Lets just take a moment, the day I have been waiting for FINALLY arrived, and what a day it was. If you don’t have a super keen interest in dogs this post might be a little boring for you but I think anybody who likes dogs would enjoy a day at Crufts, the tickets aren’t too expensive and there were so many families having a nice day out there!
As a bit of background, I love dogs. Did you already know? Have I mentioned it before? Could you tell seeing as this is my 3rd post in a row with canine related content? Sorry about that guys… its a problem. SO! I have always wanted to go to Crufts but the last few years I have been especially into reading dog psychology books, training books, you name it I’ve looked it up! And so for Christmas 2016 my mum got me tickets to Crufts, unfortunately I couldn’t go because it overlapped with a holiday to Italy (first world problems right?). This Christmas (2017) I knew I would be receiving tickets again so I made sure I kept the dates clear so that I could definitely attend! Oh my god, am I glad I did!
The breeds of dogs I have a particular interest in are part of the Working and Utility group, and so mum got me tickets to attend the Saturday of Crufts – Utility and Toy group judging!
Don’t get me wrong, I have love for crossbreed dogs! But when it comes to Crufts and The Kennel Club dog breeds are broken down into 7 groups – Gundog, Hounds, Pastoral, Terrier, Toy, Utility and Working. If you click on the words I have linked all the breeds that come under those groups! Crufts is set out over 4 days, with the judging of 2 different groups per day, apart from the last day (Sunday) where they just judge one dog group – because the rest of the time is spend tying up all the finals and judging the BEST IN SHOW.
I found a great flow chart that explains how dogs get to be judged for Best in Show on the Crufts website, see below!
Crufts and The Kennel Club has always been surrounded by massive controversy, as you might have seen if you watched this years Best in Show – the ring was stormed by a protester! I see both sides – on one side, a dog is a dog, and it should be able to go about its happy life without been judged, prodded, preened and poked by somebody trying to determine whether it is the ‘perfect’ representation of the breed, according to Kennel Club standards. On the other side, its been long known that dogs enjoy ‘working’ and having a purpose, and that can come in many forms from fetching a ball, to showing in a ring. When you go back to how dogs live naturally in a pack they work for their food, and even in the show ring the dog isn’t stood there for nothing – the handler is usually holding some form of food to give the dog after it has shown correct behavior. Not all dogs will stand there while a stranger checks its teeth and limbs, the dogs are bred for this in the same way that others are bred for agility. It isn’t like the winner of Crufts Best in Show wins much either! The winner is awarded £100, but in sponsorship and breeding they can make thousands from this. Love it or loath it, Crufts has been around since 1891 and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Crufts these days is more than just a beauty contest, it celebrates all aspects of the role a dog plays in our lives. These are the different activities and competitions that are now judged at Crufts: Agility, obedience, flyball (my new fave), heelwork to music, international junior handling, junior warrant competition, Scrufts (best cross breed), breeders competition, and trainer of the year!
Crufts and The Kennel Club are now making great progress towards stopping qualities been bred into dogs that can become harmful. One of the main reasons they were involved in massive controversy a few years ago was because of the standards they were looking for when judging breeds such as the English Bulldogs and German Shepherds. English Bulldogs that showed extremely squashed noses and very heavy large heads were doing really well, but in turn it meant that were being bred to have this look, and it was effecting the dogs quality of breathing amongst other problems – obviously this is cruel and breeding a dog to ‘look’ a certain way thats harmful to its health is not ok, ever. German Shepherds were preforming well when showing a sloping spine and shorter back legs – but to the extreme. This can increase their chances of developing hip dysplasia, which is super painful for the dog and again, so unnecessary to breed them to look like this when its harming the welfare of the animal.
These days you aren’t allowed to show any dog that has a docked tail or cropped ears – unless it has been done by a vet for medical reasons only, this in itself is a massive turn around from the days certain breeds pretty much had to have a docked tail to do well! Now, they recognize that its cruel, and if you can’t show a dog that has been spayed because its classed as ‘altering’ the way the dog is originally, why was it ever okay to show a dog thats had its tail docked or ears cropped?
Sooo! This was how our day went.
5:30 Our alarm went off, ready for us to set off at 6am. I woke up slightly before 5:30 because I was just so excited that I barely slept! I am not a morning person – In.The.Slightest. But when it came to Crufts I literally jumped out of bed and was in the shower by 5:31!
6:10 We set off, a little late because I didn’t decide what to wear the night before – obviously. I did my makeup in the car though so that saved us some time.
6:45 We had McDonalds breakfast, this is essential whenever you set off early anywhere!
8:45ishh We arrive in the NEC car park! The excitement is real, I was so excited that my emotions were all maxed out and I didn’t really know what to do! While we were waiting to pay for parking there was barking coming from different directions and I kind of just went into myself and didn’t know what to do hahah!
9am We are in the arena, oh my god, I’m pointing at every dog I see and going ‘ooo Jack looks its a _________ (insert breed)!’ I realise that we are at the biggest dog event in the world and I really need to control this reaction because there are going to be dogs in all directions!
From here the whole day rolls into one pretty much, time goes out of the window until a bit later on. I bought a programme so we knew what was going on and as a bit of a keep sake. The programme is £8 and Im impressed because it’s super thick and includes the running order for all 4 days. Obviously we were only there for the 1 day but I think if you were there for the full run thats a really reasonable price!
We went in and navigated our way through all the stalls, there is literally something to look at no matter which direction you turn! The place is sooo big we decided to stop and have a flick through the map, figure out where we are and looked at the events list. In the main arena there was some agility taking place so we made our way there and grabbed a seat.
Wow, I’ve always known what agility is but I’ve never sat and watched it at competition level, its so intense! The way its set up is kind of similar to how show jumping is with horses, if you know about that! The jumps/ramps/tunnels etc are all laid out in the ring, with numbers so the handlers know which order they are supposed to be done in. The handlers all walk the course a few times and memorize it, some of the handlers were jogging round practicing how they would lead the dog to each part, and then after what seemed like just a few mins the stewards walked down in a big line and ushered them out of the ring. Times up. Time for the competition to start! It’s fast AF! The dog doesn’t see the layout or have a test run beforehand, its up to the handler to show the dog where its supposed to go and in what order. The fastest around the course wins, and points are deducted for things like the dog hesitating at the obstacle or going the wrong way. It was absolutely amazing and the dogs were loving it! Taking commands from their human and being rewarded with their beloved ball or toy afterwards.
They have a section there called ‘discover dogs’ which I think was my favorite part after watching the agility and flyball. in the discover dogs section they have a stall for literally every single breed, all in alphabetical order under their ‘groups’ which made it really easy to find your way around. Here you can have a look at your fave breeds, maybe breeds you didn’t know existed and learn all about them. There are the real dogs in every stall with their handler, lots of info about the breed, their history and any health issues they might have and all the handlers have a wealth of knowledge for you to find out anything you might want to know. Jack and I had previously spoken to a lovely man at a dog show in Weatherby about Dobermann’s and he was telling us a few facts and giving us advice about choosing a puppy, When we went to the Dobermann stall, there he was!
I think it made it obvious to him how serious we are about having a Dobermann puppy seeing as he met us at a dog show and now at Crufts too! He pointed us in the direction of the Dobermann club secretaries and all of the email addresses for the different clubs around the UK. He advised that once we were ready to start the process we drop a few emails out letting the secretaries know and they can tell us what litters are available, where, and all about the breeders and their dogs. We are 100% up for rescuing dogs too but for our first dog together we want to get one from a reputable breeder, with health checked parents, and people who are going to support us with anything we might need throughout the dogs life.
I really enjoyed seeing the Rough Collie’s as this is the breed my grandma used to breed and show, I think this is where I get my crazy dog lady traits! I took a few photos of the Borzoi’s too as they are my mums fave. The stand out star for Jack was the Weimaraner, he hadn’t seen this breed before and fell in love! My sister used to have one and he was absolutely bananas but they are truly gorgeous. I was super excited to see so many Shar Pei’s in one place! I absolutely adore them and was hoping Jack would fall in love with them too but unfortunately he still thinks they just look strange!
14:20 I don’t know how it got to this time already! I had a look at the running order and realised that more agility was on at 14:45 and I wanted to get a seat for this, the flyball was straight afterwards too and then it rolls lots of finals and then the main event later on. We made our way to the main arena for about 14:40 and all the stewards were shouting ‘MAIN ARENA CLOSED, 2 HOUR QUEUE TO GET IN’. Oh no! We were gutted because we knew that once the agility and flyball was on nobody was going to leave the arena. We pondered for a bit looking at our programme to see what else we could do but eventually we decided to suck it up and just wait – we were here for 1 day and really wanted to see the things that were on in the main arena, what else were we going to do?
I have to say, props to the NEC because with SO many people queuing to get into the same place I thought they managed everybody really well. They were continuously letting people in as others were leaving and when we got to a bit which was quite crowded in a large holding room they opened all the fire doors so we didn’t get too hot.
A surprising amount of people were leaving the arena all the time so we managed to get into the arena and sat down exactly 1 hour after we joined the queue! I am so, so glad that we weren’t put off and decided to wait! We managed to see half of the agility and then we stayed in the arena for the rest of the day! We watched the agility, flyball semi finals, West Midlands police display and then there was a 15 mins break – LOADS of people piled out of the arena at this point so we gathered up our things and moved down to better seats!
17:00 The rest of the afternoon consisted of Agility, large dogs finals, heelwork to music winner performance, international junior handling finals, Scrufts final, obedience winner performance, Kennel Club vulnerable breed competition, and then finally it was the best in group for the Utility breeds. We stayed until the end of this one and left before the best in group of the Toy breeds.
19:30 we left the NEC, and made our way home! We arrived home at around 11pm. It was a long day but genuinely the best day I can remember having! I was absolutely in my element and I want to go every year now! Next time I want to go on either the Working group day, or on the last day to watch the Best in Show.
And thats it all… in detail!
Love, Chelsea xxx