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Crufts all ‘teeth and hair’
Show slammed by preservation trust

CRUFTS, THE world’s acknowledged greatest dog show has been accused of becoming too theatrical and influenced by America, with dogs being presented to the public’ like Hollywood starlets’.

The British and Irish Dog Breeds Preservation Trust were quoted in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph as saying that the glamorisation of the event had led to the parading of dogs that were ‘all teeth and hair’.

The show, which is of course organised by the Kennel Club, is also accused of being too focused on agility challenges and US-inspired events such as Heelwork to Music and Flyball.

Paul Keevil, of the trust, said that the American influence had increased greatly since 2001 when a relaxation of quarantine laws allowed more US dogs to compete.

The report, written by reporter Jasper Copping quotes Keevil as saying: ‘It has led to quite a dramatic change in the presentation of some of the dogs at Crufts. Some now reflect that kind of North American glamour that you see in Hollywood starlets, who are all teeth and hair. The British still tend to present their dogs in a more traditional, less flamboyant way.

‘The show is becoming far too theatrical. It's more of an all-round dog exhibition now and no longer a dog show. It has become about agility, flyball and obedience tasks. These are very crowd-pleasing events, but there are only so many ways a dog can catch a tennis ball and the Kennel Club has got to remember what its core business is and its responsibilities. Things like heelwork have been creeping in and, while they may help bring in the punters, these things are ultimately secondary and there's a real danger they dilute what Crufts should be about.’

Keevil adds: ‘These flashier elements have been influenced by North America, as with much of our culture. But the UK has an important identity already and in the world of dogs we are unique, with far more native breeds than anyone else. There's nothing wrong with embracing other aspects, as long as we don't neglect what we already have.’

According to Copping’s article, the stern criticism has drawn strong condemnation from the Kennel Club's secretary, Caroline Kisko, who said that it had tried to make the event more entertaining because many people found watching traditional dog shows was like ‘watching paint dry’.

She added that the club was still trying to respect traditions and was using the event to highlight the plight of endangered dogs by holding a parade of some rare native breeds, with their handlers dressed in historical costumes.

Flashy and flamboyant

Mr Keevil, who, the report adds, sits on one the club's committees, was further quoted as saying: ‘There has been a huge influx of foreign dogs. We can't close our borders and say we don't want any more of them, but it is a matter of getting the ¬emphasis back on British people ¬buying British dogs. The influx, in itself, hasn't necessarily been a bad thing but it has changed the nature of the event and there's a danger that it is not helping the native breeds.

‘With all these very flashy and flamboyant overseas breeds coming in, the good old-fashioned stock are not doing well. We can't forget our home-grown product or we will end up like the British motorcycle industry.

‘The Kennel Club uses all sorts of bland corporate speak about what they are doing for these vulnerable British breeds, but it doesn't boil down to a lot of action. It's a matter of commitment and I don't think they are doing enough.’

Copping points out that since 2001, when quarantine laws were overhauled, the number of dogs owned by foreigners, many of them non-British breeds, has steadily increased and four of the seven winners of Crufts since then have been foreign. By contrast, only three rare British breeds have won since 1990.

Of the 23,000 dogs competing at Crufts this year, more than 1,170 of them are foreign-owned. Four years ago, it was just 370. There has also been a rise in the number of foreign breeds competing, many of which are British owned. This year, just 1,481 of the dogs at Crufts are vulnerable British breeds. The event has grown in popularity. More than 150,000 people are expected to visit the show at Birmingham's NEC in March.

Not a dog show

OUR DOGS columnist Liz Gay is quoted: ‘Crufts isn't a dog show any more. It is a business. It is about marketing products and making a profit. It has alienated a lot of people. The costs are so high that many dog groups cannot afford to get in.’

The article concludes with Caroline Kisko defending the show and pointing out that heelwork and flyball had been introduced in the early 1990s.

‘You have to introduce things like heelwork to music which are much more fast and furious and fun for people to watch.

‘Crufts has a huge appeal for the general public. It is a massive opportunity to sell the benefits of dogs in general and we make no apology at all for that whatsoever. Anyone who accuses us of not doing enough to supporting vulnerable breeds needs to take another look.’

The article, although undoubtedly well researched, does come over as another tedious ‘Let’s Bash Crufts and Dog Shows’ piece which typical emerge in the run-up to the NEC extravaganza.
Whether the old adage of all publicity is good publicity holds true remains to be seen.

Don’t forget though girls – it’s all about teeth and hair now, so get the Botox and the glam frocks out. Just in case Hollywood comes a-calling.