendly lunch in Manchester, we ventured out to see what else we could find to do. Unfortunately all of the dog friendly places on the list I found were food related, which is great for an hour or so… but no one wants to spend the whole afternoon sat in a cafe (apart from Amber, sitting is her favourite pass time). Luckily I found something fun to do following a meal in one of the many dog friendly eateries in Manchester – Piccadilly gardens. Now, I’m not quite sure if you’re meant to do this, but everyone seems to do it anyway and it’s great fun – walking on the fountain!
This provides hours of entertainment for both kids and dogs… and even adults… I think I enjoyed it more than Amber did (but she’s not much of a water dog). After quite a while of playing in the fountain, we went for a walk around the rest of the gardens (which are tiny) then for a walk around some of the streets of Manchester. Since there were Chinese New Year celebrations going on, we were limited as to where we could go because big crowds and small dogs don’t mix well.
After walking enough to tire myself, Amber and Katy (the little sister & photography assistant/ model) out, we headed back to the station and hopped on the train home!
There are 20 more places to eat in the dog friendly Manchester article that I read, so no doubt this will be the first of many afternoon/ days out to Manchester as well as many other nearby city’s! Who knows, we could be in Liverpool or Chester next weekend.
If you live near Manchester, I’d definitely recommend a dog friendly day out there! If not, take a look and see what dog friendly things there are to do in your local city – you might be surprised by how many places allow dogs – I know I was!
Did you know that here in the UK, dogs are allowed on trains? I did’t! Up until the beginning of 2015 I had no idea that dogs were able to travel by train. Imagine having owned a small dog, the perfect size for travel, for almost four years and not knowing they could have been accompanying you on train journeys all along. Better yet, you can take up to two animals per passenger, free of charge. ‘Animals’ include dogs, cats and other small animals. I decided not to inform Amber of this as I don’t think she would be best pleased getting onto a train that could also be accommodating a cat.
Amber’s first train experience was back in October 2015 when we journeyed up to Kent, via London to visit out friends Becca and Mika (@huskymika on instagram). This was by far the worst traveling experience I have had with Amber in general – by train or otherwise. I stupidly booked the train to London at peek time on a Friday evening. It was absolutely packed. I had Amber on my knee as the foot space was tiny and with no spare seats (& it being her first train journey) I wanted her to feel as comfortable as possible. 9kg of dog on your knee for two and a half hours is not fun!
Since this small disaster of a journey Amber and I have become train experts. We have been on many a train journey – most of them being pleasant. Here are our 5 tips for traveling via train with your dog:
1 – Book the trip in advance
If possible, book advance, off peak train tickets. These are not only cheaper tickets but the train is not as busy. The only problem with these tickets is that you may not be traveling at a time that is as convenient as an on peak ticket. It is also a good idea to select your seats when booking your ticket, which can be done when booking via the national rail website. If you’re like me and don’t fancy getting numb legs from having a dog sat on you for hours, I would definitely recommend selecting a seat at a table. This way there is plenty of room for your pooch to curl up at your feet. This is probably my top tip for if you are having to travel at peak time as I find that the foot space on normal seats is nowhere near big enough to have your dog and your feet comfortably positioned.
2 – Prepare for the journey
Before setting off on any long journey whether that be by train or car, I try to take Amber on a long walk beforehand. This ensures that she isn’t going to have any accidents along the way and tires her out so she’ll sleep for the majority of the trip (not that she wouldn’t anyway – world’s laziest dog). I find this incredibly handy as when she’s tired she will sleep just about anywhere and doesn’t have to stress about where she is going.
3 – Pack a train bag
When I am traveling by train with Amber I always take a little bag with her essentials in. I usually store any other bags I have on the shelf overhead so having a little one that I can keep on my lap makes it much easier to access Amber’s things. The most important items I keep in this bag are a bowl and a bottle of water. It can often get hot on the train, especially if it’s busy so having water to hand is my number one priority. I also pack her treats and depending on the time we are traveling, a little package of food.
4 – Get around the ‘no dogs on seats’ rule
It states on the National Rail website that dogs are not to sit on the seats, however, I have been told by the ticket collectors on several trains that I can sit Amber on a seat as long as I cover it (This isn’t always the case but happens more often than not). I now always have a little towel packed in my ‘essentials bag’ incase we are fortunate enough to get an empty seat next to us. It’s also comfier for Amber when sitting at my feet to be on a towel so it never goes to waste.
5 – Know where to cool down
I find that the temperature seems to vary depending on the train but in the winter especially, they seem to have the heating on full blast for prolonged periods of time. This can cause dogs to become very uncomfortable when sitting on the floor next to the vents. Whenever Amber and I are in this situation I like to take her out by the doors every half an hour or so. It is much cooler out there as there’s no heating vents on the floor & the doors have been open at the stops along the way. We usually stand out next to the doors for around 5 minites then return to our seats. I have found that this has helped to avoid Amber drinking excessive amounts of water on hot trains. This puts me at ease as I do worry that she’ll have an accident if she drinks too much. She never has but it’s always a good idea to reduce the risk!
Fortunately for me, Amber has always been extremely well behaved in public and will sit quietly or curl up and have a nap. This means that sadly I have no tips on how to keep other pooches calm when on a train. Mine is simply too lazy to care about what is going on around her! So I suppose the only advice I can give is get a lazy dog. Even if they are rather boring.
I think the only thing to do now is book a nice holiday for yourself and your pup(s) and try out our train traveling tips!