March is almost upon us, which can only mean one thing…
Photo copyright Forthglade Natural Pet Food
Over 150,000 dog lovers from across the globe are expected to descend on the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) across the four day period from Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th, enjoying all the highlights of the world’s biggest dog show. As regular visitors to Crufts will know, the event is so much more beyond the battle for the Best in Show title, with more than 550 trade stands, known as the “ultimate doggy shopping experience”, the Discover Dogs area with over 200 pedigree breeds to meet, and a variety of competitions covering everything from agility to obedience – all in addition to witnessing thousands of dogs competing for the ultimate title in the pedigree world.
Holding over 6,000 visitors, the arena (currently known as the ‘Genting Arena’) has been used at Crufts for displays, competitions, the all-important best of group judging and, of course, Best in Show, since 2007. The arena programme is a firm favourite with Crufts fans, and is now enjoyed by viewers worldwide since the introduction of the livestream.
So whether you’re gearing up for your first Crufts visit or are planning to settle down with a cup of tea and a friendly mutt on your lap to catch the agility live on YouTube, check out this guide to the unmissable arena action at Crufts 2018.
Photo copyright Power Paws Agility
Agility – Throughout the Show. Rescue Dog Agility – Day 2, 13:35
First demonstrated at Crufts in 1978, this fast-paced obstacle course has been a favourite of the Crufts visitor for 40 years. Watch top agility dogs of all shapes and sizes compete for first place as they face hurdles, tunnels, weaving poles, see-saws and more.
During last year’s rescue dog agility competition, Olly the Jack Russell caused mayhem when he decided that he fancied a different take on the course. The video of the Blue Cross terrier ‘going rogue’ in the arena went viral on the internet and has acquired over 11 million views. With Olly set to return to Crufts this year, there may well be even more canine carnage in store! Either way, be sure to join in with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Crufts agility.
Flyball excitement. Photo courtesy of Yours.co.uk
Flyball – Throughout the Show. Final – Day 4, 13:20
Originating in California in the 1970s and making its debut at Crufts in 1990, flyball is arguably the most exciting dog sport on the planet. It involves two teams racing each other down a set of hurdles before triggering a pedal on the ‘flyball box’, releasing a tennis ball which the dog must carry back over the hurdles to rejoin his teammates. In typical relay fashion, each dog has to cross the finish line before the next dog can be released.
Nothing compares to the atmosphere of the arena during the flyball final. It’s loud, it’s fast, the crowd go wild, and invariably there are numerous teams sporting brightly dyed hair and pawprints on their faces. Not to be missed.
Photo copyright Southern Golden Retriever Display Team
If you prefer a more relaxed pace…
Southern Golden Retriever Display Team – Day 3, 12:30; Day 4, 13:05
A must for Retriever fanatics, the Southern Golden Retriever Display Team first strutted their stuff at Crufts 2004 and have returned year after year with their heartwarming combination of obedience and music. Consisting of 16 Goldies, including rescues, the team trains throughout the year, whatever the weather. From their flawless arena displays it’s clear that their hard work always pays off. The team perform at shows up and down the country, including charity events, and have even appeared on Blue Peter.
Mary Ray, a Crufts favourite. Photo courtesy of Zimbio
Heelwork to Music – Throughout the Show
In 1992, long before the advent of the TV talent show which introduced millions of viewers to the wonders of doggy dancing, Mary Ray, the UK’s leading expert on Heelwork to Music (HTM), performed at Crufts for the first time. Since then she has returned to the show each year, and her amazing routines are now an established part of the build up to Best in Show.
Throughout Crufts, visitors can experience the delights of HTM in the arena, including the finals of the ‘freestyle’ and freestyle international competitions. Expect incredible training, moving soundtracks and just the right amount of fancy dress.
West Midlands Police Dogs at Crufts. Photo: @WMPdogs on Twitter
Canine Crime Fighters
West Midlands Police Dog Display – Day 1, 16:00; Day 3, 16:25; Day 4, 13:40
The West Midlands Police Dog Display is always a hit and definitely a personal favourite. As pointed out during last year’s show, this is not a display team – these dogs are the real deal and are all on active duty. It’s also a treat to see the upcoming ‘recruits’ in the form of the pups who are currently being looked after by volunteer puppy walkers.
If you’re visiting Crufts this year, don’t forget to visit the West Midlands Police stand in Hall 3 to get up close and personal with the team and to learn more about their heroic work.
The E.A.S.B.T Display Team performing outside Hall 1. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph
East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier Display Team – Day 1, 11:05
The East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier (E.A.S.B.T.) Display Team are kicking off the first of the arena displays in style during Thursday morning. Showing just how brilliant the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is, previous displays have featured special guests including dog lover Paul O’ Grady. The dogs themselves seem to thoroughly enjoy hurtling round the agility course and entertaining the crowd.
This year’s display includes an appearance from TV dog trainer Sian Ryan along with members of the ‘StreetVet’ team who provide support for homeless pet owners. There’s even rumours of a World Cup theme…
Digby, star of ITV’s This Morning. Photo copyright Dogs for Good
Celebrate 30 years of life-changing partnerships
Dogs for Good – Day 2, 11:25
Formerly known as Dogs for the Disabled, Dogs for Good are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. The charity was the first in the UK to introduce assistance dogs for children with physical disabilities, and their work has been at the forefront of developing canine assistance for those with additional needs. Viewers of ITV’s This Morning may be familiar with Digby, a Dogs for Good puppy and future assistance dog who appears on the programme every week.
Providing three different services in the form of Assistance Dogs (to support those with physical disabilities and autism), Family Dogs (providing advice on how pet dogs can benefit the whole family) and Community Dogs (training activity and therapy dogs for work in schools and hospitals), Dogs for Good will be eager to showcase their amazing canines at Crufts 2018. For more information on the charity please visit them in Hall 3, stand 55a, or take a look at the Dogs for Good website.
Wylie the Nowzad rescue dog – Scruffts winner 2014. Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail
If you’re rooting for the underdog…
Scruffts final – Day 3, 17:55
‘Scruffts’ is a dog show with a difference. Open to crossbreeds only, the grand final, otherwise known as the ‘Scruffts Family Crossbreed Dog of the Year’, takes place in the arena on Saturday evening. Over 1800 dogs have already battled it out for a place at Crufts in heats across the country with just six making it to the final, representing categories including Child’s Best Friend, Golden Oldie and Best Crossbreed Rescue.
Pictured above is Wylie, who won Scruffts back in 2014. Wylie is from Afghanistan and had suffered horrendous injuries before being rescued by the charity Nowzad. Since winning the competition Wylie found fame and there has even been a book published about his bravery.
Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler started her career as a member of the Young Kennel Club and still competes at Crufts. Photo courtesy of DogCast Radio
Inspiring the next generation of handlers
International Junior Handling Competition – Day 3. Final – 17:35
For younger Crufts attendees who may be considering becoming involved in ringcraft training, the International Junior Handling competition is the ideal opportunity to be inspired. Young handlers from a variety of countries will be participating in the competition where they will be able to demonstrate not only their handling skills but also their rapport with dogs. Although the handlers will have chosen a breed, they will only have met the individual dog about an hour before entering the ring – a real test of their abilities.
For those aged 6-24 who want to learn more about the dog world, visit the Young Kennel Club (YKC) stand in Hall 3, stand 23.
Best in Show winner 2006, Chance the Australian Shepherd. Photo courtesy of The Mirror
Last but not least…
‘Best of Group’ Judging – Every evening
If you’re still around in the evening and want to rest your aching feet before heading home, be sure to make your way to the arena to see which dog scoops the title of ‘Best in Group’ and goes through to compete for Best in Show. You could watch it on TV of course, but it’s never quite the same as witnessing the excitement first-hand as your favourite breed catches the eye of the judge.
Day 1: Working Group and Pastoral Group
Day 2: Terrier Group and Hound Group
Day 3: Toy Group and Utility Group
Day 4: Gundog Group (No access to the arena after 2pm without Best in Show tickets)
Whether you’re visiting the NEC this year or watching at home, sit back and enjoy the show!
Photo courtesy of Mother Nature Network
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of Crufts events; for full arena timetables please see the ‘What’s On’ section of the Crufts website. All times listed are subject to change. There is no access to the arena from 2pm onwards on Sunday (Day 4) for those without Best in Show tickets.
I am not affiliated with Crufts and any opinions expressed here do not reflect those of the Kennel Club. For official event information please see the Crufts website.