THOUSANDS of dogs are to flock to the heart of the New Forest this weekend for the UK’s first ever dog festival.

Dogstival is due to take place from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday at the Pylewell Park Estate, which includes its very own dog-friendly beach.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, TV presenter and wildlife expert Chris Packham was set to host but as pulled out over safety fears.

The BBC Springwatch presenter angered the farming community after action by his environmental organisation, Wild Justice, resulted in a ban on shooting pigeons, crows and other birds.

Dogstival co-founder Richard Nowell said there were concerns the festival would be used as a target by people seeking to “publicly display and demonstrate their anger at Mr Packham”.

A celebration of the joy dogs bring to our lives, visitors can expect dazzling displays, activities to try, treats, shopping, experts talks and more.

Dogstival also intends to help owners discover more about the mental and physical wellbeing of their furry friend for a happier, healthier future together, as well as developing a greater understanding on what it takes to be a responsible pet owner in precious environments such as the New Forest.

Just some of the excitement to be captured on the day includes:

l Dogstival Main Arena – watch the amazing skills of traditional working, therapy and assistance dogs from some of the best display teams in the UK, including Paws For Thought, The Rockwood Display and Little Nippers Lurcher and Terrier Show. Demonstrations from 10.30am to 4.30pm daily.

l Dog House Behavioural Stage – get a deeper understanding of a dog’s wellbeing and behaviour from experts on topics that typically happen within the home such as mental stimulation, separation anxiety and diet from a stage that is designed to look like a house.

l Get Your Paws Involved activities – including the canine aquatic sport otherwise known as dock diving in the K9 Aqua Sports Pool, agility and flyball. Plus, dogs will be encouraged to enjoy dips and water-soaked fetch on Pylewell Park’s very own beach.

l The Dogstival Lounge – hosted by one half of BBC Radio’s Barking Blonde Anna Webb, head here to listen to inspiring talks and insights from patrons and partners including the New Forest Parks team, Lost Dog Book Reading by journalist Kate Spicer and Wolfie, as well as Vet on the Hill Dr Scott Miller. Talks start daily from 11am to 4pm.

l The Dogstival Awards – honouring local pets, people and businesses, who’ve overcome challenges, demonstrated bravery, worked hard for a cause or gone the extra mile to make a dog feel welcome.