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Another weekend of discovery in London

The Southern Golden Retriever Display Team, all wearing their Remembrance Day poppies, showed at this year’s Discover Dogs that Heelwork to Music has been taken to another level.

When this event first started one could spend a day and take in almost everything, now one can spend the whole weekend, as many of us do and still need more time because there were still things we missed.

What can be said about the breed booths and the enthusiastic breeders who give their time effort and money, travelling and working tirelessly to promote their breed, and also the planning which goes into the decorating of their booth? Miss Wendy Richards (otherwise known as Pauline Fowler from EastEnders) judged the breed booths this year and the Best Breed Booth award went to the French Bulldog stand which was full of information about the breed set out in a clear and easy to read style, congratulations to them. 2nd came the Beagles with the CKCS in 3rd place. The Saluki booth was in 4th place with Labradors taking 5th and the Sussex Spaniels in 6th spot. Well done to all the winners.

There were some really sumptuous stands such as the Pug booth where you could just kick off you shoes and move into a really comfortable old-fashioned front parlour. Other stands were full of colour, showing flags from the country of origin, or those with the old black and white photos and pictures depicting the history of their breed. Some showed a mass of photos of their breed showing every type and colour, or the different capabilities their breed have, for showing, obedience or agility and the most important of all, what super family pets they are. The advice is invaluable as to whether their particular breed would make a suitable pet for your family’s lifestyle. A Bernese Mountain Dog or a Siberian Husky would not be a suitable pet for a couch potato family who like the central heating on full, just as a Chinese Crested or a Bulldog wouldn’t be a good choice for a family who enjoy adventure weekends in the winter.

The trade stands are super at this event. This year there were none of the major dog food producers there, so the huge amount of space left by Pedigree and Pal were taken with new trade stands offering every conceivable thing for the pampered pouch to the more robust outdoor dog and clothing suitable for those outdoor pursuits too. There were stands with identification tags, models or tiled pictures of your favourite breed. There were calendars and books, cuddly toys in fact every type of toy you can imagine as well as a whole range of products to clear up after those unfortunate ‘little accidents’.

There were several new stands such as Dog Rocks Ltd promoting a new product that stops the grass turning brown when the dog wees; and there were the regulars such as Doggie Fashions who seem to come up with a new range each year, and the many dog charities such as the RSPCA and the Hearing Dogs for Deaf people.

The main ring is an attraction all of its own, and if it carries on at this rate I can almost see it becoming an event of its own to equal something like the Horse Of The Year Show. If the truth is told I could have sat in the main ring for the whole weekend and not moved. The agility side of our sport has huge appeal, not only to the people who do it, but it is wonderful to watch, whether it is standard, mini, midi or ABC agility, rescue dog agility or knockout agility, each version has a different but exciting aspect to it and is equally enthralling.

Then there is the Heelwork To Music and this must be the fastest growing division of our sport now. Mary Ray first brought this to prominence when she demonstrated its grace and beauty in the big ring at Crufts and it has gone from strength to strength; still the queen of her field she has inspired so many others to follow and the main arena had several demonstrations from some new faces to prove this.

The Southern Golden Retriever Display Team has taken this a step further with their 16 handlers all in their matching outfits and 16 Golden Retrievers all wearing their Remembrance Day poppies (dogs too). They moved their dogs with such precision going from move to move in a smooth and controlled manner and the dogs were as professional and confident as the handlers; at the end of the routine the audience erupted with applause from all four sides, I wonder if they know how much pleasure they brought.

The Flyball is another division of dogs which brings as much pleasure to the spectator as it does to the dogs – well nearly; because if a dog’s way of showing he is enjoying himself is barking, then no-one enjoys any part of dogdom more than a Flyball dog at his sport. Their excitement is plain for all to see and enjoy.

The other rings were the training ring and the YKC ring. The training ring was busy all day with a non-stop crowd watching training in agility, working trials, Heelwork To Music, KC Good Citizens Awards at all 3 levels, and puppy foundation, as well as safe and sound displays and gundog training. The YKC ring held displays and competitions, HTM, jumping and a fun race, they also had the presentation of grooming carried out by the younger members in our hobby.

It was a pleasure to see how well these youngsters can present a Standard Poodle, American Cocker, OES or CKCS. I must say that the coated breeds are difficult to present, and I did wonder about the grooming presentation of the less coated breeds, but it was clear to see with the fine work on the Wire Haired Dachs, the Pug and the cheeky Jack Russell.

The thing I noticed most this year was how the The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has come of age. Peter Mann and Jeff Simpson had called the KCCT the Kennel Club’s best kept secret, well gentlemen you are to be congratulated for bringing it out of the closet and into the fore; it was the star of the whole weekend.

It was Peter Mann’s tireless efforts to raise firstly the money and secondly the profile of the trust that was the foundation of how we are seeing it now. Through his imagination and work they raised a million pounds and last year they made grants of £297,718 to various causes to benefit dogs either in general or in specific causes. The Animal Health Trust received £40,000 researching genetics of 4 eye conditions and £18,000 for respiratory function in Bulldogs; the University of Cambridge Veterinary School £29,880 for portosystemic shunt and £28,894 for lens luxation, as well as grants to rescue centres and certain canine charities. An example of their funding was in Staffordshire Bull Terriers following their funding to the AHT the scientists cracked the code for hereditary cataract and developed a DNA test which is now available to all SBT breeders.

It must be because of this high profile that after their disbandment, PRO dogs gave the Charitable Trust their £285,516 ring fenced for the promotion of dogs in general; that the South Eastern Counties Toy Dog Society held their companion dog show for the second year, raising a further £300 for the Trust with the help of their sponsors, Stewart Chubb Cars Ltd and Royal Canin and presented the money to Mr Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Trust and Mr Peter Mann, Trustee.

Southern Counties Canine Association also had a £100 cheque to give the Trust; this was handed to the KC Manager Mr John Golding. John is doing an Adventure Challenge in aid of the Trust, he is going on an eight day trek with a team of Huskies across Norway, finishing at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.

John is a man who enjoys creature comforts and has never been camping in his life, driving huskies for eight days across this terrain, a sami tent to sleep in, temperatures reaching -20 degrees and no washing facilities will make this the challenge of a lifetime. He is in need of as much sponsorship as you could possibly give so if you can help, either individually or corporately, or you can get sponsorship on his behalf please contact him on 020 7518 1052 or

The only thing one can say to anyone who has never attended this event, is ‘you don’t know what you’re missing’, so put it in your diary and come next year, you won’t be disappointed.

Our Dogs’ Vince Hogan, Hannah Thompson & David Sharples ‘paws’ for thought
with a customer at the Our Dogs stand.