Over 160,000 visitors and 21,474 dogs went to the Crufts dog show last year. However, if you were thinking of a visit yourself this year and bringing your pet along (10-13th March at the NEC Birmingham), unfortunately the only dogs allowed are those invited by the Kennel Club. Aside from being a fun day out, dog shows can be a great way of getting information and advice and often seeing what your dog could be capable of too. Not every dog is ready for the showring spotlight but there are loads of fun activities recognised now like heelwork to music, obedience, agility and flyball. The competitions and displays might inspire you and your dog to try them out at home!
Most dog training schools will offer specialist courses in different activities if you decide to try your dog out, but it’s worth checking what your dog has a natural instinct or preference for first. Dogs that love chasing tennis balls are likely to enjoy flyball, whilst an agile performer will love heelwork to music. Nearly all dogs will enjoy some kind of agility training where they can learn to weave through poles, try out jumps and race through tunnels which will exhilarate even the quieter breeds.
There are other benefits to visiting dog shows though. They often have a huge range of pet accessories, bedding, coats, leads and equipment that you don’t find as easily in the pet shop at home. If you’re there without your dog, it’s worth taking along an old collar or coat to measure up with, as impulse buys can be difficult to return if they don’t fit.
If you haven’t yet decided on your new dog and what he’s going to be, big dog shows are a great source of information. At Crufts most of Hall 3 is dedicated to a ‘discover dogs’ section where every registered Kennel Club breed is represented. Here you’ll find dogs to meet and stroke whilst their owners are happy to discuss their temperament and ideal home environment. At smaller, more relaxed shows you may see more examples of the new crosses and mixed breeds like Labradoodles, Chugs and three way crosses like the Cavapoochon, competing or spectating with their owners.
With all shows though, be prepared for a long day out and make sure your dog is being looked after at home whilst you’re there. Time can pass quickly at events and it’s worth being prepared for queues afterwards to leave the event, so if you’ve organised a dog-sitter or walker at home, they may need to stay a little longer than originally planned.