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Top youngsters turn out for POTY

This year’s winner of the Pup of the Year Competition was the Beagle, Champion Fallowfield Darlene, owned and bred by Christine Lewis. He qualified at the Hound show under Beagle breed specialist and well-known all-round judge Jill Peak, and was quickly made up. Runner-up was the Wire Fox Terrier, Travella Special Feature. He was put through by Jeff Luscott at the Welsh Kennel Club show. He is owned by Richard Allen and was bred by Bill Brown-Cole.

Like Dr Who, the Pup of the Year has gone through a number of successive and very successful regenerations and continues to attract exceptional entries throughout the years. Launched thirty-seven years ago, this prestigious competition is hosted by Purina ProPlan and it’s an important benchmark for all those involved in breeding and showing dogs.

Each of the thirty-two General and Group championship shows that host the heats of the competition regularly attract 300 puppies and account for well over 10,000 entries. That is not just important in terms of being a showcase for puppies but also for bringing in thousands of pounds worth of entry fees.

Outstanding careers

Pup of the Year is successful at every level. Finalists have gone on to have outstanding careers in the ring and judging by the quality that was assembled for assessment by Ferelith Somerfield - who is without doubt one of the world’s most respected judges - and this year’s crop is not likely to be an exception.

The Daily Express newspaper ran the first Pup of the Year competition. It was the brainchild of Catherine Sutton and another top judge, Stanley Dangerfield, who was at the time a columnist with the Express and so helped put it into practice. It was later picked up by Spillers and regenerated by Purina before being taken up by the current sponsors, Nestle, when they bought Purina – all, of course, in association with Dog World.

The finalists have always been chosen from stakes classes hosted by the major championship shows and originally readers of the Express selected the overall winner. In 1973, five celebrity judges made the choice, but each year since then a top dog show judge has adjudicated in the normal way.

The venue, too, has changed. Early venues included Richmond, Driffield and Crufts championship shows and London Zoo, but in 1983 the event settled at the Porter Tun Room in the City of London until 2006 when it moved to the Corn Exchange at Bedford. This year saw a further change to a more central venue near the Royal Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh, the beautifully refurbished Chesford Grange Hotel where, for many years, Our Dogs and Vetzyme hosted presentations for the Pick of Litter finalist.

Top names

Over the years there have been extraordinary successes by our top breeders and exhibitors at Pup of the Year. This year, three dogs (of different breeds) held the Afterglow affix, with two from Pamplona and representatives from Redwitch, Nevadith, Gunalt, Dialynne and Travella. All of whom seem to have been permanent fixtures at this (and other top competitions) for many years.
Two curiosities this year were that for the first time there were two representatives from one show (the judging was not completed at Blackpool so the day’s winner from the first two days were both invited) and two Gordon Setters from the same litter won at successive shows - a triumph for Pete and Christine Sandiford of the Hurnwood affix.

The quality was as high as ever, perhaps even better than usual. There is always a risk with this competition as the dogs are often spectacular as puppies but by the time the final comes round some are in the adolescent ‘gawky’ stage. Thankfully, this did not seem to be case in 2008.

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