Meet the team, hear our story and find out what we stand for.
We believe that all dogs deserve to be dogs. We believe in freedom, play and off-lead adventure. We believe in a strong community of likeminded people who want the absolute best for their dogs. We are a safe space, an enriching environment. Together, we are Dogwood.
Giving back is at the heart of Dogwood. We know that not all dogs are as fortunate as Dogwood dogs, that’s why we help those in rescue centres. We volunteer at Dogs Trust, collecting dogs from the centre to bring them to Dogwood where they have chance to explore and feel the wind in their hair, before returning them to the centre, fulfilled and happy. We also donate sessions so that dogs can enjoy time with their own amazing Canine Carers where they can prepare them for their forever homes. If you would like to donate a session to the charity of your choice, please get in touch.
Are you feeling ready to give up on ever having a relaxed walk? Fed up of looking over your shoulder, scouring the horizon for dogs or other distractions? Do you have a dog who is reactive to other dogs, one that runs away from you on walks or a dog that is fine but just seems under-challenged, under-stimulated, a dog that would love to have more fun?
I know that feeling.
I’m Katie and I created Dogwood because sharing your heart and home with a dog is not always easy.
Back in Italy I began a journey with one of my own dogs, Lao. After being rescued from abusive hunters he was very frightened, he would bark and lunge at people and dogs to scare them away, even biting them.
I had experience of working with reactive dogs at Dogs Trust before I left the UK but still, I felt isolated and frustrated. Walks were becoming increasingly difficult, and it just broke my heart to see Lao in such a mess.
I started studying reactivity, enrichment, scentwork, parkour and invested a lot of time and money on courses and practical experience, focusing on how to improve the lives of reactive and anxious dogs. When I got back to the UK I began putting together ideas for an enclosed field, learning as much as I could to not only help Lao.
I knew there were others out there who were going through the same heartbreak and loneliness as me. I wanted to create a safe haven for them.
And so Dogwood Adventure Play was born!
What I learned was that yes, a safe enclosed space is perfect for reactive dogs but the enrichment, parkour, scentwork – these activities were beneficial for all dogs. They’re a great way to lower arousal levels in overexcitable dogs, good for working on recall or other training issues and just great all-round mental engagement for any dog whose owners want something new and interesting for them to do.
This turned into something incredibly powerful and I welcomed the opportunity to help more dog owners find the same joy on their walks as I did.
Where I was once lonely and isolated, I now receive daily messages from people telling me how Dogwood has changed not only their dogs’ lives, but theirs too.
I love how we’ve created a community of people that came together to share their experiences of strength and hope.
I opened Dogwood to others because I know how it feels when your dog reacts, lunges, barks and bites. I know how it feels when walks in public places are something to dread, to be angry whenever someone shouts from the other side of the park, ‘It’s ok, he’s friendly!’, to think that you will never be able to let your dog off the lead, to be embarrassed by his behaviour, overwhelmed and confused by the conflicting training advice available. To feel that everyone is judging you.
But I also know how it feels to watch your dog running, sniffing, playing, exploring off-lead, knowing that he is safe. And I know how it feels to look on happily as your dog sleeps, finally tired and fulfilled. I know how it feels to know that I am doing the best that I can for my dog because he deserves it.
We still have bad days. Walks in public places can sometimes be difficult but it’s easier to work on training when you have a dog whose physical and mental needs are being met.
At Dogwood we do not judge you. We support you, we understand. We’ve been there.
In my current role as Campaigns Officer at Dogs Trust I travel across the North of England to offer training, behaviour, enrichment, health and legal advice to hundreds of dog owners every week.
When not on the road I’m based at the rehoming centre at Dogs Trust Darlington where I develop new campaigns for responsible dog ownership.
Born and raised in Darlington, I moved to London where I completed a Masters degree and volunteered at Battersea Dogs Home before joining the Dogs Trust Head Office team where I helped deliver the campaign to parliament for compulsory microchipping which was successfully passed in 2016.
As a result of my career in the canine welfare sector I’m a strong advocate of rescue dogs and work tirelessly to improve the lives of the hundreds of dogs I meet on a weekly basis.
I believe that reward-based training and enrichment are key to a strong and long-lasting relationship.
Jordan ate the neighbour’s chickens, killed a cat and bit a policeman.
He escaped any fencing we challenged him with, was a repeat strayer whenever there was a bitch in season and once he woke the whole neighbourhood barking at the top of his voice from the roof he’d managed to get himself stuck on at two o’clock in the morning. Jordan made sure my family were well-known in the small seaside community where I’m from in Tuscany, Italy… but not for the right reasons.
Was he a nightmare dog? No, we were nightmare owners.
We didn’t neuter him despite his amorous adventures, we didn’t train recall even though it could have got him out of sticky situations and because we didn’t provide enrichment he had to create his own. Loose lead walking would have made walks enjoyable - but it was easier for us to let him roam.
Until he bit the policeman.
Then not only did Jordan have to become the model dog, but we were forced to become responsible owners. We hired a local trainer and worked diligently because we knew that if Jordon injured the polizia a second time, there would never be a third.
We concentrated on loose lead walking and recall so that we could take Jordon for long walks instead of letting him find his own fun. It turned out that Jordon was a lovely dog, he had just been bored left to his own devices.
Now when I see people shouting their dogs’ names over and over again and their dog ignoring them, or the dog that charged over to a homeless man in the park and stole his sandwich, getting the packet stuck on his head and the mortified owner who couldn’t get hold of the dog because even though he couldn’t see her he kept running away from her voice, I know how embarrassing that is. But I also know there’s a solution.
At Dogwood I run Enrichment Breaks, Field Trips and 1-1 Walks where I specialise in loose lead walking and, yep you guessed it, recall.
The sensory garden, adventure play frames, logs, tyres and tunnels were influenced by progressive sensory experiences for children.
As an Early Years practitioner I was able to apply the concepts of play that benefitted children to canine enrichment. I was an early pioneer in championing Natural Play for children – that is, activities using natural resources such as stone, water, sand, bark, moss, leaves, mud, logs, sticks, moving/loose parts and recycled materials.
Contact with nature provides a wide variety of benefits for dogs too including physical, mental, creative and social well being, as well as a wide range of play and learning opportunities.
My role at Dogwood is to develop enrichment activities and brain games that we provide in our fields and for Enrichment Breaks.
Not that Sheelagh couldn’t have built it all herself! – but someone had to put the vision together. I’m the one they come to whenever they have a new idea. And when I say it’s never going to work… they usually persuade me to do it anyway!
I grew up with Boxers and Chihuahuas and we really could have done with an adventure park like Dogwood back then! The Boxers had endless supplies of energy that it was impossible to find an outlet for and the Chihuahuas were… Chihuahuas.
Seeing the delight on the dogs’ faces when they jump out of their cars at Dogwood is the best part of my job. Clients often tell me that it’s the first time their dogs have ever been off-lead. It’s a fantastic sight.
I love volunteering at Dogs Trust, taking dogs on Field Trips to Dogwood and hearing bout their successful rehoming stories.
So that just leaves Fifi, a Battersea Dogs Home original. Fifi has travelled Europe and is now enjoying the quiet life at Dogwood in her role as Chief Treatfinder.
Her favourite pastimes are eating decaying things she finds in bushes and cuddles - though sadly for her, not in that order. She loves to learn new things and is fun to train due to her, ahem, passion for food.
We enjoy working on canine parkour and scentwork together and she is always our guinea pig when we have new adventure play equipment to test.
Good to know
We have completed courses, workshops, seminars and training with some of the most highly regarded names in the industry including The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT), Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), LANTRA, ICAN, Absolute Dogs, Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, Craig Ogilvie and Sian Ryan of Developing Dogs. Subjects studied and qualified in include Canine First Aid, Training, Behaviour, Scentwork, Parkour, Nutrition and Grooming. We are constantly developing and improving Dogwood to ensure that you and your dogs get the best and most bespoke personalised service. We are fully insured, DBS checked and have a rigorous key-holding policy.