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Discover Dogs: from strength to strength

What a fabulous event this has become. The family dog is becoming an increasingly rare sight in London – take it from someone who lives there - but the queues to get in to see this event were staggering. Several people told me the queue was over 500 yards (that’s over a quarter of a mile!). I don’t know where they all came from – but come they did, in their thousands.

The Kennel Club had more there for people this year, not just the information stand as you come in, but also a stand for those people who were considering buying a puppy, as well as the Training Displays Ring and the YKC Ring.

If one entered to the right of the KC Information stand the first dogs encountered were the dogs of the Metropolitan Police. They had the seasoned working dogs as well as their younger dogs who were there for socialisation. They are such a big hit with members of the public, not just appealing but fulfilling such a worthwhile role in our society. The Police were giving out certificates to the people showing they had patted a police dog as well as various informative leaflets, unfortunately their breeding programme had left a shortage of puppies for socialising and so there was no puppy pit this year, but that didn’t seem to detract from their popularity at all.

Immediately behind the Police was the Training Ring that had the Kennel Club Good Citizen Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards, plus the Puppy Foundation too. There was also the Safe and Sound demonstration which helps with teaching children the do’s and don’ts of being around dogs. The displays of training dogs for agility, heelwork to music, obedience, working trials and gundog work were all very popular, as was the training of the hearing dogs for deaf people. The Hearing Dogs for the Deaf have been experiencing a shortage of puppies being donated for this type of training, so if you have a young dog which might be suitable for training, please give them a call.

Walking past the Training Ring we found the large trade stands of Pedigree, our own Our Dogs stand, as well as Pal’s Scruffts and the Pet Trust stand. Beyond them was the YKC Ring which was also well attended with an enthusiastic audience throughout the two days. This ring offered jumping displays as well as obedience, heelwork to music and handling diplays. In addition there was grooming and presentation, and there was a fun race. They also hosted the Kennel Club Companion Dog Club Competition, dogs on Saturday and bitches on Sunday. The Celebrity Commentator for the two days was Mr Peter Purves, he carried out his task eloquently and with sensitivity and humour.

The breed booths flanked the hall and were set out in groups as usual but more than the usual amount of hard work and planning had gone into their presentations. There was every possible type of display you could imagine, from silk flowers to television screens and videos. There was information about the breeds from puppyhood to old age, the best and the worst points of owning their breed. There were pictures, paintings and photographs galore, showing the various talents each breed possessed.

The most impressive part of the breed booths are the breed enthusiasts; they really are the unsung heroes of the whole event. Every year the same faces meet on Friday afternoon to decorate their stand. Some are faces known to all, such as Liz Stannard who has travelled down from Cheshire every year from the time the event started, to people who rarely travel very far at all but who are dedicated to their breed and this event. They stand all day for two days patiently answering questions on the pros and cons of the breed, listening to the members of the public talk about how wonderful their little Joey is at home and all that he/she does – good and bad.

They also give advice on how to overcome any little foibles that are being are encountered with their little Johnny or Cindy. Throughout the entire two days, they stand with aching backs, aching feet and a smile on their face and at the end of it they take their stand decorations down and make the long drive home saying how much they enjoyed it and hopefully feeling a sense of pride in a worthwhile job well done.

It is never ceases to amaze me how people reach the height of their field and still want to promote their breed. Osman Sameja hardly ever misses this event, he regularly brings his beautiful Yorkshire Terriers for people to see and touch; Stuart & Cindy Band were also there showing the endearing qualities of their Bergermascos and many many more were there too.

The Newfoundland stand was voted the best dressed stand this year, with the Rottweilers and Welsh Terriers taking 2nd and 3rd spot, 4th was the Schipperke stand with 5th and 6th place going to the Australian Shepherd and CKCS stands. The judges’ criteria was information on the plus and minus sides of owning the breed for the general public, helpful and enthusiastic breed advisors and an informative, eye-catching stand.

The breed booths were followed by the trade stands. These included many of the familiar faces we see at our shows as well as the more adventurous that we never see, even at the championship shows, offering everything one can imagine for a dog and the things we would never have imagined too.

The saying ‘it’s a dog’s life’ must be one of envy if the dogs had a fraction of the lovely goods which were on offer over this weekend. Everything from food and treats to collars, leads, toys, games, beds and doggie sofas and more.

The Hub stand is regularly seen at our championship shows and many of our opens shows too, and they have brought out some lovely new products, the lovely eye-catching sheepskin coat which was demonstrated in pink was a real show stopper.

Doggie Fashion came up from Brighton again and they have many new things in their range, including the most exotic reversible Faux Fur coats, and new dog carriers, and Diamond Dogs who came over from Haverhill in Suffolk with their fabulous collars inset with Topaz or Swarovski Crystals.

There were demonstrations on the Pedigree stand showing the basics of heelwork to music and these were on a more intimate basis, the basic commands being explained in detail and the benefits of such training are obvious by their results. Mary Ray explained that a dog needs more than just food and exercise, it needs mental stimulation too, this need can be fulfilled by the heelwork to music training. All of the four sessions that Pedigree held each day were well supported and enjoyed by novices and the more experienced alike.

This year the show really did offer something for everyone. There were stands representing the charities too: Hearing Dogs For Deaf People, Blue Cross, Battersea, RSPCA, Greyhound Rescue, all there for a worthwhile cause.

Iams/Eukanuba had two super huge soft toy dogs which could be won, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday, they also tell me that they will be doing the competition at LKA, so don’t forget to look out for it there. These dogs really are super huge and adorably appealing, but if they were too large for you there was a smaller toy in the same of a really cute bear – I now have one sitting beside my computer and he really does make me smile. All you had to do was to fill in the little questionnaire and hope for the best.

The very far end of the hall was the main event ring and this was packed solid for almost the entire weekend. There can be very little to choose who gets most out of this ring, the audience who shout and cheer and applaud all the things they so obviously enjoy, or the dogs who demonstrate their various skills whose tails just don’t stop wagging, or the owners who are clearly so proud of all that their charges can do.

Nick Brooks-Ward is the commentator for most of the events in the main ring and he really does us all proud. He has taken this ring and made it his own now, having done the job for so long he has moulded it into his own personal style and has taken the audience with him. He seems to manage to control the ring with humour and to get the crowd going with him with such ease.

There were amazing demonstrations each day of Mini Agility, Heelwork To Music, Flyball, Rescue Agility, Knockout Agility, and ABC Agility; each one was a real crowd pleaser and there was nothing to choose between them for appeal, popularity and enjoyment.

I have to say that for me the entire show was stolen by the Southern Golden Retriever Society Display Team. David Cavill saw it and said they were real tear-jerkers, and how right he was!

There were 16 Golden Retrievers (and their handlers) in a formation heelwork to music routine. I cannot find the words to do them justice but when I took a couple of friends to see the routine, one said through her tears, ‘Oh isn’t it lovely!’ - what are we doggie people like? By Sunday afternoon they were recognised and even announced as the Red Arrows of the Canine World.

Based in Wrotham in Kent there are 20 in the team and 16 perform with four held in reserve. Thy formed just four or five years ago and it started as a bit of fun; they first appeared at Discover Dogs last year, and from there they were invited to perform at Crufts this year. This is their second tour of duty at Discover Dogs, and for anyone who has not seen them, do go and see them at Crufts next year, they are wonderful.

There was another new addition to this year’s event; and that was the parade of Vulnerable Native Breeds. There are 28 breeds now considered vulnerable which are native to Britain or Ireland and this year it was decided to highlight those breeds. Each of the breeds was represented in the parade and it is hoped that by highlighting their plight they will not be lost to us, which is the way they are heading. To quote Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary: ‘It would be a travesty if they became extinct from our shores’.

The KC is not alone in its attempts to preserve our native breeds. As one entered the event to the left of the KC Information Stand the first stand one encountered was the British & Irish Dog Breeders’ Preservation Trust. This Trust was only formed on 8th August this year and not only are they recognised by the KC they are also working alongside them with two Executives of the BIDBPT being on the Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Native Breeds Committee. This close association ensures they work hand in hand for the common good of their cause. The 28 breeds are listed as high risk and more information can be obtained via their website www.nativebreeds.org.uk or by emailing them on blackandtanetts@blueyonder.co.uk they are based in Walsall and the Administrative Office is 01922 421534 and they would appreciate any help at all.

This event is the most prestigious event held for dogs in our capital city now and it certainly does us proud, we have all sorts of people attending from every walk of life and of course there were the celebrities too who do their bit for their chosen charity, Charlie from EastEnders was a particularly popular figure, and none more so than Cheggers along with Nick Piercey from Heart FM in Birmingham who entertained the crowd and really got them going before judging the Scruffts Final on Sunday.

Sunday also saw the observation of the one minute silence at 11am for Remembrance Day and SAAFA was this year’s nominated charity for the event.

It was a lovely weekend where everyone involved was working for Doggie Charities, individual breeds, general doggie fun and pampering, running competitions and hopefully now working to save our native breeds from extinction too. There really is nothing else quite like it – long may it continue and go from strength to Record crowds flock to Discover Dogs 2004