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Two Busy Reporters at Crufts 2016

   Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover

Penny and David go to the world's largest dog show...

This year marks the 125th Anniversary of Crufts and the atmosphere at the NEC was as frenzied as ever. We sent out our intrepid reporters, armed with just a press pass and an open brief, to watch, listen and report on the 'best dog show in world' for those of us unable to go, get time off work or unwilling to make it buck the traffic and road works to get to the live agility in the Arena.

First up was Penny Cockerill who does Agility and Obedience.

The first day of Crufts was a Thursday and the Agility programme comprised the KC British Open, the KC Novice Cup and the Crufts Large Team final. Events in the YKC ring included the Medium ABC, the Agility for handlers 18-24 years and The Agility Dog of the Year.

The KC Novice Cup
The top ten large, eight medium and eight small dogs from the Novice Cup competition (Grades 3, 4 or 5) held at the KC International Agility Festival last August took part in the finals on Thursday at Crufts. Competitors had a Jumping round in the morning, followed by an Agility round in the afternoon. The results of both classes combined to produce the overall winner.

The judge for the Semi finals of the Novice Cup as well as the British Open was Gary Murphy, who set a fast, flowing course with some tricky turns. In the Novice Cup Jumping round the winners were:

  • Small:           Elizabeth Saggers with Maid of Magic AW/S

  • Medium:       Ian Balchin with Shoshonemara Bi Turbo Too

  • Large:           Natasha Wise with Nedlo Flipping Shiny Pebble

The judge for the Agility round was Kathy Keith, who set two flowing courses.

The Small Novice Cup round came first, with some drama affecting the result. Running third, Jacqui Tarn's Working Cocker, Gibble Chloe's Legacy, became tangled in the material of the soft tunnel but was able to complete the course.

Running next was Angela Gadenne with her Miniature Poodle, Sirensong Bewitched Raeanne. The dog unfortunately became so completely wrapped up in the cloth tunnel that Angela had to disentangle her and pick her out. After a reassuring cuddle, the team completed the last two obstacles with time faults and five for handling, although the spectators were much relieved to see that no harm appeared to have been suffered by the dog. This problem with the cloth tunnel was despite the ring party straightening it after every run.

The rest of the dogs managed to negotiate the tunnel without incident. In my view the problem arose from dogs veering to one side towards the handler whilst in the tunnel, as there was a slight angle onto the next jump, which was four obstacles from home. The larger dogs did not have a problem with it.

The winner of the Small Agility round was Cheryl Harkness with Hillsidejemz Triptronic in a time of 33.046. Second was Sarah Vallom with A Lil Worse for Wear in 34.496. After two rounds, the overall winner of the Novice Cup Small was Cheryl Harkness.

In the Medium Novice Cup Agility round, there were unfortunately four eliminations so only two clear rounds. Winner of the round was Steven Swankie with Fern, with a cracking round in 33.357. Alicia Hancock was 2nd with her German Spitz x Japanese Spitz Barney in 42.31. This meant that Alicia was the overall winner of the Medium Novice Cup.

Alicia with TinkThis was 13 year old Alicia's first time at Crufts. She began agility training at the age of 10. Barney is her first agility dog.

Proud owner Alicia said, 'It was an amazing experience to qualify for Crufts, and I am very happy that Barney and I managed to win the Novice Cup. I am so proud of him. Although he was tired he kept going and was the only Medium dog to get a double clear.'

Last to run in the Large round was Natasha Wise with Nedlo Flipping Shiny Pebble, who had won the earlier jumping round. There were some fast times to beat, Judith Falkner and Second Chance Harvey running third recorded a time of 30.003, but this was beaten on the next run by Dan Shaw with Comebyanaway Redefined, who scorched round in 29.688.There were no more clear rounds until Natasha's run, but unfortunately Pebbles took the wrong course early on and was eliminated. The sympathetic gasp which went up was probably no consolation to Natasha! This was not to be her day, however, honours going to Dan as the overall Large Novice Cup winner. Dan won the round with that fast time and Judith was second.

The KC British Open Final
It was a hotly contested final where the handler and dog with the fewest combined faults in the fastest combined time, calculated over the two rounds, won the cup.

In the morning the winners of the British Open Jumping round were:-

  • Small:              Stacey Irwin-Burns with Lucas's Little Soppy Sam AW/S

  • Medium:          Amanda Hampson with Ag.Ch. Shoredancer Sea Jade

  • Large:             Alex Sabini with I'mind de Loustalaire des Bourdalats

The Small British Open Agility round was impressive, with just one elimination. The winner of the round was Maria Melakari with Brainpool's New Era (34.729) and 2nd was Stacy Irwin-Burns with Lucas's Little Soppy Sam AW/S in 35.265. With her win from the morning, it meant that Stacy took the title with David Wright and Ag.Ch. Shanandi Strike It Lucky coming 2nd.

Stacey, who has been training dogs in agility for nearly six years, has owned her own agility club called Stacey's K9 Services for the last two years. She proudly said, 'This is our first time running at Crufts in the Main Arena so we are over the moon at winning.'

The Medium round was another impressive display, with no eliminations. It was won by Christine Wingate-Wynne in a time of 35.211, 2nd place going to Amanda Hampson with Ag.Ch. Shoredancer Sea Jade, making Amanda and Rogue the overall winners. Christine had to settle for overall 2nd place.

Amanda and Rogue qualified for the Final at Crufts at the Kennel Club International Agility Festival in August 2015. Since then they have been working towards the tense final. Amanda said about her fantastic win: 'I'm speechless. Rogue is such an amazing dog who absolutely loves running. We're privileged to be here and I'm so proud her!'

Again with no eliminations, the Large Agility round was an exciting contest with some fast times recorded. Second to run was Matthew Goodliffe with Quincy, who put in a stunning run to record what proved to be the winning time of 32.899. Naarah Cuddy, running fifth, came very close, another excellent run in 33.243. Anthony Clarke, with Nedlo Step on the Gas, looked as though he might beat that but his time was 35.200. Next to run, Susie Josty and Cool Beans raced round in 34.307. Greg Derrett was next on the line with Rehab, and made a very good start, but picked up 5 faults with another excellent time of 33.070.

Jenny Kimber and seven year old Border Collie Raeannes Falcon (Guvnor) put in a lovely clear in 34.226 with just the morning's winner, Alex Sabini, to run. Although putting in a fast time of 33.116, he picked up five faults, meaning that Matthew was the winner of the round with Naarah coming 2nd. The overall winner of the Large British Open, therefore, was Jenny Kimber, with Susie Josty coming 2nd.

Jenny said of her incredible achievement, 'It's amazing to finally win. We've always had near successes but never claimed the prize so this is a real achievement for us.'

Crufts Large Team Final
It was a very exciting morning and the Large Team Final was still to come.

There were eight teams in the Final. First to go was Lisburn & District DTC, who unfortunately suffered a team elimination when one member of the team didn't complete the course correctly after being eliminated. Tenterden Turbos, looking very blingy, had some good runs but two Es. Third to go was North Downs Green who did a great run with no E's with a total of 15 faults. They were now the team to beat. Smart Chance Reds picked up another team elimination, but Goody4paws ran very well with just 10 faults and, in a time of 137.881, took the lead.

Scunthorpe Hustlers from North Lincolnshire went one better - 10 faults but in a time of 137.506. Live Wyres unfortunately picked up one E which put them out of contention, leaving it all to play for in the last run by Dark Destroyer Dragonhearts. They did really well with a total of 15 faults in a time of 151.120 but not well enough to overtake the Hustlers, The team consisted of two Border Collies, Devo and Rhyme, and their owners Mark and Karen Laker, Border Collie x Golden Retriever Jingo with owner Roger Teasdale and Border Collie Oz with owner Julie Chapman all in Scunthorpe.

Team member, Roger Teasdale said: 'To win is fabulous. It's obviously what you hope for, but two of the dogs haven't ever competed before so it's wonderful. It's always exciting to come to Crufts. It's the best dog show in the world. I'm so proud of the whole team.'

Fellow team member Julie Chapman added, 'The dogs have done so well, they didn't seem fazed at all. We're really happy to win, it's just the best thing.'

Goody4paws came in 2nd place. We thought 3rd would be North Downs Green, but the judge had actually given an additional five for a refusal, making their total 20 in 141.420, so they came in 4th while the Dark Destroyer Dragonhearts took 3rd place.

Saturday is for sport and shopping

Our second reporter was David Elliott who attended on Saturday with his wife Debbie...

Like the rest of us dog nuts (enthusiasts) I love going to Crufts to see the new toys, gadgets and gizmos for his four pawed children as well as the agility. But what is it like, I wondered, would it be like if you are competing there or even working there so I decided to have a chat with a few people on the other side.

The Junior Handler
What's it like for a Junior handle who is doing well.

Holly Ryan is not a name you may recognise. She's an up and coming Junior star, so take note. Though only 14 years old, Holly has been to Crufts six times so far with her dog is Tink, a seven year old German Spitz. This year she won the Young Kennel Club Agility Dog of the Year for the second time. She is starting to train a new dog called Izzy.

In her own words, Holly said, 'Running at Crufts is unlike running at any other normal show. The main differences were the atmosphere and the crowds. When you hear them all cheering you on it encourages you to run faster. I was more nervous this year as I was trying to keep my title of Agility Dog of the Year, from last year, but I was also feeling really excited to be running in the Main Arena.

In the weeks before Crufts, Tink and I did a lot of training in preparation with my Mum at her training field. It is very competitive but it is the best sport for Tink and me. To get into Crufts, we attended many qualifiers where my friends and I would have friendly competition. We would also cheer each other on. The qualifiers are so less stressful compared to the real thing.'

Happy shopping
If you are like us, we love to go to Crufts to shop for new dog stuff, toys, gadgets and gizmos for our four pawed children as well as watch the agility. With 160,000 visitors over the fours days of the show, it is the biggest dog show in the world so what's it like working on a busy trade stand all day.

We all need to feed our dogs, so off I went to interview some of the people at Burns Pet Foods.

Fiona Firth (BSc (Hons) Zoology), who was working on the Burns stand said, 'Working on a trade stand at Crufts can be tiring - early starts and late finishes - and you definitely need the right shoes. Keeping the throat lubricated with tea and coffee is essential, and we're lucky that Mr. Burns always brings the cake! However, it's worth it when you get to speak to so many people who share an enthusiasm for dogs and their health.

As the world's largest dog show, spread over five halls, it can take a day (or two) to get round to see everything. We're really very pleased when public comes to the Burns stand just to say hello and tell us how well their dog is doing. Being on the stand also means we can't see what's happening in the Arena so it's a wonderful surprise when people we sponsor come and tell us how they are getting on in events such as agility or flyball. As a thank you for old and new customer support, we always have some show offers, free samples and expert nutritional advice on hand. On that note, we'd like to say a huge congratulations again to Bernadette Bay, Susie Josty and the YKC flyball team Prestbury Party Animals. 

For all four days veterinary surgeon John Burns gives advice to concerned pet owners. Two nutritional advisors are also available and we've heard it all over the years from the more common digestive problems to full anal glands and dogs that eat poo. Nothing puts us off our lunch anymore!

New for 2016 we held a competition for people to nominate their favourite rescue centre. The winner will win a tonne of Burns food for their rescue. Keeping with the theme of helping others, this year we also launched Burns By Your Side which is part of our Burns in the Community scheme. As a company that employs many local people and supports local event

As we have always received incredible local community support. Burns in the Community returns that favour and helps people and pets achieve their goals. We supply financial assistance, skills and resources wherever possible. ‘Burns By Your Side' is our innovative new scheme in Pembrokeshire. We recruit, train and support volunteers and their companion dogs so that they can visit schoolchildren to help improve their literacy, confidence and communication skills. It was great to get so much interest in our new scheme and just spread the word about it.

One thing that a lot of agility folk do is make sure our dogs are in tip top condition, and for that I use members of the Canine Massage Guild. One of the best I have found is Vreli Middleton (Dip TCM. O.A. Dip.(Animal Psychology)). She has been great with all my dogs and helped prepare one of mine for his 'green carpet' experience a few years ago.

Vreli said, 'It was great to be back at Crufts with the Canine Massage Guild this year after missing 2015. One full day helping to build the stand and then four full on days meeting hundreds of dogs and their owners and catching up with doggy friends. For a dog person, this is so the best show on earth!

The great part of being on the Guild Stand is being able to promote something all of us therapists are very passionate about. When it comes from the heart people are inspired to listen. For the most part agility and sports dog owners understand the importance of keeping their dogs in good muscular shape. Guild therapists work at the same level as human sports massage therapists. It's nothing like the spa day pampering treatment that first springs to mind for many people! There are still the occasional, not so well informed comments like 'Massage for a dog – seen it all now!' Our dogs are athletes. Bet those people wouldn't think twice about David Beckham getting his regular sports massage! Crufts gives us the opportunity to reach the wider audience of the show and pet communities and provide information about this amazing therapy.

Crufts days are busy. We're on the stand from 8am until close, talking with owners and carrying out free muscular health checks for their dogs. This year we also did demonstrations of warm up techniques on the Eukanuba stage and some interviews on Crufts radio. Between all this you'll catch the therapists running between the halls, heading to the benches and arena's to warm up our canine clients before they head into the ring. One of the therapists wore a Fitbit to see just how many miles we were covering… on one day she had done 6.5 miles by 10.30am! All of us therapists love what we do. It's a great feeling when you see a dog that you have worked on perform well in the ring and it is such a proud moment when those dogs are placed and knowing that you have been instrumental in getting them there.

There is always something controversial about Crufts
This year, as in previous years, we saw lame dogs getting as far as the Groups and two Breed winners displaying gaits suspiciously similar to that of a dog with a luxating patella. Then sadly there was the controversy over the German Shepherd Dog and how the breed has deteriorated in the show ring. Had the GSD not been placed, this travesty would not have been highlighted, so, in that respect it is perhaps a good thing which will bring changes for the better for this breed. Thankfully there are good working lines out there to keep the GSD true to what it should be.

Happily, there are lots of good dogs at Crufts . Many of those dogs have their own Guild massage therapist to keep them in top shape for when they hit that famous green carpet in Agility, Breed, Obedience or as part of the many demo teams that are there.

Tips on how I survive Crufts.

  • Go with a shopping list with prices on it so I know when I am getting a good deal. Only get stuff on the list, well try to.
  • Stop and sit down frequently. The empty booths for the show dogs do well as a place to sit and rest for a few minutes.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Take a little bit of your own food and drink. Not a lot as you will have to carry it with you.
  • Make a plan of what you want to see and find out before when and where it is.
  • If you want seats in the main arena get there early, as there were queues this year on Saturday of almost an hour.

Have a wonderful year. We're all looking forward to doing it again in 2017! Can't wait for next year.

First published 10 April 2016


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