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A shared passion for dogs

Discover Dogs in London 2003 was the event’s eighth year of entertaining dog fans, organised by the Kennel Club and supported by Masterfoods. This year was very different in many ways to any of the previous events, and every change was for the better.

The first major difference was in the layout with the Dog Training Ring being the first thing that greeted visitors as they entered the centre, and a hive of activity it was too. They offered exhibitions of training in the Good Citizen Scheme at all three levels, Heelwork to Music, Obedience, Working Trials as well as Hearing Dogs and Dogs for the Disabled. The ring held an ever changing but enthusiastic audience for the whole weekend.

This ring was also used for the launch of The Kennel Club Safe & Sound scheme, which is a new initiative that is specifically concerned with the safe interaction between children and dogs. It shows through demonstration how to behave around dogs and avoid the areas where accidents can happen.

Also by the main entrance were the Metropolitan Police Dog Section, with their young puppies for socialisation – this is always so popular with the crowds.

Either side of the training ring were the breed booths, almost without exception they were decorated in a variety of colours and styles. Some were dressed in the manner of their breed’s native country while others were adorned with pictures and other paraphernalia, the Siberian Husky booth even managed to suspend a sled from the cross-bars! For sheer opulence you couldn’t beat the Pug stand, my personal favourite, it was transformed from a booth to a Victorian parlour, complete with pictures, fire, doggie furniture, gold drapes and even the quintessential aspidistra in the jardinière. The American Cocker Spaniel stand was very colourful and inviting while the Saluki booth was quietly unpretentious but with very easy to read information.

The breed stands lead us into the trade stands and there were some old friends and new faces there too. Pedigree and PAL are always there to support this event and it is greatly appreciated by both the breeders and the general public alike. I think almost every visitor also left with an Exchange & Mart bag too and there were lots of people walking around with huge soft toys of dogs of different shapes and colours. One of the newer exhibitors was from Doggy Fashions, and many of the breed booth people fell in love with their decadent but fabulous goodies; there were collars beaded by the Maasai tribes women of Africa, or covered with diamante, there were also Perfumes such as Pucci, CK-9 or Tommy Holedigger and so much more.

Our own Our Dogs stand had run a competition to win tickets for this event, and one of the winners was Dr Katharina Welsch from Germany, and at 10 o’clock she came and introduced herself and told us that she was delighted to have won and had flown over just for the event, she had been to UK earlier in the year when she showed her OES at Crufts and had won 2nd in her class – congratulations.

In the centre of the trade stands was another new addition which was packed all day on both days, the YKC Ring. They had everything there – jumping, fun races, obedience grooming, formation handling, as well as a whole bevy of celebrities to judge their competitions. There was Lucy Pargeter (Emmerdale’s Charity Dingle), Stephanie Beacham (Bad Girls) Annette Conn (BBC Celebrity Dog School Trainer) Chris Packham (Really Wild Show and Inside Out presenter) Roger Gale MP (Westminster Dog of the Year 2003 winner) Louise Brady (Men & Motors TV presenter) and from This Morning’s Barking Babes there was Carolyn Mentieth and Nina Bondarenko. It was hardly surprising that the ring proved to be so well supported.

The back end of the hall was where all the noise came from, with the main ring offering things like the agility competition, the ever popular flyball as well as the knockout agility and mini agility and ABC agility. There were several demonstrations of heelwork to music which has really caught the imagination of so many people and this year was no exception. The 7 groups of dogs each did a parade over the 2 days with an informed commentary on each breed; there was also a parade of retired greyhounds. The main ring would not be complete without the continued support of the Metroplitan Police Dog Display team; we were also joined by the HM Prison Service Display team and this year we had the Southern Golden Retriever Society Display too.

On Saturday the main ring hosted the Kennel Gazette Junior Warrant Winner of the Year competition finals, and the report on that appears on page XX or opposite or somewhere but when the photographers came in, there was Dr Welsch our competition winner, taking her pictures too.

The other major event to take place in the main ring was held on Sunday, and that was the Pal-Scruffts Family Crossbreed Dog of the Year Grand Final which also appears elsewhere in these pages.

The event seems to get stronger every year, and by 3 o’clock on the Saturday afternoon the gate was up on the same time of the previous year – what an achievement when we had the rugby to compete with!

It has to be said that there were several stands with televisions this year, and they were all tuned to the match, it was a real nail biter, but with 20 seconds to go in extra time, the entire Earls Court 2 gave an enormous cheer and the happy atmosphere permeated the entire weekend. There was no consolation for Mason Minns who was teased the whole weekend (he is of course Australian).

Peter Mann, Crufts Chairman said he was very pleased to see how the event is progressing, I cannot remember seeing this event without him being in attendance, but I am sure he will tell me if I am wrong!

June Minns with Nick Bryce Smith had the unenviable task of making the final decision on the winner of the Best Breed Booth competition. There were so many stands where so much planning and effort had gone into them, but the winner was the double stand of the Golden Retrievers, they had everything, pictures, information, and even catered for the kids with a quiz.

In 2nd place was the Welsh Terrier stand, it was so well presented, not too much but with everything it needed to have, while the 3rd award went to the Beagle booth because ‘it was so beautifully put together’.

The volunteers I spoke to all thought that the changes they had seen were good, but the most popular one was not appreciated by the public, it was putting the volunteers in the Red Car Park – all the ones I spoke to about it were very grateful they didn’t have to take their pictures, paintings, decorations and most importantly dogs out of the venue and down the road in the pouring rain.

Mr Ronnie Irvine, Kennel Club Chairman was delighted with the job that this event is doing, not just an exhibition of interest but showing dogs in a positive light, as well as teaching people all the things they can do with them. He also said he wanted to express his thanks to all the volunteers who put so much in to make it such a success.

I don’t know who enjoys this event more, the public or the volunteers, it is so refreshing to be at an event where we are outnumbered by the public who are all so pro-dog; they seem to really have a passion for our canine companions even if they don’t fully understand it.