Crufts Diary 2015 – Obedience World Cup Competition

By: Suasn & Gemma Henshaw

The fourth and final day of Crufts 2015 and for the obedience fans it’s the turn of the World Cup competition and this year we welcomed a new team all the way from New Zealand, the team have been over here for a few weeks getting used to handling the dogs that have been kindly loaned to them by British handlers. Hopefully they will have enjoyed their experience and return again in the future.

Nine countries represented here this year, eight with a full team of three handlers and dogs and Canada with just one handler and dog.

Promptly at 8.40am we had the judge for today, Kathy Russell and her ring party take up their positions to one side of the ring ready to wish the competitors good luck for the competition. The judge was wearing black trousers, a pale green top and a green/gold jacket, the ladies in the ring party were wearing black trousers and multi coloured tunic tops and the male stewards were in black trousers, black/grey waistcoats, grey and white shirts and a pale green tie.

Then our man on the mike Gerard Paisley introduced today’s teams, led in by the ladies from Wales, resplendent in their new red and black outfits this year, the music of ‘Here comes the Girls’ accompanied them and as they passed the far left corner of the ring their fans gave them a huge welcome. Next in were Holland and although there was not the usual amount of fans here for them, those that were certainly made themselves heard, the dogs looked very smart in their team colour jackets.

As the team from New Zealand entered in their all black outfits they received a really warm welcome, especially from the group of Scottish fans who were giving every team a standing ovation. The Northern Ireland team were led in by their manager Michael McCartney, who proceeded to dance his way round the ring to an Irish jig.

Team England came in to ‘Rockin all over the world’ and the ladies of the team gave a short dance at each side of the ring but they were upstaged by Mary Ray’s dog ‘Levi’ who actually danced better than them. The Scottish team entered to the music of ‘I would walk 500 miles’ and stopped briefly in one corner to receive a very loud accolade from their fans, their flag bearer resplendent in kilt and tartan hat complete with an orange pompom on top of it.

There was quite a decent crowd in for an early Sunday morning and a good party style atmosphere had started to build around the ring.

At 9am we had the introduction of the judge, Kathy Russell who received a warm welcome from the crowd, Gerard gave us a brief outline of her career in this sport, which spans 39 years and includes having judged the Obedience Championships in 2001. Kathy has competed at Crufts every year since 1980 except when she has judged here, quite an achievement. The ring party were then welcomed into the ring and they also received a round of applause.

The send away for today was made up of two front markers, upright rectangles with the national flags of the competing teams on them; the back marker was the same design but a square. For the heelwork there was a pattern marked out at one side of the ring, consisting of a straight line with a small arc on it, then a tight diagonal left turn, a short straight and then another tight diagonal right turn to take the teams back along the side of the ring. There was one more pattern at the right hand side of the ring from the entrance, as the handlers entered the marked line they had a curve to the right, a few steps and a curve back towards the stand, this pattern was repeated twice, the handlers were to keep one foot on the line throughout the pattern.

To get the competition underway we had Jane Walker and ‘Mair’representing Wales, their third time here in this competition. Starting with the heelwork, which was very neat and precise, the dog showing total concentration on the job in hand. They seemed to work the round with ease, the slow pace being done at a very precise step and the dog gave instant responses when asked, losing just 10 ¼ on this exercise. Onto the dir/ret and dumbbell no.2 a good set up and the dog went straight out to the right one, a careful pick up and returned to a square present and close finish, marked clear, which was the best of the day. They finished off their round with the hur/ret, the handler gave a long throw and the dumbbell landed slightly to the right hand side, the dog jumped out well picked the dumbbell up with ease and returned back over the jump to a very good present, losing just ¼ mark which was equalled by one other competitor but not surpassed, a lovely round to get the class underway.

First team in for New Zealand was Karen Browning and ‘Mr’ the dog crabbing a little at the start of normal pace and briefly stopped to have a look at the judge and scribe, then seemed to settle into the work more, a lovely transition down a gear into slow pace and the dog maintained superb attention through the turns. Unfortunately did stop once more on a turn but Karen managed to keep the heelwork going with clam, sympathetic handling, The fast pace was worked at a good stride with the dog really trying hard to keep the heel position., turns were carried out at pace and with the dog holding lovely attention.

In for Germany was Bettina Neuss and her L.Ret ‘Akira’, who works class ‘B’ in English obedience. After a solid heelwork round onto the dir/ret and dumbbell no.3 the dog going straight out, a very neat pick up on the dumbbell and back to the handler at speed, just slightly off centre in the present and a crooked finish. Then to the rec/dc, the dogs attention totally on the handler, a good run on command followed by an almost instant stop when asked and good positions carried out with ease. This dog obviously enjoying the work. Finished their round with the hur/ret, clean jumps both ways, a neat pick up on the dumbbell and a very controlled brake into the present, losing just ¾ on this exercise.

Following them into the ring was Anda de Baerdemaeker and her BC ‘Vivid’ representing Belgium. This pair are ‘C’ only in obedience in Holland and this was their first time here at Crufts. A little loose at the start of the normal pace heelwork, not quite finishing off some of the turns but as the round progressed the dog seemed to settle into the work and maintained attention through all three paces, slow pace was carried out at a well measured stride, then up a gear into the fast pace with the dog just losing position a little on the straights and again some of the turns not quite finished of. The send away saw the dog go out at speed, straight through the markers and then a drop almost instantly on command into the down just by the back marker, waited attentively for the call out then picked up well into the heel position.

In for Northern Ireland was Naoimh Mathers and her BC ‘Jasper’ who normally work at class level ‘A’ in their country. Into the heelwork and the handler stepped out well in the normal pace, the dog holding a lovely position and very accurate on the turns. The fast pace flowed around the ring and the dog’s attention was solely on the handler who never stopped smiling the whole round, a really happy team who were lovely to watch. The next exercise was the dir/ret and dumbbell no 1, a no fuss set up with the dog going straight to the right one, not seeming to even notice the others, a neat pick up and then back to the handler into a square present and close finish.

Bringing this round to a close was Scotland’s Helen Murray and ‘Diva’, their second time at the World Cup. After a good heelwork round onto the dir/ret and dumbbell no.3 for this pair, the dog needing very little set up, no hesitation on which dumbbell to go to, picked it up with care then straight back into a good present, just slightly crooked on the finish, losing ½ mark. In the rec/dc the dog responded instantly, came at speed and applied the brakes at the right moment, then with full attention on the handler performed the positions with ease, a lovely exercise. The send away saw the dog go out quickly and an instant drop exactly in front of the back marker, followed by a fast pick up into the heel position. Super work from this team and as they finished their ring work they received a huge cheer from the Scottish fans.

At 10.20 we had a short 25-minute break, so just about enough time to dash out for a coffee and then back into our seats ready to watch the second set of teams. There was a really enthusiastic atmosphere around the stands this morning, each handler and dog greeted with cheers and applause, Gerard has been on the mike informing everyone that there were free seats still available and that there was no need to stand at the side barriers, during the ring work he also described what each exercise entailed, so everyone that was watching knew what to expect.

Starting off the second set of teams was Jane Moran and ‘Nellie’ representing Wales, the heelwork was simply beautiful to watch, all three paces were well defined, the dogs attention not moving from the handler. The footwork on the chalked lines was precise and accurate making the movements look easy. Slow pace was well measured with dog and handler working through the turns with accuracy. The position on the fast pace was held nicely, turns were well squared off in this pace, this team not giving much away at all, losing just 10½ on the heelwork exercise. They finished off a very good round with the hur/ret and the handler gave a long throw of the dumbbell which landed slightly to the left hand side, the dog jumped over with ease, controlled the pick up well then jumped back over the hurdle and applied the brakes going into the front present. A total of 14½ marks were lost on the ring work.

Following them into the ring was Guus Scholten with his BC ‘Gucci’ for Holland, this team having qualified through to work the Championship classes in this country. The heelwork showed a very controlled pace in normal with the dog maintaining superb attention and finishing off the turns neatly. Dropping down a gear into slow pace the transition was very clean and the work was accurate with a measured stride. The fast pace looked effortless and the dog’s body position remained the same throughout, the handler’s upright way of working complimenting the dog’s style, superb work to watch. In the rec/dc the handlers commands were so quiet that you could not hear them from the stands but the dogs response was instant, full attention on the handler and came up at a good speed when called then an instant stop on command, the positions were carried out with very little movement, lovely to watch and marked clear.

Representing New Zealand was Libby Ellery with ‘Cian’ the dog was a little erratic at the start of the heelwork and jumped slightly out of position, the handler tried hard to control the sheer enthusiasm that the dog works with, some of the turns were not quite finished off but you could see that the dog was trying hard for his ‘new’ handler. In the fast pace the dog settled and held a much better position and attention squaring off the turns and they looked much more of a team. Onto the dir/ret and dumbbell no.3, the dog had a quick look across at the other dumbbells but didn’t hesitate on picking the right one up and returned confidently to a straight present and close finish, they lost just ¼ mark for this exercise. Finished to a good round of applause, as most of the audience knew that it would not have been easy to work someone else’s dog at this level.

In for Northern Ireland was Sam McCracken and his BC ‘Zara’, Sam has represented his country every year since the inaugural event and received a very warm welcome from the audience. Dir/ret saw the dog go out quickly on command to dumbbell no 3, no hesitation or looking at the other dumbbells, a good clean pick up and back into a very controlled present but just sat off a little on the finish. Onto the rec/dc and the dog had full attention on the handler as she was left in position, came up at a good pace but ran on slightly after the halt command, she still managed to stop on the marked line then gave very accurate positions when asked, a nice exercise for this team. The send away next and a fast run out with no deviation, straight through to the back marker and an instant down on command, unfortunately the dog then anticipated the call up which was costly.

Representing England was Pat Watson with ‘Flick’, Pat’s 8th year on the team, a nice calm start in the heelwork, measured footwork from the handler with the dog maintaining a good position, the multi turns were worked neatly with just the right amount of movement from the dog to square them off. The heelwork on the chalked patterns was precise and the dog’s attention didn’t falter, enthusiasm took over a tad in the fast pace with the dog just swinging out of position on some of the turns. Finished off their round with the hur/ret, a very long throw from the handler sending the dumbbell almost to the boards at the top edge of the ring, the dog jumped with ease, followed by a very neat pick up on the dumbbell then straight back over the hurdle into the front present, the finish looked to be a little crooked. Losing ¾ mark for this exercise which was the best score in this round.

A break then for lunch and we were told that the class would resume at 1.15pm, so off for something to eat and a little retail therapy then back into our seats for the final set of teams, the big stand looked to be filling up nicely by the time everyone started to return, very few seats were left empty for the afternoon session.

In for Holland was the team of Karin Stegmeijer and ‘McCay’, third year in a row competing here for their country. The normal pace heelwork was lovely to watch, an active stride, upright handling and the dog responding to every movement. The work on the chalked patterns was superb with dog and handler really working as one. Instant transitions between the paces with just some of the left turns not quite finished off in the slow pace but a lovely round to watch. In the rec/dc we again witnessed very quiet commands with instant responses from the dog, who came forward at a good pace when asked and straight into the sit when the command was given to halt, the positions were worked with ease and very little excess movement, the dogs attention fully on the handler, superb work from this team.

Representing Germany was Susi Huber and her BC ‘Profi’, the dir/ret saw the dog go straight out to the no.1 dumbbell, careful on the pick up and turned back to the handler, but just didn’t apply the brakes in time and knocked on through the legs in the present. Onto the rec/dc the dog holding attention on the handler as she walked away, on asking the dog came up at quite a good pace, sat instantly on the halt command but then walked forward into the first position, the rest of the positions were done well.  Finished their round with a very good hur/ret, a lovely high jump over the hurdle, a confident pick up and an equally high jump back to a well braked present and close finish. A good round from this team

Following them into the ring was the Belgium pair of Karl Van den Bosch and his BC ‘Ink’, first time here at Crufts for this pair. The dog started slightly forward in the normal pace heelwork but tried hard to keep attention on the handler, just coming out of position a little on the chalked patterns. A good change down to the slow pace but as they were getting into their stride the dog stopped on a right turn and had a quick look around, seemed to be checking out the crowd! The handler skilfully got the dog back into the heel position and continued, the fast pace showed off a very flowing movement with the dog holding a better position and attention throughout this pace, really seemed to be enjoying the work.

In for England was Mary Ray and ‘Levi’, always a favourite with the crowd here. In the heelwork exercise they gave a display of accuracy and control, the normal pace was smoothly carried out and the position from the dog was maintained throughout all the turns. The footwork on the chalked patterns was well measured and this team made the round look easy. In fast pace the dog simply went up a gear and held superb attention, just a few of the turns in fast pace not completed fully. Losing just 8 marks for the heelwork exercise, the best mark of the competition. There was very little to mark in the send away, on command a straight run out to the back marker, instant drop and waited patiently for the call up, then a fast run and applied the brakes at just the right moment to go into a tight heelwork position, losing ¼ mark, the best of the day. They finished their ring work on a total of 9½ marks and went into the lead in the individual competition.

Last team in the ring today was Ellen Herris and ‘Gabi’ for Scotland. A confident start in the heelwork but as the round progressed the dog seemed to lose position and didn’t quite finish off some of the turns. The handler worked hard to maintain the work and going into fast pace the dog went up into an extra gear and this pace flowed, the straights were worked with ease and the turns neatly completed. In the send away the dog went out at speed straight to the back marker and dropped into an instant down on command, a steady wait then a fast run and braked just in time to go into the heel position. Finishing with the hur/ret, a high jump out, stopped and picked up the dumbbell cleanly then almost missed the jump on the way back, just managing to clear the hurdle with her front legs and flicked her back legs to one side to clear the jump, must have been watching a few show jumpers to learn that action.

So mid afternoon and with all the ring work finished it was time for the 2-minute sit stay with all handlers out of sight. Once the number boards had been put out the handlers and dogs came back into the ring in their running order. The dogs were prepared for the stay and the countdown given, as the handlers left the ring dog no 3 for Northern Ireland stood up, moved forward a couple of steps then stood still. Half way through the exercise dog no.2 for Scotland decided to lie down, the rest of the teams were clear. When they were called the handlers returned to the ring and waited in a line until given the okay to return to the side of their dogs, then exercise finish and as the teams left the ring they received a loud cheer and applause from the audience.

Just a short break and then the stewards prepared the ring for the scent exercise, a ‘B’ scent, the cloths laid out on a diagonal line across the ring, the handlers to be facing the first cloth with the remainder of the cloths going away to the left of them on the diagonal. The decoy cloth at no.5 and the handlers cloth at 7.

The teams still working in their running order so first in to get this exercise underway was Jane Walker and ‘Mair’ for Wales, after being given the scent the dog went straight out and worked along the line until a positive find on the right one, came back into a very straight present and tight finish, marked clear. Following them into the ring was Bernou ter Voorde and ‘Lizzy’ for Holland, the dog found the right cloth very quickly but then dropped it twice whilst checking the other cloths, did return with the right one but lost 7 marks which was quite costly.

For England we had Philomena Barnes and ‘Jezzie’, the dog worked the scent area well but pecked at a couple of the blank cloths then found the right one and returned to a good present and finish. Last team in for this round was Helen Murray and ‘Diva’ for Scotland, on command the dog went out at a good pace towards the first cloth, turned and worked carefully up the line, a neat pick up on the right one and quickly back to a square present and tight finish, marked clear. And they left the ring to a chorus of cheers from the Scottish fans.

Straight onto the second set of teams and for Wales we had Jane Moran and ‘Nellie’, the dog not needing to check all the cloths as she found the right one very quickly, a shake on the cloth as she picked it up then back to a straight present and a close finish, losing just ¾ mark and they finished on a score of 15¼ for the class. Following them into the ring was Guus Scholten and ‘Gucci’, very little set up and the dog went out on command at a good pace, worked the cloths then a positive find and careful pick up and straight back to the handler a superb scent exercise and marked clear.

The Belgium team of Sandra Tournaye with ‘Giggles’ entered for their turn, the dog eager to take the scent then straight out to the start of the line but picked up the first cloth (blank) and returned with it certain that it was the right one. In for England was Pat Watson and ‘Flick’ on a score of 15¼ marks for the ring work, another dog who gave a fast check on all the cloths, picked up the right one with care but came back at an angle and didn’t quite manage to square up in the present, losing 1 mark.

Onto the last set of teams and for Holland was Karin Stegmeijer and ‘McCay’, a quick check up and down all the cloths, stopped dead on the right one picked it up carefully and returned but slightly off centre in the present and an untidy finish, losing 1½ marks. Following them into the ring was Sallie Remon and ‘Thriller’ for New Zealand, the dog searching carefully up the line of cloths checked the right one twice then picked it up and returned to the handler but just didn’t apply the brakes in time and knocked through the handlers legs on the present and had to back out to go to the finish, losing 2 marks.

In for Germany was Susi Huber with ‘Profi’, the dog started to sneeze on the run out to the cloths, turned round and went back to the handler, was sent out again, worked the line this time finding the right cloth quite quickly and returned. For England we had Mary Ray and ‘Levi’ the dog going out to the start of the line, a very methodical search of the cloths, a gentle pick up on the right cloth then back to a good front present and finish, losing just ¼ mark, they left the ring to a huge cheer from the crowd, losing a total of 9 ¾ marks for the class.

So with the scent finished there was a short break whilst the scores were double checked, team and individual placings worked out and the place boards set up in the ring. Whilst waiting we were treated to some rousing refrains from the Scottish and Welsh fans, then the English flag was carried at speed down one side of the arena, prompting the fans from Scotland and Wales to do the same with their flags, accompanied by lots of cheering from the audience.

From the corner where the main body of Scottish fans were came the sound of peels of laughter and emerging into sight came one Jim McIntosh in a Scottish outfit, but one with a difference, it was inflatable and he looked just like a Scottish version of a roly poly, absolutely hilarious.

Gerard announced that all was ready and today’s judge Kathy Russell led her ring party back into the ring and they took up their positions to the side ready to give one final welcome to the competing teams, receiving a very warm greeting from the audience as they came in. Then the music struck up and the parade of competitors got underway. The teams entered in high spirits and lots of cheering, applause and flag waving greeted each team as they made their way round the ring, the Scottish team were escorted in by their roly poly figure who was having a whale of a time, hopefully we will see him here next year.

Once all the teams were lined up around the edges of the ring we had the presentation of a gift to today’s judge and a thank you to her and her team.

Then the announcement of this years Individual winner  – Mary Ray and ‘Ob Ch Colliewood Blue Jeans’ and they received an ovation from the stands as they came forward to the first place board, this being the third individual title win in this competition for them. Second place went to a delighted Jane Moran with ‘Ob Ch Dusters Done ‘N’ Dusted’, followed by Pat Watson and ‘Ob Ch Forever Magic It’s Flicker’ in third place and Helen Murray and ‘Sixela Uno’s Diva’ in fourth place, all the teams were welcomed forward with a huge round of applause from the crowds.

As all the handlers returned to their teams we had the announcement of the Obedience World Cup Team Winner 2015 which went to England, a huge noise from the crowd, cheering and applauding as the team came forward to the winners place board. In the reserve place was the team from Wales and their fans cheered them all the way to the middle of the ring. In third place was the team from Holland who looked delighted with their place and the Scottish team took the fourth place and their fans really did try to make enough noise to raise the roof.

A brilliant end to this years Obedience competitions at Crufts, it certainly seemed that the four days had been much better supported than in previous years and after today the sparkle has definitely returned to the World Cup competition.

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