Crufts... Oh that's not for me!
I hear that statement so many times. Crufts... it's not for me. It's for posh show types, it's for prancey dogs that never play outside in the mud, it's boring, it's mean to dogs... and a million and one other misconceptions. Crufts is brilliant, there I said it. I love Crufts. It is true you will from time to time, see a dog looking unhappy - but lets be fair here, you'll see a dog looking unhappy if you look at most of the dogs being walked down the road by someone tugging the lead or ignoring them and playing on their phones. You'll see unhappy dogs at local fetes, carboot sales, summer pet shows and more. That is because any time you see someone elses dog, that's just a moment in time, it is not representative of the entirety of that dogs life, nor of other dogs like that dog. For every dog I have seen looking tired, fed up, worried, at Crufts, I have seen 20 happy, bouncing, loved, cuddled, joyful dogs, at Crufts. So now that one is out of the way.. who is Crufts for? Everyone. That's who! I go because I get to connect with other trainers, other dog related business people, I get to talk to folk face to face, see what it is they do and see their passion, for dogs! This year I met Nina Ottoson, if you haven't heard of Nina Ottoson, where have you been. She invented a range of interactive puzzle toys for dogs (and cats) that really changed the way we think about dog toys and how dogs think and solve problems.
These toys changed how I ran one to one consultations - they gave me a tool I could take to each client, fill with food and put down, and observe their dog, in their own familiar environment, solve a novel puzzle. It is mindblowing how in nearly 20 years, I have not yet seen any dog attempt the same puzzle in exactly the same way, and observing dogs tackle puzzles tells me more about that dog, and how they think, than even their owners can! Being able to meet Nina and speak to her about her product and see her new ideas, that's worth more than gold to me!
Crufts is filled with tradestands, and it isn't just the usual food, toys, collars and fancy artworks. You can talk to a variety of trainers and behaviourists at Crufts, many have their own stands and whether you are looking for a trainer for your own dog, or looking to join a professional body, there's someone there for you. You can find out more about how to join, or how to find a trainer, what sort of methods they use and even watch training demos. There are organisations for dog sports and activities too, from charities aiding the training of assistance dogs, to a variety of competitive or non-competitive doggy 'games', such as Scent work or Mantrailing. On top of that there are the activity rings where you can see heelwork, disc dog, gundog work, flyball, agility, and working dog demos. What about the rescue dogs? Well lots of dog charities and rescues have stands at Crufts, so you can support them, and learn more about what they do when you visit. Crufts is also where the final of the Scruffts competition is judged, and of course many of the KC activities are open to crossbreeds registered on their Activities Register. But wait.. as the info-mercials say.. there's more! There is also the Discover Dogs area - every breed recognised by the KC and some of those on the import register about to become recognised breeds, is there, represented by volunteers and their own dogs. Over the four days of Crufts you can see every hound, terrier, pastoral breed, working breed, utility, toy and gundog breed, on the Discover Dogs stands. This is an incredible opportunity to meet, in person, in some cases to fuss or even cuddle (depending on if the dog wants to of course) breeds you are interested in owning. If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, meeting the breeds you are interested in, in person, rather than via video or photograph, is a priceless experience. You will also be able to find out details from people who live with these breeds as to the reality of sharing your home with them. They don't hold back, I can assure you! If their tales of muddy paws and countryside dragged back indoors, of chewed furniture and vanishing canines doesn't put you off for life, then they can put you in touch with the breed clubs and breeders, and help you finalise your journey in finding your new puppy! And then, finally, on top of ALL of that.. there is the showing. The poncing about the ring, showing off the dogs paces and conformation. What's that for then? Prizes? Money? Kudos? Really it is an opportunity for breeders and owners to compare their dogs against one anothers dogs AND against the breed standard for that dog, under the eye of a judge experienced in that breed who is unbiased (this is why if you get as far as watching the best in group judging, the dogs are announced by breed and entry number, not name. Its anonymous, the judge doesn't know WHO that dog is... in theory anyway!). Whilst winning shows is certainly not the be all and end all of dog breeding, realistically anyone who breeds pedigree dogs SHOULD show their dogs - if they don't, then how do they know their dogs are worthy of reproduction, how do they know which dogs to choose to mate their dogs with? Crufts might be the biggest name show in the country and probably the world, but did you know, the winners of the big classes still only get a bit of card and a ribbon, the winner of BEST IN SHOW... gets a card, a ribbon and £100, and a replica (not the real thing!) of the Keddall Memorial Trophy. Contrary to popular belief, in the UK, most show dogs including those who qualify for Crufts (which, although prestigious in some ways is not that hard to do, I have qualified a dog for Crufts although sadly due to injury she didn't go), are just pedigree pet dogs. They run around, they get mucky, they have fun, they sleep on owners beds, they are part of the family. There are (unlike the American show scene) VERY few 'professional' kennels who literally do nothing but show dogs. Another popular myth is that puppies from Crufts winning parents cost significantly more than others - they don't. Within each breed, the price for a well bred, healthy puppy from a reputable and ethical breeder is pretty much the same.
Whilst some dogs will go on to compete in shows in other countries, most Crufts BIS winners will retire, maybe have puppies, maybe just enjoy being lazy pets. So, if you thought Cruft's had nothing to offer you - think again, if you love dogs - Cruft's is for you!