I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the gundogs displays at #Crufts with Castlemans Gundogs for 4 years, so I’m very aware of what the environment is like and just how daunting it can be. Unfortunately, there is no way to say to the dogs ‘this is going to be really different to what your used to, and it’s going to be fine’.
This year, we have been invited by #TheKennelClubUK to not only be a part of the team, but to be the team leader. An additional challenge, handling a dog as well as addressing the hundreds of people who are watching!
So what does it take to get all of the team members (both human and dog) Crufts ready?
Practice, practice, practice..
Compared to what we ask of the dogs in our normal training, on the surface, the display really does contain the basics, with a few fancy bits on top. So why do we practice so much? The area we have to perform in, is rather snug, so the dogs are working in extremely close proximity to one another, as well as having to pick specific retrieves which may land very closely to another dogs. As well as this, its so important for the other handlers in the team to feel comfortable asking their dogs for the behaviours and having the confidence that the dog can do it.
Because our dogs are used to working outside with all the natural distractions, in theory to take them inside should be easy. But the #NECBirmingham presents so many other obstacles such as loud noises, people clapping, tannoy systems and people eating sandwiches in really close proximity! So other real life distractions that we don't necessarily expose our dogs to when we set up our #GundogTraining scenarios. To combat this, we take our dogs to busy indoor venues (such as a dog friendly pub on a Friday night), where the dogs can get used to listening to people with raised voices, people walking around them, strangers touching them etc. We also go with the team to other training classes (run by friends) so we can get the dogs used to working indoors, in close proximity with even more distraction.
This part for most of the dogs in the team is relatively easy. The Kennel Club states that all dogs in the team should be clean and presentable, which means bath time all around! We usually bath the dogs a week before we leave, this gives the coat time to settle down again and leave them with a nice shine which is enhanced by the fact that they're #RawFed. For the hairier members of the team, such as the Cockers and the Golden Retrievers, they may require a bit of a trim up, which happens around 3 weeks before the event (this also means that any grooming mistakes have time to grow out!)
Come Say Hi!
We will be doing two displays every day over the four days at Crufts. We would love to see you. Our job over the weekend is to inform and educate people about the sport that we're so passionate about. So if you're at Crufts, we'd love to chat and talk dogs with you! We'd love it even more if you could follow us, tag us and share the love on social media with #ClaudiasCanineCaoching!