Here I have digressed a little from my focus on the puppy blog I’ve been writing as I wanted to give an overview of my time at Crufts.
I arrived at Crufts on the afternoon of Thursday 5th March 2015. This would be the first time I would experience the event as a member of the public. I had decided to look around on Thursday prior to my shift in the Cambridge Institute of Dog Training and Behaviour stand on the Friday.
To be honest I had a ‘rabbit in headlights moment’ soon after entering. Crufts is set in the Birmingham NEC and is spread over 5 large halls – all filled with show rings and trade stands. The stands covered everything from dog food, accessories and clothing to back massagers (taken advantage of on a number of occasions!), beauty treatments and pet portraits. You could pretty much purchase anything you wanted, so where would I start.
Being partial to a bit of bling I removed myself from the array of sparkly collars and leads, somehow I don’t think Marley would forgive me if I arrived back with his name on a crystal collar! However tempted I was.
It occurred to me that if I was overwhelmed then how does the average dog owner possibly take in all that was on offer? I left the shopping behind and headed for a seat at the show rings instead!
A quick breather and a coffee and few hours later and I was in the swing of it. I had found the gundog ring and sat watching these beautiful animals get led around the ring by their proud handlers.
Spotting this gorgeous flat coat retriever, I was chuffed to see him not only win the group but also achieve reserve in best in show on the Sunday, very well earned.
It was really interesting to observe the stature of the Labradors in this class in comparison to the show Labradors.
While this appears the sought after look of the show Labrador, is this dog not carrying too much weight? The health implications of a dog carrying too much weight far outweighs any visual ideal in my book, especially given the breed predisposition for joint issues.
The Benches at Crufts
My little tour took me along the benches. I hadn’t previously noticed how many dogs were left unattended. While the Kennel Club stipulates that dogs should not be left unattended there were plenty that were. I guess handlers on their own needed toilet breaks, but some of these dogs were left for much longer.
I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of dogs alone on their benches without permission from owners so I have just taken this picture from google: http://www.canaandogsofanacan.com/news.html to give you an idea of how the open benches are.
While crates are visible here, many people don’t use them and anyone is free to approach the dogs as they wish. This seemed like a risk to me but Crufts have a policy that no dogs leave the building until all classes have finished at 4.30pm plus there is CCTV. I guess under normal circumsances this should be sufficient.
Sadly this wasn’t the case and it didn’t stop the devastating poisoning that took place on my first day.
Thendara Satisfaction “Jagger”
This beautiful dog died on his return to Belgium. The owners confirmed the only time he had been left alone was during his time on the bench at Crufts.
It appears he had been fed sown up cubes of beef containing various different types of poison. I will never understand the motivation for somebody to commit such a heinous act but sadly I am rarely surprised by some of the things people do. According to latest reports, two other dogs have also been taken ill.
Whether this occurred through competitive jealousy or is just the behaviour of a severely unbalanced individual we may never know. The sad fact is that people should look after their dogs as if they were their child. If you wouldn’t leave your 3 year old unattended then don’t leave your dog!
The impact spreads far wider than just the loss of this gorgeous dog, if he had yet to sire a litter then his breed line will be affected, a huge loss to the breed as a whole. My sympathy’s go out to all those who were close Jasper, a stunning dog who I’m sure will be sadly missed.
On a happier note, those of you who saw my Facebook page will know my Sister-in-Law was competing with her Leonberger ‘Zoli’. I am very pleased to say they achieved ‘reserve’.
This achievement was massive. Just a month or so earlier Zoli had hit adolescence with a vengeance and was really struggling with a flood of testosterone making him reactive to dogs and high energy environments.
A real blow to my Sister-in-law who had spent every waking moment since she owned him ensuring the correct socialisation and training was put into place. It meant she had a battle on her hands to control him and with 70kgs of solid Leo on the end of the lead, the power to weight ratio was all on his side.
A couple of sessions with me in ‘behaviourist’ mode and here we have the reformed and newly chilled model!
The pressure of working for friends and family is always high but add in a Crufts deadline and it’s probably up there with one of the most stressful cases I have taken on. All worth it now though, happy owner and happy auntie!
The Marley dog may have been absent from the Crufts line up but he was present in my thoughts as I have finally had the chance to meet a lovely lady by the name of Rita Banfather.
Rita runs a Working Trials Group with a fantastic reputation. I am so keen to give Marley a shot at this that I have been bending her ear for the next available spot. I am pleased to say we are now in subject to a one to one which will take place on the 18th of this month!
My goal would be to compete Marley at working trials, this won’t be easy given he is likely to be the only doodle amongst a team of sharp collies, labs, shepherds and such like.
Our attempt at agility didn’t go so well as he got so hyped up he used to fly over jumps and try and latch on to my arm after each one. Not pleasant. I am hoping the calm structure applied to working trials will suit him better.
I love a challenge, so watch this space – but Crufts we can dream.
This plan will pave the way for our new pup, by July I’m sure Marley will have picked up the basics. If I’m confident handling him then a lab should be a breeze!
Assured Breeder Scheme Stand
It was a pleasure to have a chat with Frank Geraghty an ex Police Officer who is now well respected in the Gundog world as a breeder, trainer and advocate of the Assured Breeder Scheme. The care and attention to detail he follows with every litter he breeds is outstanding. He was on their stand on gundog day raising the profile of the scheme.
I gained a huge insight into the transformation of the Kennel Club over the years and the general compliance of gundog trainers and breeders in this country.
Not all Play
So my commitment for Crufts was with my educational body the Cambridge Institute of Dog training and Behaviour. Not only did this organisation provide the basis for my academic learning but the individuals involved are now my friends, my support and the place I go to talk dog!
They are a really friendly and professional bunch of individuals. I realised how important these people were when I was attacked last year. If it wasn’t for the wise words of my chairman Colin Tennant and the support of Ross McCarthy, Vicky Lawes and Lez Graham I’m really not sure I would have hung on to my confidence and self-belief. A huge thank you to them all. Here are a few of them.
So to work, our focus was to advise on individual courses for people wanting to do our job. Most of the courses are University accredited and if used within 5 years may be used to apply for a University degree.
Given the amount of hands on experience and life skills you need to cope with this job, I really feel doing the academia alongside a dog related job is the most successful progression.
I met some really lovely people both fresh from school and at retirement age all bringing their own take on dogs and what they wanted to achieve by pursuing an academic career in dog behaviour and training.
It was a truly successful 2 days catching up with old faces and meeting new. While I didn’t directly further my progression into my puppy research, I have set up some excellent avenues of support and communication and as always had a brilliant time in the process!
One of the things that I have considered throughout the process of writing my puppy blog is whether to rescue a dog, this is a decision I have battled with on many levels. For my next article I will return to the puppy advice and focus on the considerations for the rescue dog and why I have ultimately decided to purchase a puppy.