Discover Dogs - report by Tom Burrington
IF CRUFTS is the jewel in the crown of dog shows then surely Discover Dogs, London, is the Kennel Club’s showpiece when it comes to putting on a canine event which is able to win the hearts of the public. Running for the 17th year Discover Dogs 2012 proved as popular as ever with gate receipts of 30,202 for the weekend.
So what is it that makes the event such a hit with the UK general public? The answer is that Britain is a dog loving nation and Discover Dogs has everything for anyone with an interest in dogs from the inquisitive child who has been pestering their parents for a puppy for the past year to the pensioner wishing to revisit the memories of the breed they once owned and loved.
This event shows Britain at its best as the weekend passes with an electric atmosphere and immaculate behaviour by everyone involved.
The young competitors are dressed smartly, the children eager to pet and play with the dogs politely ask for permission before they do so and the organisers, volunteers and officials are all entwined in a spirit created by their mutual love of everthing canine. Then there are the dogs themselves who, in their hundreds, never falter to amaze in their willingness to be photographed, prodded and stroked for the duration of the weekend.
The main aim of the event is to educate the public on the more than 200 breeds which are on show. Each breed has a booth where you can find dedicated and experienced owners who, with their dogs, patiently meet and greet members of the public throughout the weekend. They relish in promoting their breeds while carefully advising and discussing suitability with potential new owners. When you start looking around the booths and listen to the questions asked and the answers given you get a real sense that it is enthusiasts like these who hold the key to preserving the future of healthy pedigree dogs.
The patience of the dogs is commendable and is only marginally outshone by the loyalty of their owners who are volunteering their own time from busy lives to answer the same questions and give the same advice continually throughout the weekend. They are servants to their breeds and their dedication and commitment is on show for any who question the motives behind pedigree dog breeding or showing.
Once again confirming DW’s slogan of ‘We know dogs’ you could find some of the paper’s breed note writers dotted around breed booths, three of whom we asked for comment on the event and which can be read on these pages.
While the public search for the breeds they are interested in there are numerous competitions which are taking place in the main ring. On the Saturday morning the DW sponsored Junior Handler of the Year final took place seeing 16-year-old Abbie Stoutt taking the prestigious award under judge Gary Gray.
Now able to look forward to the International Handler of the Year event at Crufts ’13 Abbie was ecstatic from her win and was eager to celebrate her success with family over the rest of the weekend. (For more coverage on the final see Paws... for Youth on page 37-39).
There was also the Junior Warrant Winner of the Year judged by DW’s Pam Blay and Mark Cocozza on the Sunday which culminated in ten dogs being put through to the finals at Crufts. I caught up with Pam who said: "The quality was very high and it was very difficult to take them down to five.”
Four heats of Scrufts also took place including prettiest bitch, handsomest dog, golden oldie and child’s best friend with the winner of each heat progressing to the final next year which for the first time is being held at Crufts.
Cast your minds back to Crufts Factor ’12 and you might remember an event with potential but which disappointed on the day; a good idea which lacked the inspiration to make it the roaring success it had the potential to become. It would have been easy for the KC to quietly drop it from the Crufts line-up for ’13 rather than persist and work on its structure. However, to the KC’s credit it has stuck with the idea and on the Saturday of Discover Dogs held a qualifying heat for Crufts Factor ’13.
A packed main ring awaited in excitement for the four acts as compere Jo Wood announced the three judges as her co-host on BBC London’s radio show Barking at the Moon, Anna Webb, owner of Simba, the winner of ITV2’s Top Dog Model, Dan Carrick, and Pippa Langhorne, the former Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist.
The four acts were an improvement on what we saw at the NEC and a proud Emma Grylls with her two Jack Russell Terriers who performed circus tricks were declared the winners. On speaking to Emma after the event it was clear she was buzzing at the thought of now performing in the Crufts arena next year and was intent on working hard until March to perfect her act ready for the big day.
It looks like the Crufts Factor could hopefully become a real crowd pleaser for Discover Dogs and Crufts for years to come. However, with Simon Cowell’s new talent show for dogs, Take The Lead, due to air later this year one can only hope that the KC can form a strategy to ensure its Crufts Factor does not fall in the shadow of such a programme.
Then there is the training and display ring which is home to demonstrations from the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, heelwork to music displays from Richard Curtis and introductions into canine activities including rally, agility and working trials.
Other highlights were the Southern Golden Retriever Display and the displays from Dogs for the Disabled and Hearing Dogs for deaf people.
The Young Kennel Club ring also held competitions and displays throughout the weekend with one such competition being the Crufts handling qualifiers being judged by DW’s Italian Greyhound breed note writer Helen Rishworth. You can read Helen’s comments on the judging and the event on these pages.
There is also the Companion Dog Club ring where you could find dogs competing for titles such as ‘best dog or bitch’ and ‘dog the judge would most like to take home’. The competition was open to members with a pedigree or crossbreed and was a chance for owners to show off the looks, character and temperament of their dogs.
Judges included Anna Webb and Jo Good, canine behaviourist Carolyn Menteith and voice of Big Brother, Marcus Bentley. The purebred classes were judged by esteemed dog judge Mark Cocozza.
The event again coincided with Remembrance Sunday and the two-minute silence was held to reflect on the humans and dogs who had lost their lives during service for their country.
More information about dogs who have served on the frontline was presented in Dave Heyhoe’s seminar ‘It’s all about Treo – life and war with the world’s bravest dog’ which was one of several seminars being held over the weekend.
If it was some early Christmas shopping you fancied doing or just wanted a treat for the companion you left at home then there were, of course, the vast number of trade stands which offered the opportunity to invest in a choice of canine products ranging from luxury dog beds to fancy doggie accessories.
And so Discover Dogs 2012 came to a close and with attendance figures showing a ten per cent increase on last year the KC’s popular event again showed the pulling power that pedigree dogs have over the general public.