Jane Davidson RVN veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon
And so spring rolls around. Lighter days, not so muddy underfoot, a little warmer. Perfect dog walking conditions. Time to think about getting a dog?
For some. Maybe. Others see the advent of spring as the build up to the biggest fashion event of the year. An almost week-long event with over 20,000 beautiful participants. Who have been fighting it out all year, the 20,000 whittled down from many, many more wannabes. Working hard for their chance to shine, be seen, and be chosen.
But this isn’t Americas Next Top Model. I’m not picturing Kendall or Gigi. I’m seeing four legs. Fur. Wet noses. Because spring is Crufts, occupying the beginning of spring 9-12th March
Crufts, the biggest fashion show for dogs. For the select few. Because just like models in the fashion world for humans, modelling for dogs is for the select few. If you look at Crufts as a way to find out about owning a dog it’s like asking a model agent to advise you how to bring up children. It’s a jazzed up version of pet ownership. It’s not real, it’s for the few not the many and it’s not an accurate portrayal of dog ownership.
It’s a huge annual celebration of dogs. But with the emphasis on looks. Who wins can influence which dog people are more likely to buy in the following few months. Based on a few seconds of a dog trotting around in an alien environment. Yes, you can go and see the dogs and speak to owners. But they are owners of show dogs. Which is very different from owning the average family dog. They also may breed and sell the type of dog you like so have a vested interest in making their type of dog the most appealing to you.
That’s not to say it’s not worth going. It’s a retail heaven for dog owners. If they don’t sell it at Crufts it’s probably not for sale.You get to see and compare many different breeds and talk to owners. It can be pretty overwhelming. If you visit be prepared to walk miles to see it all, good practice for when you get your dog!
My advice would be to take the information from the show, and go away and think about it. Don’t commit to a dog or puppy there. Take what they say and then look at the dog’s people who live near you own. Talk to the dog owners near you. How does their dog cope with living where you are? Although each family set up is different the environment that dogs live in has an effect on their well-being.
Close to myself and Hollie, we have a collie, a giant doodle and a Chihuahua. Quite a mix for a London street! We live a 5 min walk from a 200 acre park. It’s dog friendly and there’s lots of space for off lead exercise. So that’s probably why we have some higher energy dogs that you don’t always see in towns. But your dog will need good training and be excellent at recall. The park is busy with joggers and cyclists and squirrels. Not things every dog will ignore to run back to you! Even this is a serious thing to consider.
How much time do you have to walk a dog every day?
Will you go to the park in the dark after work in winter?
Have you got time to train a dog to be well behaved off the lead?
While we live close to the park Hollie and I rarely go. She doesn’t really like parks, open spaces or other dogs. So while we chose to live close to the park (and paid more to do so!) to provide a great life for our dog, the dog we got really isn’t interested.
And that’s the thing about dogs. It’s not just looks. It’s personality.While we often attribute characteristics to certain breeds, each dog will still be the product of a mix of their breed, their upbringing and just them. Hollie is the perfect example. She has the dramatics of the Peke family, the anxiety of her lack of socialisation and the sense of self-importance that only she has. We couldn’t tell all this from just looking at her, or one of Peke peer group.
To see a Peke type dog in a show ring is to see a waddling mop. It’s not how a dog should live and you find most dogs with huge coats have owners who spend a lot of time at the groomers keeping the coat a sensible length. And Hollie can move. When she wants. If there is a treat on offer or she wants to go home then she can sprint like a small Usain Bolt. If we had based getting a Peke on what they look like on Crufts her activity levels would be a complete surprise.
There are 8.5 million dogs in the UK. You’ll only see a minority of the 20,000 that attend Crufts. While it’s a great place to gather information, remember it’s a snap shot of the world of doggy modelling. Spend some time checking out other sources of information.
Enjoy seeing the dogs, but make decisions about dog ownership based on more than just looks.