Between the grooming and growling Crufts has a lot of heart for dogs as sweet, fun-loving companions – even if it doesn’t wear that heart on its sleeve
I’ve seen the poufy poodles and the dancing collies, the anxious owners and the huge trophies on TV before, of course, but I’ve never visited Crufts. Billed as the world’s greatest (and biggest) dog show, it attracts some 165,000 human visitors, and 22,000 dogs – around 3,500 of them from overseas – compete for the title of “best in show”.
The arena of the four-day event in Birmingham’s NEC was brimming with displays from breed clubs (a magnificent display with perma-smiling golden retrievers), dogs with jobs (German shepherds from West Midlands police had a great time wrestling down would-be criminals) and their artistically-minded dancing dog friends. There was also Scuffts, a smaller competition for mixed-breed dogs, plus agility and flyball trials.
The latter is easily the most action-packed Crufts event, where two relay teams of four dogs each compete in parallel racing lanes to get a ball from a backstop board, against which the dogs jump to turn around and then race back. These events filled the daytime programme, and the evenings were reserved for the fluffy, prancing breeds.
But the arena is just half the Crufts circus. There is a massive exhibition area with some 550 stalls full of dog food, clothes, accessories, toys and all things in between, plus gifts for people who graduated from ‘dog crazy’ to ‘dog mad’ several customised dog sculptures ago. Crufts also hosts stalls that introduce different dog breeds as well as stands by various charities, and the exhibition halls have rings for yet more dog displays, such as “young handlers” and The Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Dog Training arena, where very good dogs show off their very-good-dog skills.