Eleven year old Robyn Arnall, from Northampton, has already made her mark on the junior handling scene in the Midlands and Paws…for youth was delighted when she agreed to talk to Marina Scott about her short but exciting time in the dog world.
MS: What clubs/societies do you belong to?
RA: Bedford & District Canine Society, Top Dogs ring craft and Wellingborough Dog Training club.
MS: Tell us about how many dogs you live with or handle on a regular basis?
RA: I have only got one dog that lives with me and my family all the time, my lovely Japanese Shiba Inu called Yoko. I live very near to my grandparents, so most days, I have some of the dogs that live with them at my house to walk and train. I show Ebby, our Rough Collie and various Shelties most weekends. I also occasionally show a Hungarian Puli, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Havanese for friends. In April I was asked if I would like to show a lovely black tri Australian Shepherd Dog called Lenny (Allmark Lenny Henry ShCM) he is great fun and I really love him. In the few weeks I have had him we have really bonded well together. I have just started to show him and I was thrilled when his owners said they would add my name as a part owner.
MS: How long have you been involved in dog showing?
RA: I have been showing for five years I entered my first junior handling class when I was six but it wasn’t until I was about eight that I started taking it more seriously and had some lessons and practised more.
MS: How did you start then?
RA: I have always loved dogs since I was little, I can remember my brother and I used to love to go to my Nan and Pap’s house and sit in the whelping box and play with the puppies. I started going to shows with them when I was six, it was then that my Nan asked if I’d like to try junior handling. The first show I entered I can remember I was very nervous but was excited to come 4th and couldn’t wait for the next show.
MS: I seem to be mentioning you almost every fortnight in the BJH round-up, can you tell us about your handling successes?
RA: I have been very lucky in handling, at my second show I was placed first, although there were only two entered, this qualified me for Richmond 2008 but I did not get placed. I did get short listed the next year and then was placed 4th in ‘10, then finally won the six-11 pastoral group in ‘11. I really looked forward to the final but was not placed. I qualified for Crufts YKC working and pastoral for the first time in ‘10 and was second in the six-11 class with a tri Sheltie bitch called Betty (Myriehewe Devil Wears Prada). The next year I improved by winning my class with another Sheltie called Gordon (M Gordon Bennett) and then this year I could not believe it when I won my class for the second year running. I was thrilled, I thought it could not get any better than to be in the final again but then to be given runner-up to the ‘show handler of the year’ was amazing. I was so excited I just couldn’t believe it. I had a fantastic Crufts as I also won LB with my Rough Collie "Ebby” (Tanzenny Ebony Eye’s) and was placed 4th with her in the YKC stakes. I have done well with Ebby in gaining her ShCM also she was BIS at the EACA Rough and Smooth Collie of the Year contest.
MS: What do you enjoy most about handling dogs in the show ring?
RA: I just love the competition and learning about new breeds and how to show them. I like it in the breed ring because it is more relaxed and all about presenting and getting the best out of your dog, in handling it’s more difficult because you have to really concentrate on what you and your dog are doing.
MS: Do you take part in any other canine activities?
RA: Yes, agility with a mad Sheltie called Ted he is still learning but doing really well, so I hope to take him to some competitions soon. I practise with him quite a lot in my garden, he really loves it and I go to Wellingborough agility club. When I first joined the agility club there was a girl (Ashleigh) practising heelwork to music there with her dog, she said would I like to try it, so I started going to her heelwork to music lessons with a tri Sheltie called Betty and learnt quite a few tricks, now Ashleigh and Pudsey have become really well known for being on Britain’s Got Talent.
MS: How do you prepare for a show?
RA: I usually have a short practise in the garden the day before a show, then I help my Nan bath and groom the dogs and sort out the treats for bait. I make sure all of my clothes, ring clips, bait bag and anything else I need are all ready the night before so I don’t have to panic on the morning of the show. One thing I always make sure I have in my suit pocket now is a poo bag because at a show when I was in the challenge for BJH and the judge was finding it difficult to choose between us, both of us where asked if we had a poo bag , I didn’t, the other girl did, so I lost, I learnt my lesson, I never go in the ring now without one.
MS: Do you enjoy the travelling?
RA: I am usually a bit lazy and don’t like getting up early but when I’m going to a dog show I can’t wait to go. I don’t mind the travelling too much, at least I’ve learnt my way around the country a bit more but as soon as I get in the car to come home I fall asleep.
MS: Have you made a lot of friends within the show world?
RA: Yes that’s why I like to go to different parts of the country because you always meet new handlers and show people. I went to YKC summer camp for the first time last year and thought it was great, I had a lot of fun and made more new friends there.
MS: What is life like outside of dog showing?
RA: I like to go to the cinema, bowling and music concerts with my friends and family. My cousin has horses so I sometimes go riding with her and also I like to go cycling with my family.
MS: What is your aim in dog showing?
RA: Just to enjoy it and try to do as well as I can. When I’m a bit older I’d like to breed some nice dogs of my own and hopefully one will become a champion. I’d also like to handle nice dogs for other people and judge.
MS: What do your school friends make of your hobby?
RA: When I talk to my school friends about dog showing they think what I do sounds really good, especially when I show them the rosettes and prizes but most of them don’t really know what I’m talking about.
MS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RA: I would just like to thank all the people who have helped to teach me by giving me lessons and advice and letting me show their dogs especially Jeff and Gwen for all the Shelties and Neil and Angie for letting me have Lenny.