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Pedigree: In at the Beginning

     Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover

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Agility first surfaced in what we call a recognisable format at Crufts in 1978. Prior to this, people had played about with separate bits of equipment but for Crufts 1978, the Kennel Club asked for a few enthusiasts to put together a demonstration event. This event would encompass some working trials equipment, show jumping equipment and a little bit of obedience thrown in for good measure.Dogs in Need 1992 winners Bruce Currie & Dave Blackshaw The name Dog Agility was born.

It was such a success in 1978 that it went back to Crufts in 1979 as a proper competition. Watching the events at both of these Crufts shows was Eric Smethurst, who was then manager of Pedigree’s Breed, Show and Veterinary Services Department. Eric and the rest of the Pedigree team were really impressed with this new sport and decided that they would like Pedigree to be a part of it. Therein lies the start of over twenty years of continuous support and sponsorship of dog agility.

The Pedigree Canine Christmas Cracker
This was followed in December 1979 by the first of the very famous Pedigree Chum Agility Stakes Finals which  was held at the Olympia Christmas Horse Show, although to be fair, in the early days it was mostly jumping. Qualifying for the Pedigree Olympia Finals has remained the ultimate goal of all agility handlers.

There is no doubt that Crufts and Olympia played a huge part in publicising and popularising the sport. Agility turned out to be one of the fastest growing canine pursuits during the 1980s. Pedigree was the first national sponsor and has remained at the forefront of support, sponsoring many different types of agility, with finals at many major events in the the UK.

Sarah Macneil & Louandi A Woodie de Pudbri, Agility Club Starters of the Year 1992Other events
In the intervening years, of course, many more competitions have been added. These now encompass a team competition, pairs relay, mini agility, Gamblers, Power and Speed, Irish Agility Dog of the Year, Scotland’s very own Highland Agility Stakes and the Novice Grand National Jumping. There are now 77 heats for Pedigree-supported agility competitions. These are held at 35 of the UK’s premier open agility shows. In addition to this, there are twenty finals and semi-finals.

Pedigree’s commitment to dog agility is undeniable. In these days of cutbacks and downsizing, Pedigree has remained totally committed to the sport, and there are no bigger fans of dog agility than the Pedigree team.

Three time winner Rudyard Daley handled by Don Cooper - 1991Agilitynet Sponsorship
Pedigree Masterfoods are now supporting the Agilitynet web site by sponsoring the Show Diary pages.

Dave Ray, Pedigree's Agility Consultant, who manages all of the company's sponsorship throughout the United Kingdom, stated  'Pedigree recognises the importance of of Agility moving forward into the 21st Century. Computers and the World Wide Web are an integral part of this move forward. We already support the Dogs in Action web site where the latest Pedigree results are posted as soon as they are received from the relevant societies. It is a natural extension that we would wish to support the leading British Agility web site.'

Dave also said, 'I know from my own experience over the last few months how many agility folk are corresponding with me via email and have access to the Internet. This pool of people is increasing all the time. I don't think that web sites will have a detrimental effect on our agility magazines for the foreseeable future, but the fact is that, if you want to get immediate information, the web is the place to go. As the leading Agility supporter in the UK, Pedigree wants to be totally involved in the communication superhighway.'

Pedigree Masterfoods, the best known sponsor of agility events, is the UK division of Mars Europe and the largest of the Mars pet care companies. It commenced operating in 1935. over 60 years ago and has been active in agility since the sport was born. Its National Office is located in Waltham-on-the Wolds in Leicestershire, and the factories are based in Melton Mowbray and Peterborough. With a turnover of £500 million, it employs over 1,000 people.

Photographs reproduced from front covers of Agility Voice (June 1991, October 1992, January 1993) with kind permission of John Gilbert.