New ‘top dog’ at New Forest National Park

Dawn Rayment

Published Tuesday 11 April 2017

A new four-legged ‘apprentice’ is learning how to be a forest friendly dog with the National Park Authority ranger team.

Cooper the cocker spaniel has his own twitter account where people can see him going through his puppy training and New Forest adventures, learning how to behave around the Forest ponies and cattle and not disturbing rare birds.

Research shows an estimated 25% of homes in the South East have dogs and thousands of dogs are walked in the Forest every day.

Cooper’s owner Dawn Rayment, New Forest National Park Authority People and Wildlife Ranger, said: ‘As rangers we ask that people are responsible dog owners – but we often assume people know what that means. This is a great opportunity to help highlight certain situations, and people can share the highs and lows of training a forest friendly puppy with me.

‘Our dogs have many distractions in the New Forest such as ponies and cattle roaming free on the land. There are also many visitors enjoying the Forest and not all want to be bothered by other people’s dogs (and dog mess!). The New Forest is home to some of the UK’s rarest ground nesting birds which are easily disturbed by dogs running loose. So it’s important to train our dogs to remain close by and be able to recall them at all times.’

Cooper’s adventures so far have included puppy social skills walks with Dawn and New Forest-based Southern Pet Services to socialise with other dogs and learn how to deal with the varied experiences the Forest provides.

Owners Gavin and Jeanette Muldoon have been working with Dawn who regularly gives talks to their Puppy Classes, helping owners be aware of what to look out for and how to look after their puppies when walking in the New Forest.  

Jeanette said: ‘With Dawn’s help we have now taken things a step further and this week introduced the first puppy socialisation walks in the Forest. This is a great opportunity for owners to gain the practical experience of the real world, with the safety of having dog trainers on hand to guide them if necessary.

‘On this first session the puppies were on a long lead, giving them the freedom to explore the new smells and environment. Here they met some ramblers and then ponies at a safe distance. They soon realised it was more fun to recall and get a treat rather than go near the ponies.’

At this time of year the disturbance of ground nesting birds is a main concern in the forest.

Last week it was reported that just 40 breeding pairs of curlews were spotted across the National Park last year - a shocking population decline of almost two thirds in the last 10 years.

Curlews and other New Forest birds typically nest in open areas of heath and bog, so it is here that special care is needed.

You can help rare ground-nesting birds in the Forest during the breeding season between 1 March and 31 July, by:

  • keeping yourself (and your dog) to main tracks
  • moving away quickly if you see disturbed or distressed parent birds
  • encouraging others to do the same.

Follow Cooper’s exciting journey and pick up some doggie tips and tweets at

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Notes to photo editors

Cooper with owner Dawn Rayment, New Forest National Park Authority People and Wildlife Ranger.

Notes to editors

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more.

Media contacts

Matt Stroud, Communications Officer
Tel: 01590 646650

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