Crufts? Crufts!

Greyt Expectations Greyhound Obreedience TeamIt’s that time of year again. Peter Purves will once again be on our TV screens – if you’re of a certain vintage like me, you’ll still think of him as being from Blue Peter. Crufts is about to start, and like many thousands of people I’ll be visiting on Saturday.

I thought I’d do an email to give some tips on getting the best out of it and to discuss briefly why I think it’s worth going.

I’ll start by saying that for many years, I refused to go near it on principle. I still have enormous misgivings and reservations about many aspects of pedigree showing and breeding. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend the Pedigree Dogs Exposed blog which tries to look at the health issues faced by many breeds and in fairness supports and encourages progress in better health, screening initiatives and changes to judging practice. The blog is written by the journalist who made the ground breaking programmes about the persistent health issues faced by some breeds (there was a particular focus on Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the original programme, and their dreadful assortment of problems including syringomyelia). From the blog there are some excellent links to research and websites which give a lot of information about breed health and related issues.

So what’s changed? Partly as a result of the programmes mentioned above, both the Kennel Club and the pedigree dog world more broadly are changing, albeit slowly. There’s huge progress in genetic testing and research, more information on breed health issues, and some changes in judging. If you look at the TV coverage of Crufts now, there’s more emphasis than ever before on the non-showing aspects, which is what really pulls me in.

And it’s the non-showing aspects which I think are the most exciting and worthwhile aspects of the event. On Saturday, the Obreedience final will be taking place and I’m delighted to say it will include a team of greyhounds, Greyt Expectations, all ex-racers, all rescues, who are based at the Perry Barr RGT branch. We were honoured to be able to make the team a set of greyhound fleece coats in their team colours and I’m looking forward to cheering them on. The Obreedience competition will take place at Crufts on Saturday 12 March in the Obedience ring in Hall 5, after the Championship Obedience.

Their presence at such a big event, and with the likelihood of TV coverage will be a real shift in the way that greyhounds are portrayed and I hope will remind us all that our beautiful pointies are just as capable as other dogs of training and learning when they move into their second homes. I feel that too often, even rescues are far too quick to trot out the line about greyhounds being couch potatoes who only need that mythical two twenty minutes walk a day, and whenever I see that my heart sinks. There’s nothing wrong with regular exercise but our greys can do so much more and I’d love to see more rescues following the lead of Perry Barr and really encouraging the uptake of activities with our hounds.

As well as the Obedience areas, there will be displays and competitions for other dog activities including of course agility and flyball. This year, Rally is being demonstrated (this includes Sue, one of our regular classmates with her gorgeous Irish Setter Clover) and it will be a competitive event in 2017 which I’m really excited about.

The Discover Dogs area is enormous and will feature stands for many breeds – the RGT will have a stall there to fly the flag for ex racers, and to showcase what wonderful and elegant companions they make.

It’s also an unprecedented opportunity to talk to organisations, businesses and charities face to face. Last year, I found myself having the most fascinating conversation with a researcher from the Roslin Institute about research into greyhounds and their propensity for bone cancer. It’s not every day you get to talk to a scientist who’s patiently willing to explain their work, who did so with grace, enthusiasm and great clarity. If you’ve ever wanted to talk face to face with someone from one of your favourite dog charities they’ll be there.

And lastly, there’s the shopping! All the big dog food manufacturers will be there so it’s great if you want to try out a new food, or have questions about diet, and then there’s a truly dazzling array of everything dog related you can think of. As well as items specifically for your dog such as coats, harnesses, grooming accessories, and enough Vet Bed to carpet the moon, there’s also all the associated stuff like clothing, treat bags, ornaments, dog art, soft furnishings, books, DVDs, toys and stuff you hadn’t even thought of. Many businesses do fantastic show offers and I think for items like Vet Bed, you’ll get some real bargains. The Crufts website lists all the traders so you can plan your list.

My single biggest piece of advice is to accept that it’s unimaginably huge, and you cannot possibly get round everything in one day. Once you do that, you can relax and target what you do want to see. I’d also recommend making a list before you go if there are shopping items you are after but be prepared for a few random and spontaneous purchases to make their way home with you!

Finally, I’ll mention that if you watch the TV coverage, you’ll be familiar with the Friends for Life competition which is about the amazing support dogs can provide to us, when we are going through physical or emotional difficulties. This year, one of the finalists is Rosie and her lurcher Boo. I know Rosie as we are both supporters of Evesham Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue (the rescue where Dixie came from) and it’s lovely to see Rosie and her dogs once again flying the flag for pointies. Rosie actually has three dogs, one grey and two lurchers and enjoys doing a variety of activities with them including agility and flyball, as well as volunteering for the rescue. I’d like to wish Rosie and Boo all the best for the final.

Published: 8th March 2016