DACHSHUNDS  CRUFTS 2015
(My sister with two Standard Wire Haired Dachshunds and Lettice’s nose peeking out from her lap.)

Unless we are counting the village fete, and the Dog with the Waggiest Tail competition, I had never attended a dog show until last weekend. It’s a world I knew next to nothing about but I love dogs, my sister loves dogs, and The (British) Kennel Club kindly sent us passes for Crufts 2015, the world’s largest and most prestigious dog show. Clearly it was a sign to discover more.

Held at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) just outside Birmingham in the Midlands (where Clothes Show takes place each year), it’s a bit of a journey from London – well, in English terms. To my American friends I am thinking that the two hour journey is more like popping to the shops. Handily my sister and I were already in the vicinity for the weekend so we borrowed my father’s giant JEEP, stuffed her lightweight wheelchair in the boot, and headed north with Lettice.

CRUFTS 2015

Accessibility provision (with one glaring exception – dear driver of the return coach it is actually illegal not to allow assistance dogs – not talking about Lettice here I hasten to add –  on buses) at the NEC is fantastic, and we got to try out the side opening coach scissor lift thing so Holl didn’t have to get out of her chair in the car park for the shuttle service.

(My sister has MS, and can and does walk everywhere on a day-to-day basis, but six hours on her feet is just not feasible – her capacity is more like fifteen minutes – so we need to use a chair for events.)

CRUFTS 2015

Non-competing and non-showing canine guests are not allowed at the show, in case anyone now feels inspired to bring their canine love next year, but I was given a special pass for Lettice, and so she travelled on Holly’s lap. When she wasn’t trying to climb over her shoulder to find me.

We do need to work on her attachment issues.

The show is VAST. Covering five halls and the Arena at the NEC, the scale is hard to comprehend until you are in the middle of the heaving masses. A very large part of it is given over to retail, hundreds of stands selling every single possible kind of useful and useless dog ephemera, and it does become a trial trying to weave one’s way through seemingly endless stalls to get to the different halls, especially with a wheelchair containing sister + dog + handbaggage to steer.

And goodness people really don’t look where they are going, and treat people in wheelchairs like lumpen carcasses. Is it bad that it becomes tempting to ram their shins as they jostle and bump my sis and never, ever apologise? (I didn’t BTW, but thinking I could was extremely cathartic.)

CRUFTS 2015

Crufts isn’t just a competition leading to Best in Show – there are dog displays  of every possible type from Police to Dogs for the Disabled, along with behavioural and obedience classes.

We started at the very far end, at the Arena, to watch the International Heelwork competition, which is a kind of dog dancing. I find myself in agreement here with the Crufts show commentator – the dogs clearly look like they are enjoying themselves, and it would be hard to get a dog to do this by coercion or punishment. We thoroughly enjoyed the skill and humour in all the routines.

We then headed off to check out the Discover Dogs section, one of our missions for the day. This is half a hall, laid out in aisles, and organised by breed, so visitors can meet and pet all the different dogs and talk to specialists in each breed. It’s a really excellent idea – it allows prospective dog owners to really understand the types and temperaments of each breed, and what is involved in dog owning in general. More knowledge and information – fewer abandoned and rejected dogs in the long run.

Saturday is Terrier and Hound day, so we beetled off to the Dachshund section – there are six classes – Long-haired, Smooth, and Wire, with a Miniature and a Standard in each.

DACHSHUNDS  CRUFTS 2015

Oh the mini wires! Heaven! I think Holl would happily have spent the entire day here. At one point she had three in her lap. (Wheelchair bonus – people are very nice to you when you want to pet their dogs.)

Letty remained wholly unmoved by any of the Dachshunds, even when she met this red Standard Smooth (below).

DACHSHUNDS  CRUFTS 2015

Then we went off to meet the Dandy Dinmonts. As a breed they are on the danger of extinction list. I cannot understand why: they look like fabulous large grey furry sausage dogs, with giant Lemur-like eyes, and have the most lovely temperaments. Also: doesn’t their owner here win the Owner who looks most like his dog prize?

DANDY DINMONT CRUFTS 2015

And I love him for just plonking Georgia on Holl’s lap. (I had to quickly remove Letty, who was in danger of  Death by Smothering by Dandy Dinmont.)

DANDY DINMONT CRUFTS 2015

Dog Discovering well and truly covered, we had a squizz at the classes. These are the Parson Russell Terriers, and the  Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers.

CRUFTS 2015

SOFT COATED WHEATEN TERRIERS CRUFTS 2015

CRUFTS 2015

I hadn’t realised that the dogs sit on these long lines of benches in each hall during the show, in their crates. It’s not hard to see how some lunatic could poison or harm a dog as they are totally open to access from the public if an owner has to leave their cubby hole. On the plus side, it’s a wonderful way to see so many incredible dogs at close quarters.

I was astonished at the calm of the dogs. This beautiful Lakeland Terrier was beyond chilled.

CRUFTS 2015

We had wanted to watch the agility trails in the arena, but it was too hard to return through the madding crowd with a wheelchair, so we went to watch the Dogs for the Disabled and Autistic display instead. I have such admiration for these incredible animals who allow their owners to lead hitherto impossibly independent lives.

We also met this absolutely beautiful PAT (Pets as Therapy) dog, having a quick nap. My mother used to take Bertie, our Golden Retriever to the Horton Hospital as a PAT dog for head injury patients, and I know first hand from her how important they are in the rehabilitation process.

CRUFTS 2015

We then sloped off to explore the Dachshund benches and watch their classes for the rest of the day – and nearly passed out with joy at the sight of an entire class of Miniature Wire Haired puppies.

Still, I left Crufts feeling a little unsettled and, whilst watching the finals and then the Best in Show final on television over the weekend felt that awkwardness crystallise some more when I heard that Knopa, the beautiful Scottish Terrier winner of Best in Show, was freighted from America to Russia and all over to compete in shows. In my naivety I hadn’t thought about the fact that dogs ex-Britain were competing at Crufts.

I don’t have the same feeling of unease when I see horses being shipped all over the world to compete in Three Day Eventing and showjumping, but somehow a life for a dog that is just being flown on planes, groomed and trotted around a show ring seems wrong. Like the dog has ceased to be a dog and is now just an object – as exemplified by Knopa’s American handler repeatedly picking him up by his neck and tail in the ring.

Because we live with dogs in our homes it’s hard not to anthropomorphise them to a point where we forget that they are animals and not people. But where do we draw the line at what we do with them? Police dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Dogs for the Disabled: good, breeding them only to show in dog rings: bad?

I still don’t know, and my visit to Crufts hasn’t cleared this up for me. What do you all think?

You May Also Like

19 comments

Reply

I visited a cat show with my mother (she did a lot of work on behalf of animal charities) a number of years ago and hated it. I think these things do come across better via the medium of television but if I had to get off the fence as far as showing them for entertainment, it would be a no.

Reply

it is difficult, isn’t it? Because you can argue that classes like agility and heelwork which dogs do seem to enjoy are entertainment and Best in Show is really all about the money (not the prize but the potential value of the dog/bitch and its bloodline for breeding) – and which is worse? And I really don’t know LLGxx

Reply

I agree with the way that Knopa’s handler treated her. My boyfriend and I kept shouting ‘stop poking her!’ at the telly. I really thought you could tell the difference between a professional dog handler (albeit I think the dog belonged to her mother..?) and a dog owner, as with Dominic the flat coat retriever and his owner who was DELIGHTED with his runner-up prize and I loved how she let him hold the ribbon so proudly in his mouth.

Reply

Yes! – We noticed this too. There was a real difference between dogs showed by their owners – who kissed and cuddled them, and the pro handlers who barely touched them. And I guess that’s where the emotional thing comes in – I best the pro handlers would decry the sentimental owners…and vice versa

And wasn’t Dominic a BEAUTIFUL dog?! LLGxx

Reply

I think the breed is very important and what would be harsh for some dogs, for other is fine. In my opinion Knopa was well balanced and the handler had lots of experience with that breed. In a show dog is pretty obvious if he/she has an issue.
I have a pedigree dog and I couldn’t be happier, he has all the characteristics of his breed and that was I wanted. Dog shows are important for the development of the breeds, the gene pool and breeding from the best dogs. I hope I’ll be able to visit Crufts next year.

Reply

I have a show quality dogs, as confirmed by her breeder, but have never, ever wanted to show her. It’s not a life I would want for me or her. Driving all over the country, spending days away from home, money on hotel bills, constantly having to make sure your day is spotless is not an enjoyable pastime for me. It would also be cruel to force your dog to fly all over the world, for what? An ego trip? I look on lots of dog breeders who go to shows as having little else of interest in their lives.

I love the Dandy Dinmonts, as I used to work with someone who brought her dog into work and fell in love with him. I also don’t understand why they aren’t more popular. Same with the Sealyhams who are also an endangered breed.

Reply

@<a href@Catherine:

meant to say having to make sure your dog is spotless……..

Reply

My brother, Micheal and his partner have two Bedlington Terriers, (Abby and Aston Martin) and Aston was a show dog. Michael finally said “NO” to the dog shows because he never saw Aston and the handler began to behave as though she should control everything about the dog. I think ego must come into it for handlers and in some cases animals will suffer. We would hate for breeds to die off so perhaps dog and cat shows have their place but require strictly enforced regulations and security. There is never any problem, until there is a problem and then changes come about and everyone says, “Why didn’t we always have it that way?” I am American and would love to see rodeos become a thing of the past along with circuses and marine parks. Too much opportunity for animal abuse and not worth the risk for our entertainment.

Reply

I love dogs but just can’t bring myself to watch Crufts anymore. I think my problem with dog shows is that it makes the breeders breed for the shows instead of what is best for the dogs health. There was an interesting piece floating around the web of what different breeds used to look like and what they look like now. It is quite sad. Also we went to buy a dachshund for our other little one who was grieving. The person had bought the dog specifically to show and the dog would not behave in the ring so they were getting rid of him like a thing. I think however seeing the “working / companion” dogs is great. It makes you realise that dogs aren’t just for cuddling but really help people and can change lives.

Reply

Holly and I were recently horrified by an amateur breeder who tried to flog a four year old Dachsie bitch who had had five or so litters online for £400. (It’s good practice to just give a breeder bitch away to a good, loving home after its done its bit on the condition that the new owner will have it spayed.)`They were basically trying to scrape money off a dog they were discarding. It’s people like that, and the showing one you mention that give dog people a bad name.

Then again you meet some people who have no connection with the breeder world who are crackers and irresponsible. Letty weighs 2.5kg. She’s such a tiny freak from an otherwise normal litter that she didn’t meet The Kennel Club’s minimum weight criteria for a Miniature Dachshund, and that is why she was re-homed to us from a breeder. We would never breed from her, because it would be dangerous and she might produce more too small puppies, thus continuing a bad breeding trend and, now that she’s just had her first season – at 18months – we will get her spayed. But I recently met someone in the park with a mini bitch even smaller than Letty who is actively looking for a dog to cover her. I was horrified. Their pelvises are barely the width of my hand, and I think it’s appalling to try to breed from dogs who are so tiny for their breed that The Kennel Club won’t recognise them (or their future progeny if they are also too small). The whole point of things like Kennel Club weight restrictions for breeds is to ensure consistent standards in healthy dogs. Who knows what problems breeding from tinies might cause in the future? GRRR LLGxx

Reply

@Louise:

Are you thinking about the first Pedigree Dogs Exposed film? It’s from 2008, and is available on the web. Truly an eye opener. Until I saw it, I naively thought that all breeders bred for the health of the breed. I was gobsmacked. It’s criminal what has happened to some breeds, including the English Bull Terrier, the Pug, the English Bulldog and the German Shepherd. Happily the police dog handlers do not use the show standard version of the GS, whose sloping back legs are painful to look at and no doubt painful to walk with.

Reply

I do love you for your constant and consistent honesty and integrity. As a massive dog lover and owner of a miniature schnauzer, I tried tuning into Crufts – but fairly quickly switched off again. It just all felt a bit clinical for me.

Reply

Thank you! We went to talk to the Miniature Schnauzers at Discover Dogs. Goodness they are wonderful! I’ve never watched Crufts on the telly before, but I have to admit I did quite enjoy it: like the previous commentator, dogs like the flat coated retriever that just looked so bouncy and happy were a joy to watch. I was a bit perturbed by all the bot women in their shiny tights and pastel suits running about the rings though. LLGxx

Reply

I agree with the reader who commented on the dogs’ temperaments: for some it might be fine, for others, it’s probably torture or, at least, unnatural behaviour. I have had boxers for 20 years and my very first one was a pedigree one, sons of champions, and my sister and I started showing him. Besides the amount of work that goes into it, we felt our dog was better off running around, chasing birds and squirrels. Since that first dog, I have always rescued. By the way, I think it’s good practice to charge for a puppy, unless one is absolutely sure of the household. A few hundreds pounds might ensure the prospective owners are really interested, rather than trying to get a free puppy for who knows what purposes. I learnt a lot by volunteering, including lovely looking couples replying to ads for free dogs on behalf of research laboratories….

Reply

oh you are so right – I absolutely agree regarding charging for puppies – a free for all means there is no onus on the new owner to prove their responsibility. Although of course you would hope a good breeder or dog owner would always do their best to check. But I really don’t think exhausted breeding bitches should be bought and sold. LLGxx

Reply

I’ve met my first miniature dachshund yesterday (before, knew them just from your blog) – soo cute!!! and funny. and well behaved. loove.

Reply

Such a valid question! I truly (perhaps naively) do believe that most dogs enjoy “working”, whether it be in an assistant/health role, herding sheep, or even agility if is done properly. But I also believe that most “mutts” can also be trained properly for these things, and a breed-specification isn’t a requirement. I am not necessarily anti-breeding, although I would prefer to rescue a dog that needs a home. But as you mentioned with the woman in the park and her tiny pup, I think that sort of thing is when it is out of control and a sign of simple human greed. Having been to only one dog show, I feel like it’s not really something I can support. The dogs are just treated too much like objects much of the time, and I just can’t approve of that. Just my opinion. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *