Crufts, the oldest and perhaps one of the most well known dog shows in the world, kicks off today. As always I find myself incredibly conflicted over this event. On the one hand it is, above all, a celebration of dogs and a gathering of dog lovers from all over the country and indeed, the world. However, on the other hand, parts of the event encourage and celebrate the breeding of unhealthy dogs and inappropriate handling. In this post I am going to talk in a bit more detail about this controversial event – the good, the bad, and the fluffy.
The best parts of Crufts are really the bits that seem to get the least airtime. When people think of Crufts they immediately think about the best in group and best in show parts of the event. Crufts actually showcases a variety of dog activities and sports however. The event hosts competitions in agility, flyball and heelwork to music (doggy dancing). These are all activities that I whole-heartedly encourage people to get involved in, providing the dog is actually enjoying it of course. With such a variety of activities there is generally something for everyone and every dog to enjoy. Also these activities aren’t just for people who want to compete and take things to the next level, it’s all about having fun! Just because you see certain breeds competing at crufts doesn’t mean that other breeds can’t take part. There is no reason why a bulldog couldn’t attend agility classes or why a pug couldn’t try out fly ball. They might not win the top competitions but both you and your dog would be having fun and bonding, and that is what is important. So have a look for groups and classes in your area and go along and give it a go!
Activities such as heelwork to music can even be carried out in your own home and there are plenty of instructional videos and websites online to help you get started. Just remember to keep the training strictly positive and fun for your dog! Crufts in wonderful for showcasing trainers and owners of the dogs who obviously have put a lot of hard work, time, and love into training their dogs.
Crufts also hosts a large variety of stalls and workshops to help guests to learn more about training, breeds and dogs in general. The event is a wonderful place to join with other dog lovers, swap ideas and learn more about this fantastic animals.
Crufts is 125 years old this year and it shows. Some of the attitudes of the Kennel Club are practically archaic and they have shown a reluctance to change their views and attitudes leaving them trailing far behind the attitudes of most of us in the dog world today. After the scathing documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed which highlighted the health problems associated with pedigree dogs as well as the problematic attitudes of breeders and those associated with the pedigree culture, the BBC now refuses to show Crufts and it has been banished to a lesser Channel 4 owned channel. Despite this, the Kennel Club refused to make any major changes and continued to deny that pedigree dogs were at risk. Still, 8 years after this documentary was initially broadcast there has been little change in the attitude of the Kennel Club. They did recently release the results of the 2014 health survey which made for grim reading with the mean lifespan of Kennel Club registered dogs dropping by 11% down to just 10 years. Although, they have withheld some data from some of the most problematic breeds including pugs, French bulldogs and Dogue de Bordeauxs. (See the 2014 results here and the 2004 results here to compare) Despite these findings, they continue to encourage the breeding of over exaggerated features, frequently rewarding dogs in Crufts which are simply unhealthy, including highly brachycephalic (squashed face) dogs. The Kennel Club is a hugely powerful organisation which could make major differences to the health and welfare of dogs all over the country by simply encouraging more healthy breeding. In this day and age, we know enough about dogs and genetics to drastically improve their health and welfare but these healthy dogs will not necessarily fit the “breed standard” described by the Kennel Club.
Within the world of dog showing there are some questionable practices that can be seen at Crufts. Last year the handler of the winning dog, a Scottish terrier named Knopa, was seen to pick up the dog by the neck and tail causing outrage among animal lovers. This is not an appropriate way to pick up a dog and this behaviour should be absolutely unacceptable at Crufts, and indeed, anywhere. Handlers and judges are also seen roughly pushing the dogs into positions to handling invasively. Crufts should be a fun and exciting experience for all the dogs involved, if it is not then they simply shouldn’t be there. It is not fair and it is poor welfare for the dog. Some of the handlers, breeders and owners of the dogs involved at Crufts need to rethink their priorities and take a stand against the Kennel Club. Let them know that their attitudes and outdated and in some cases, simply unacceptable. The fact is that Kennel Club registered dogs are dying because of these “breed standards”. This is something that no true dog lover could support.
Eric, the extremely fluffy pekingese, is this year’s winner of the Toy group.
What are your views on this controversial event?