North East To Host First ‘Dog Festival’


The countdown is underway to the first North East Dog Festival, a celebration of all things canine. 

On Saturday August 15 a large field in the grounds of Whitehouse Farm, around 15 miles from Newcastle Upon Tyne, will be transformed into a sea of trade stands, demonstrations and dog related activities.

The brainchild of four North East business women, the festival will house local businesses as well as providing a stage for the public to take part in have-a-go activities and watch demonstrations from local clubs and charities.

Over 60 different trade There will be an opportunity to pick up some unique crafts and gifts as well as to sample the culinary delights of the North East’s best local producers.

There will be multiple ‘ have- a – go’ activities including flyball, agility, Talking Dogs Scentwork, Talking Dogs Rally, a gundog scurry and our very popular companion dog show with pawesome prizes!

The first dog show class will start at 11am, with registration from 10.15am on the showfield.

Activities include a gundog demonstration, scentwork demo, dog activities demonstrations and the MUSHER sled dogs as well as family activities including pony rides, a mini-zoo, bouncy castle, carnival rides, Talking Dogs rally, terrier racing and a fun outdoor agility show.

Entry for this event is free of charge with a charge of £2 per car and is all set against a backdrop of one of Northumberland’s finest rural settings. Set on a large field in the grounds of Whitehouse Farm, the show is easily accessible from the North and South with Whitehouse Farm sitting just 15 miles from Newcastle and just 22 miles from Alnwick. Post code NE61 6AW.

To find out more about the show or the team behind it visit:

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Top 15 Dog Breeds Most Likely to Run Away


Restless retrievers are the breed of dog most likely to go walkabout, according to new research.

They emerged at the top of a list of runaway pups compiled from a survey of 2,000 dog owners in Britain.

The breed to land in the ‘runner-up’ spot was the Cocker Spaniel which was followed by the Jack Russell.

While it was the German Shepherd that was found to be the fourth most common breed to have owners worrying.

The study, commissioned by Blue Cross pet charity, reminds pet owners that they have just a year to make sure the pet is microchipped before it becomes compulsory by law on 6 April 2016.

The charity also advises microchipping can help reunite missing pets with their owners after they admitted 1,673 dogs and cats last year because owners could not be traced.

Sarah Bussell, Rehoming Supervisor at Blue Cross said: “Many dogs just want to play and explore but it was interesting to see Labradors came on top for being the most likely breed to run away.

“While they don’t mean to become lost, if they catch a smell or see something exciting in the distance it can be hard to get their attention and call them back to you.

“And if you panic, sometimes they will get scared, so the best thing to do is try and remain calm and encourage them to come back to you with a toy or tasty treat.

“It is important to teach your dog good recall from a young age and also  make sure your dog has a tag and is microchipped, to help the chances of you being reunited if they become lost.

“It also means you will be fully compliant with the law with new regulations about microchipping now just a year away”.

Finishing off the top five list of dogs most likely to run away from home or while on a walk was the English Springer Spaniel.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are also culprits for sneaking off and leaving their owners searching for them.

The average dog owner has had the panic of losing man’s best friend three times already, and six in ten know other owners who have lost their pet as well.

Surprisingly, one in five don’t have their pet dog microchipped, and half of these owners admit they probably won’t ever have it done.

While having a microchip isn’t currently compulsory, it will be in a year, so those expecting to leave their dog unchipped could be facing a hefty fine.

When asked how much they believed the fine would be, one third believed it wouldn’t be any more than £100 when they’re looking at forking out anything up to £500 in reality.

Dogs wearing a tag when in public, is already the law but only 23 per cent of owners knew this was the case and only half knew the tag must include your name.

While one in six owners are certain that vet details should be included on the tag.

A further third still felt the fine for a dog being without a tag was a small £100 when really they risk facing a fine of up to £5,000 if their dog is not wearing a correct ID tag in public.

Sarah added: “So many animals arrive at our centres as strays but they have clearly been cared for and could be much-loved and much missed pets.

 “Dogs like Taters who is just over a year old and came to us from the pound. She is a lovely dog who understands basic commands so someone must have taken the time to train her.

“Her owner could be missing her if she is lost but without a microchip there is no way we can trace them. She’s currently being cared for by Blue Cross until will find her a loving new home.”


1.     Labrador Retriever

2.     Cocker Spaniel

3.     Jack Russell

4.     German Shepherd

5.     English Springer Spaniel

6.     Staffordshire Bull Terrier

7.     Border Collie

8.     West Highland Terrier

9.     Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

10.  Yorkshire Terrier

11.  Boxer

12.  Border Terrier

13.  Pug

14.  Poodle

15.  Chihuahua

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Congratulations To Britain’s Most ‘Heroic Hounds’ 


After searching the nation far and wide, SuperDogs Live sponsored by has announced the most Heroic Hounds of 2015!

In association with Dogs Today, the Heroic Hounds of 2015 have been selected as the nation’s bravest dogs, who together with their owners are celebrating triumph over tragedy at SuperDogs Live, which takes place at the London Pet Show this weekend (9-10 May at London ExCeL).

SuperDogs Live is presenting former Britain’s Got Talent contestant Damon Scott with a Heroic Hound award for saving the life of his Cavalier Sophie and for his ongoing efforts to help improve the way dogs are treated in Britain. Damon is the first ‘human’ to be awarded Heroic Hound status by SuperDogs Live.

Damon saved Sophie’s life after hearing how badly she was being treated by her owner at the time. When he first laid eyes on her, she was so sick, frail and fragile he knew instantly that she was just hours away from death. He took her straight home with him, nursed and bathed her overnight and took her to the vet the next morning, who confirmed she had an untreated heart defect which was putting her life at risk. Sophie was immediately given life saving medication, and Damon continued to do everything he could to nurse her back to health.

Although Sophie was left deaf, with a badly inflamed heart and with no teeth, remarkably against the odds, she survived. Cavaliers rarely make it to their teens, so at 13 Sophie is testament to the level of care and love Damon has provided her. With her kind and gentle nature, not only has she won Damon’s heart, she has stolen the nation’s too. Since making a full recovery Sophie has made an appearance on BBC2’s Strictly Come Dancing; It Takes Two and has her own YouTube video which has had over 86,000 views.                               (View the video here –

After experiencing first-hand how mistreated some dogs can be, Damon is campaigning to help improve the long term health of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels together with his partner Craig Revel Horwood of Strictly Come Dancing (and of course Sophie!). With a life-long love for dogs, Damon continues to encourage others to adopt dogs instead of buying puppies.

Additional winners of the Heroic Hound category include Jackadoodle Doodles, a rescue dog who has helped his owner Emma overcome depression; Fleur, a Romanian rescue dog who was so poorly treated that if her owner, Val Phillips from Valgrays Border Collie Rescue hadn’t stepped in, her life would have been over; and Maggie the Shih Tzu, a fully trained PAT (Pets As Therapy) dog who assists Earls High School in Halesowen with their reading scheme.

As well as crowning the nation’s Heroic Hounds, SuperDogs Live will see the UK’s most talented and entertaining dogs participate in a spectacular show hosted by Channel 4’s Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick, for awards in categories including Strictly Doggy Dancing and Most Talented Dog.

Smurf, winner of SuperDogs Live 2014, will face new competition as he returns to defend his title of Most Talented Dog; while Strictly Doggy Dancing finalists include Trip and his owner Lucy Heath, who fans of SuperDogs Live may recognise for her notable performance at last year’s show. 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Take Rover with you when you cast your vote!


I’m sure you’ll all be exercising your democratic right to vote today (Thursday, May 7). To make the trip to the polling station less of a chore, you could combine it with walking your dog.  But do remember that pooch has not yet been given the right to vote!

Dogs  are allowed to accompany you to the polling booth as long as they don’t disrupt the vote. 

Before the 2008 London Mayoral election polling staff were given advice stating that dogs had to be in an “accompanying” role rather than “free-range” or otherwise wandering off the lead, potentially playing havoc with the serious work of the day. 

In cases where a voter has two or more dogs and will struggle to control them while casting their  vote, polling station staff may be able to hold the dogs’ leads. Rural constituencies might have cases of voters riding to the polling station. In such cases, horses and ponies should be tethered up outside. 

There is as yet no guidance on other animals such as cats, rabbits, ferrets or pot-bellied pigs, so any decision will be at the discretion of presiding officers.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Horse owners invited to make difference to equine health


Leading equestrian organisations are appealing to all horse owners and keepers in the UK to stand up for horse health between 18 – 25 May 2015 and participate in the National Equine Health Survey (NEHS). It’s a short, sharp snapshot survey of general horse health that is already helping to make an important difference to the future health and welfare of horses and ponies.

The National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) is run annually by leading charity Blue Cross, in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association and with the support of many of the country’s leading equestrian charities and organisations. It’s the only project of its kind enabling horse owners to give anonymous feedback about the health of their horses, ponies and donkeys so that the most common diseases and problems be identified, prioritised and addressed.

NEHS is a charitable initiative that has now been running for five years. Its value has attracted support from SPILLERS and Zoetis, which has helped it to continue to grow and deliver results. Participation increased threefold last year, with data collected from over 11,002 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules in the UK, showing the nation’s enthusiasm to help improve horse health.

The results are helping to steer awareness, education and research, establishing benchmarks for equine health and disease in the UK and defining priorities for future research, training and education. Equine and veterinary colleges and universities also use the data as primary source material.

Gemma Taylor, Education Officer at Blue Cross said: “We are renowned as a nation of horse lovers so sparing five minutes of your time is surely not too much to ask? Each and every one of you who completes the survey will be helping to secure a healthier future for our precious horses and ponies so please help us and sign up now.”

Visit or email [email protected] to register.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Kittens with super-sized paws amaze staff at Cats Protection


They may be tiny, but with 26 toes each – eight more than usual – kittens Violet and Knight have knockout appeal.

The pint-sized moggies, currently in the care of Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre, were born with a rare genetic condition called polydactyly, giving them two extra digits on each paw.

While their oversized paws may look unusual, the condition is a harmless quirk of nature which, as long as the extra claws don’t catch on things, shouldn’t cause any health problems.

The kittens were handed into Cats Protection along with their mother November and litter-mate Kathleen after their owner couldn’t cope with the unplanned litter.

Neither two-year-old November or Kathleen carry the condition and have the correct number of toes – five on the front and four on the back paws.

Deputy Manager of Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre, in Lewes Road, Chelwood Gate, Sussex, Tania Marsh, said the kittens had surprised staff.
She said: “We do see polydactyl cats from time to time, but it’s unusual to see them with so many extra toes – normally it’s more like an extra four or five. When we counted them up and found they had eight extra each we were really surprised.

“They are lovely, playful and happy kittens and there’s no denying they do look very sweet with their huge paws.”

Cats Protection’s Clinical Veterinary Officer Beth Skillings said that while uncommon, polydactyl cats are seen across the UK.

She said: “Polydactyly is a genetic condition which, in the majority of cases, causes no harm whatsoever. The number of extra toes varies, with some polydactyls just having two or three more than usual and others having many more, as we have with Violet and Knight.

“There is a legend among sailors that polydactyl cats used to be ship cats and the extra toes helped them climb the rigging. It’s a nice story but these cats do not have a greater climbing ability.

“It’s neither an advantage or disadvantage, just a quirk of nature.”

November, Violet, Knight and Kathleen will all be looking for a new home once they have been neutered to prevent further unplanned kittens.

Tania added: “The kittens may be unusual because of their condition, but unfortunately they are among many that will be handed into us this year because they were unplanned.

“Cats are prolific breeders and can become pregnant from a very early age. We recommend neutering at around four months old or younger to prevent unwanted kittens being born.

“Each year, we are inundated with litters of kittens, which puts a real strain on our resources, not least because it means older cats in our care get overlooked by potential owners.

“I would urge anyone with an unneutered cat to act now to avoid adding to the growing population of unwanted cats and kittens.”

Cats Protection offers financial support towards the cost of having your cat neutered. To find out more call 03000 12 12 12 or visit

To find out more about adopting November or her kittens, or any of the 200 other cats and kittens currently being cared for at the National Cat Adoption Centre, please visit the centre or get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Two cats travel from Amsterdam in bespoke Kittymobile  


Cat crazy entrepreneur Thomas Vles, has cycled more than 300 miles from Amsterdam to London with his two cats, Mushi and Cheesy.
Inspired by the ‘Popemobile’, the custom made ‘Kittymobile’ has been specially converted from a traditional Dutch bakfiets bicycle for the journey to launch new pet brand Poopy Cat in the UK.
To keep Mushi and Cheesy entertained while in the Kittymobile, Thomas has included BLOCKS cat playhouse, designed to stimulate mental and physical activity for cats in smaller spaces, and urban living. And when nature calls, a hygienic, disposable, biodegradable Poopy Cat litter box is also installed.
The Poopy Cat ambassadors and founder Thomas arrived yesterday to a red carpet reception to launch their first ‘poop-up’ store at Old Street roundabout in London, following a tour of key attractions across the capital.
Poopy Cat launched in December 2014 in the Netherlands via the world’s first cat pop group, the Poopy Cat Dolls – their hit ‘Do you want my purr purr
<> ’ – went viral. A video of the Poopy Cat Head Office, where the cats live permanently, recently secured global media attention with more than 1.2 million YouTube <> views.
Inventor Thomas Vles said: “I know how much the British love their animals and from the overwhelming response we had to our online videos and Kickstarter campaign, we knew that the UK had to be next for Poopy Cat.
“Mushi and Cheesy are Poopy Cat’s ambassadors. Not only are they the face of Poopy Cat, they also inspire our product development team, relieve us from stress in the office and test our products extensively. Mushi and Cheesy had to be there for the launch in London, however first class travel for cats is not yet available. The Kittymobile was the perfect solution, offering a spacious and personalized travel vessel!”

Poopy Cat products are available at

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Extraordinary Police Dog honoured with ‘animal OBE’


An extraordinary Police Dog, responsible for sniffing out more than £5 million in cash, firearms and drugs, has been posthumously presented with the PDSA Order of Merit – the animal equivalent of the OBE – today (Wednesday 29 April). 

Jake, a Springer Spaniel, was due to receive the PDSA Order of Merit alongside his handler today, but sadly passed away suddenly, aged 13, just weeks before the presentation.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley led the celebrations to honour Jake, who was recognised for his outstanding service to Warwickshire Police over a ten year career. Jake made over 500 operational finds including assault rifles, shotguns, hand guns, over £650,000 worth of banknotes and over £4.5 million in illegal drugs.

The PDSA Order of Merit* is awarded to any animal which merits recognition for exceptional acts of devotion and represents outstanding examples of the special relationship that exists between animals and humans. 

This is only the second ever presentation of the award: the first being for the Metropolitan Police dogs and horses that served during the London riots of 2011. Gwen, a currently-serving Police Dog with Warwickshire Police, was presented with the award at Goldsmiths Hall today in London, on Jake’s behalf.

Jake’s Story

Jake’s career with Warwickshire Police began at 18-months-old, when he underwent a four-week intensive course to train him to search and identify drugs. Jake went on to complete similar courses to find firearms, ammunition and banknotes. After graduation, he was partnered with PC Andy Crouch and the pair stayed together throughout Jake’s illustrious career.

Jake worked at some high-profile events, including royal visits, the Olympic Games, the Cheltenham Gold Cup Festival and major music events, such as Glastonbury. 

At one music festival Jake found over £2,000 worth of well-concealed cannabis on a tour bus, resulting in the delay of the headline act. On another occasion he intercepted a car heading into a festival, leaping through an open window to uncover £1,000 worth of cocaine, hidden underneath the centre console.

PC Crouch said: “Jake worked tirelessly and performed thousands of searches. Even after his retirement, he loved playing and we would often set up ‘finds’ for him to seek out, to keep him stimulated. Jake would have carried on working, given half the chance, but it was important for him to take some time out. He was a joy to work with and I doubt that many handlers will find a dog so willing to work and to please.

“My family and I are devastated to lose Jake, especially so close to this award being presented. But I am very proud to be here with Gwen, to accept the award on his behalf. Jake’s award will take pride of place in our home, along with his Police Commendation and his Force tag, which he wore every day for ten years.”

PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “Jake’s contribution to Warwickshire Police has been truly remarkable. His track-record was astounding and we are delighted to honour his fantastic career in this way.

“The PDSA Order of Merit was created to ensure that extraordinary animal contributions can be properly recognised and honoured, however and wherever they occur. Animals play a vital role in society, whether as pets, as assistance animals, or within our police and armed forces. This award recognises their contribution and celebrates that special bond that exists between humans and animals.”

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Ball, who nominated Jake for the PDSA Order of Merit, was there to witness the award being presented: 

“Jake’s service and achievements over the last ten years have been a great cause of pride in the force. PC Crouch and Jake formed a formidable team and there is no doubt that some serious criminals have been thwarted by Jake’s finely-tuned nose. He was an exceptional little dog and we are thrilled to see him recognised and decorated as part of PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme.”

Jake retired in August 2014 and spent his days at home with Andy, his wife Claire and daughter Lydia, and their four other dogs. Jake passed away suddenly in March 2015. 

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity and is dedicated to providing vital care for hundreds of thousands of pets. With 51 Pet Hospitals across the UK, providing care for over 470,000 animals a year, PDSA is a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of owners. Since it was established in 1917, the charity has provided 100 million free treatments to more than 20 millions pets in need.

For more information about the PDSA Order of Merit and its recipients, visit

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

The death of embarrassment over pet bereavement 


By Marie Carter, Editor of Pets Magazine. 
As published at Huffington Post.

There is little doubt about it: pets are now intrinsic members of our family. At a commercial level, the UK retailing giant Pets at Home
has posted record figures that show the market for pet food, treats, toys and, even pet clothing, is booming. At a personal and family level, as I discussed in ‘What’s so wrong with pet parenting?’ pets have become kin; they have become our nearest and dearest. So, what do we do, how do we feel and act when they inevitably travel to the ‘rainbow bridge’? Inspired by the Norse legend of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge represents the notion that owners will meet their pets again after death in a joyous reunion.

I can’t help feeling that a heaven without pets, as accepted, indeed advocated, in many religions, would be a pretty dull place. The rainbow bridge sounds like much more fun. On the sad side, pets are bound to live much shorter lives than us, which means that by loving them as much like family, we are allowing ourselves to be subjected to regular heartache when they inevitably slip this mortal coil.

History is full of close bonds between people and pets. The most celebrated, and poignant, include stories of the unwavering devotion shown by animals when their masters depart this world. The Greyfriars Bobby, a tale of a terrier who, it is claimed, spent 14 years at his master’s grave side, is the most well-known example, but there are many more.

Mortality has been at the forefront of my mind of late, as my darling Cavalier Sophie, aged seven, has been diagnosed with a grade three heart murmur. The vet says she probably only has a few years left. Upon hearing the news, I cried and cried; and am indeed writing this as tears well in my eyes. I had always wistfully thought that Sophie would live to become the oldest dog in the world. As an aside, Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is the biggest killer of Cavaliers with over 80% suffering from it to some extent by age eight. A brilliant petition has started to call upon the Kennel Club to institute the compulsory registration of Cavaliers to weed out their health issues. Please sign if you can:

A previous family pet, Rosie, a Border Terrier, had to be put to sleep at 16. She was senile and had lost use of rear legs, which had sadly led to incontinence. My parents, for she was one of those wonderful dogs one always remembers from the endless summers of childhood, did not tell me when they took her that final time to the vets. I, overwhelmed with emotion, and not thinking rationally, would have tried to stop them. This would not have been the best course of action for poor Rosie, who by that time had enough of life. I eventually accepted her passing, and we even had a very simple ceremony to say our goodbyes. In life, she was a water baby and a scattering of her ashes in a river where she had loved to swim seemed fitting.

Just a few years before Rosie’s passing in 2001, we would not have thought about cremation, and it would not have been a viable option. It was a time when pet cremation services were springing up and we were, as a nation, turning away from digging up the garden to bury Rover alongside the pet goldfish. Now, there are so many ways of remembering our precious pets. One of the most innovative I have come across recently is the 3D pet sculpture, which many bereaved pet owners have opted for using a series of photographs of their deceased pets. In life too, it’s a quirky and memorable gift. London-based Arty Lobster has seen a growing number of people approach them for memento mori. Where one we might have kept a favourite pet’s collar, we can immortalize them ever so accurately forever.

There is little doubt that losing a beloved pet can leave a massive hole in a family’s life. Unlike the death of a human family member, which understandably attracts a huge outflow of sympathy, love and care in both actions and words, the death of a pet can be bewildering for other reasons. Many people may still belittle or not understand the overwhelming sense of loss. This issue came up recently in the British dark comedy Inside No 9, which was set in the call centre of a counseling service. An old lady, mourning the loss of her beloved cat, committed suicide after a ‘counselor’, overwrought by a previous call, told her to pull ‘herself to together’, as it was ‘just a cat.’ This reaction, satirized in the extreme, is still too pervasive, which is why brilliant services such as the Pet Bereavement Service (PBSS) have emerged. Many people worry about asking for time off from work after the death of a beloved companion animal, and the PBSS can advise on ways to have this important discussion with employers, for instance.

As a nation of animal lovers, where pets are increasingly members of our families, there is little doubt that we are changing. Grief upon the death of a pet is ever so gradually no longer being seen as unusual or somehow embarrassing. It is becoming more natural, and arguably more human to visibly grieve upon the loss of a beloved pet.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Remembering the ‘dogs of war’

PicturePhoto credit: Libby Hall Collection, Bishopsgate Institute Archive.

During the First World War, the British Red Cross got lots of help from an unlikely quarter.

At first, it sounds like a particularly far-fetched episode of Lassie.

A dog, you say, carrying first aid supplies through the whizzing bombs and flying bullets of no man’s land? And all to reach and save wounded soldiers? It sounds preposterous. But it’s true – every word of it.

The story may not be well known, but during the first World War the Red Cross did indeed use specially-trained dogs to go and help stricken soldiers on the battlefield.

Special hounds

The story of the Great War dogs began with Major Edwin Richardson, a former soldier whose family had always ‘had a way with dogs’.

The canny Richardson recognised – way before anyone else – that our canine friends could potentially play a useful role during a war, and spent years perfecting his training techniques.

But progress wasn’t smooth. When the First World War broke out, the British Army initially refused his offer of help. (The Red Cross, however, was much more canny and gratefully took a number of specially-trained hounds.)

Once the dogs started producing results, the Army quickly realised its mistake and asked Richardson to set up an official training school for war dogs. The four-legged first aiders had arrived.

Bespoke training

So, you’re probably wondering: how do you train a dog (normally a skittish creature) to work calmly on a raging battlefield? The answer, unsurprisingly, is: with a lot of hard work.

Richardson quickly realised that all the animals would have to be trained under realistic battle conditions.

A visiting journalist at his training school recounted: “Shells from batteries at practice were screaming overhead, and army motor lorries passed to and fro. The dogs are trained to the constant sound of the guns and very soon learn to take no heed of them.”

Realism was all-important. Richardson even paid unemployed locals to go and lie ‘injured’ in the woods so the trainee pooches could practice finding them.

The level of sophistication in the dogs’ training was jaw-dropping. They were trained to ignore dead bodies. They could understand a huge range of hand signals. They uncomplainingly wore restrictive gas masks.

Critically, they were also taught to distinguish between British military uniforms and those of the enemy. (After all, nobody wanted them leading a search party to an injured but still-armed German soldier.)

It was a long and exhaustive process, but worth it. Because once the dogs were fully trained, what they achieved on the battlefield was incredible.

Nose for trouble

As soldiers lay injured or dying out in no man’s land, the dogs were sent out under cover of darkness. Carrying harnesses filled with medical supplies and small canteens of water, they searched out their own troops. Lightly injured men could then treat their own injuries and be guided back to their own trench.

If a soldier was unconscious or unable to move, however, the dog would run back to its handler carrying a cap, glove or torn scrap of clothing as evidence.

The resourceful pooch would then silently lead a stretcher party straight back to the victim, still in pitch darkness, right under the enemy’s collective nose. (Each hound was taught to ‘freeze’ on the ground if hostile fire lit up the sky.)

According to war medics, the Red Cross dogs saved many lives. They were especially useful when working with search parties in hostile territory, because their keen noses would locate wounded soldiers in thickets and bushes who otherwise might have been missed.

Their heightened senses brought another priceless benefit. One surgeon recalled: “They sometimes lead us to bodies we think have no life in them, but when we bring them back to the doctors…always find a spark. It is purely a matter of their instinct, [which is] far more effective than man’s reasoning powers.”

‘Daring canines’

Not many people will have come across Oliver Hyde’s book, The Work of the Red Cross Dog on the Battlefield, written in 1915.

But in this long-forgotten book, a paean to the bravery of the daring canines, the author captures perfectly the value of the First World War’s most unlikely group of heroes.

“To the forlorn and despairing wounded soldier, the coming of the Red Cross dog is that of a messenger of hope. Here at last is help, here is first aid. [The soldier] knows that medical assistance cannot be far away, and will be summoned by every means in the dog’s power.

“As part of the great Red Cross army of mercy, he is beyond price.”

British Red Cross marks Red Cross Week on May 3-9 and although its methods of helping those affected by war have evolved, it still remains a key part of the charity’s work. This year’s Red Cross Week Appeal aims to raise more than £1m for people in crisis, with hundreds of events and fundraising activities planned across the country. Visit to find out more or get involved.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Digg thisShare on LinkedInEmail to someoneShare on RedditBuffer this pageshare on TumblrFlattr the authorPrint this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on VKShare on Yummly
Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment