A POPULAR dog surfing contest returned ‘bigger and better’ to a Poole beach this weekend with more visitors than ever before.

The UK Dog Surfing Championship took place today (Saturday, July 23) on Branksome Dene Chine beach, between 10am and 10pm.

30 dogs took part in paddle boarding races with their owners, many of whom wore fancy dress.

There were five heats of six contestants with a semi-final and three dogs crowned in first, second and third place.

Bournemouth Echo:

The fourth annual festival is an all-day event that extended into the evening with a full programme of live music and sundown entertainment, including a dog show.

Event organiser Mark Reeves from Shaka Surf, a local surf and paddleboard school, said at the event: "We’re really excited, as you can see it’s got five times as big from last year and now we’ve got a music festival in the evening, which is an added bonus and we’re looking forward to the Bob Marley tribute band headlining, as they are the best in the world.

“We’ve got a licence for 3,000 visitors so fingers crossed we get that amount, we’ve sold a lot of tickets online and hopefully we will get more throughout the day. It’s going to be a great event.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Dog trainer Vicky Mansfeld from Paws on Board, explained how the dogs are trained for the event: “The dogs do a six week course with me and we make sure that they are happy and they then do their own training between those weeks and then they get more confident.

“As long as they're happy, we're happy, as long as they want to do it, we're happy that they want to do it.

“This event is probably the best run year that we've had with safety and animal welfare being a massive key point, more than ever, so I’m really chuffed from a dog trainer point of view, that's what you want.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Keren Mcilwain attended the event with Ralph, a therapy dog who works at Heatherlands Primary School in Poole. Keren said a number of the school children came to the event to support Ralph.

She said: “Ralph is a therapy dog and he's a stand-in today. He's been surfing for a couple of years and completely enjoys it, he’s ten years old, pointer bay.

“We’ve done lots of training, a lot of contestants here have done the six weeks training which has been a massive understanding of how to get the dog on the board and for you and your dog to enjoy it together.

“I've just watched everybody put the event together with all the stalls and it’s just so much fun and a good community with everyone coming together as well.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Elizabeth Wilkinson also took part in the event, she said: “I look after dogs for a living, I’m a last minute entry last week, so we’ve only started training this week, we've been out four times but I think we'll be fine.

“I think it will be quite hectic but it's a fun thing and a different thing for people to do and it's nice to see the dogs having fun at a beach they’re still allowed to come to.

“I’ll be dressed as Queen Elizabeth and my dog will be dressed as Prince Phillip.”