Agility is something that we’ve always wanted to let Phoebe and Frank have a go at, and have even considered building a mini course in the garden for them to practice on. Phoebe has cat-like grace when it comes to jumping at catching, and Frank has all the elegance of a baby elephant with a lack of spatial awareness.
But ultimately, we always thought it would make for great enrichment, discipline and confidence building. So it was perfect when we discovered Country Hounds secure paddocks, near Swettenham, Cheshire.
The small business is the little sister of Country Kennels – a home boarding kennels and dog daycare service which launched in January 2020.
Located on Swettenham Road, just a stone’s throw away from the stunning country pub, The Swettenham Arms, Country Hounds offers two secure and enclosed paddocks, one of which is empty to allow for a good run and recall training. Phoebe and Frank have often enjoyed these types of fields at Ruddy Paws and Paddocks for Paws, so instead we booked Country Hounds’ agility field.
Available to book seven days a week from 6am to 8.30pm for a 9pm close, we booked for mid-morning on Saturday at 11am. On arrival there’s a gate to open to pull the car into so that you can get your dogs out of the car safely on a lead, before heading through a second gate which gives access to the two separate fields – so ultimately you’re three gates in before you’re in the field, which meant if for some reason your dog managed to sneak out of the field, they’re not going to get far.
The field is smaller than others we’ve used, but we actually quite liked this. The scamps never felt too far away and we could have eyes on them from any point in the paddock. The rectangular plot is enclosed with a six foot high fence, feeling very secure, and there were no distractions in nearby fields or houses, meaning Phoebe and Frank could really use this time to have fun with no triggers.
Inside the field there’s a little summerhouse for owners to sit down on one of the fold up chairs and watch their dogs have a run about. It’s ideal for placing a bag if you’ve brought one with you, as well as sheltering from the sun or showers, depending on the weather. On the table is a number of business cards and leaflets for other pet-centric businesses, as well as a jar of treats and a few rolls of poo bags – though we had brought our own.
Phoebe and Frank quickly got to exploring the field, which included two tunnels, a slalom, some tyres, a ramp, balancing see-saw and some boxes to climb on. Though neither of the dogs fancies crawling through the tubes, they had a good go at the slalom, jumped through tyres and hopped on boxes.
But my biggest surprise was when Frank decided he was going to take on the six foot high ramp, with encouragement from his squeaky scooby doo ball, which he’ll quite literally do anything for. Phoebe was slightly more cautious, despite being the more agile of the two, but after lots of praise and a treat (our W’ZIS tin came in handy), she soon got the hang of it.
Frank particularly seemed really pleased with himself, and it was just a really lovely moment for all of us to have together and celebrate in the field. Building a dog’s confidence in one area like this can really help bring them on in other areas, and the pair of them really came out of their shells after about 20 minutes.
A half-hour session for up to four dogs costs £7, but I do recommend paying the extra £3 for the full hour, which is really 55 minutes because you want to vacate the field ahead of the next booking. We find that the sweet spot is about 40 minutes before slowly wrapping up, though 30 minutes could work very well for small dogs.
For larger groups, groups of five to eight dogs can pau £12.50 for a 30 minute session or £15 for an hour, which is all bookable online with payments via PayPal or debit card.
There are no communal toys in the field, which is fine by us as we always bring our own, however there is running water and bowls provided. We took plenty of water with us, but at least next time we can leave the heavy backpack at home.
Country Hounds is well located and great for nervous or reactive dogs who need space, or need to work on some training, but it’s equally great for building confidence in dogs and having a go at some of the equipment available. We thought the price was affordable, and in line with other secure fields we’ve used, but offered something very different and fun. And with the dog-friendly pub just up the road, you can really make a day of it with lunch and a drink after, too.