By: Susan & Gemma Henshaw
Thursday 6 March 2014 and we have the first day of this years Crufts Dog Show at the NEC in Birmingham and the start of the Obedience competitions. Obedience is at the heart of virtually every dog sport/hobby from Agility and Flyball to Canicross and Breed Showing and this year is a celebration of 60 years of Obedience Competition at Crufts.
To kick off the four days of Obedience we have the Inter Regional competition sponsored by Our Dogs. Seven regional teams select a total of seven dogs plus a travelling reserve to compete in classes from Beginners to Class C, each team is restricted to a total of two border collies/working sheepdogs and three of any other single breed, so we always have a good variety of breeds strutting their stuff in the ring. This year those other breeds included, a Standard Poodle, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Spanish Water Dog, Newfoundland and a Rhd Ridgeback. Giving the competition a re-vamp from previous years a non-standard exercise has been included in each class, hopefully giving spectators and handlers just a little something different to enjoy.
Settled into our seats we had the parade of teams getting underway at 8.40am with the Scottish team entering the ring to the music of ‘I’m gonna be (500 miles)’ and their reserve member was dressed in a kilt and Tam O’Shanter hat complete with bright orange hair, which got a resounding round of applause from the audience. The team representing the South East and East Anglia (South) were in next with new manager Jenny Lunn, and then the Northern team who received a huge cheer from a group of ‘Ticket’ handlers sat in one area of the stand. The music of ‘See my Baby Jive’ accompanied the Midlands team who were very popular with the audience and then manager Kate McCartney led in the Northern Ireland team. The team from Wales received a foot stamping greeting from their fans and they were followed in by the South & South West team (Western).
Once the show officially opened at 9am we had the introduction of today’s judge John Verrill and his ring party. The ladies looked resplendent in black tops and trousers with a deep blue cropped jacket, the gentlemen in black trousers and pale blue shirts and tie. John started in Obedience in 1984 and started judging at Open shows in 1987 and has since judged at all levels of the sport from Pre Beginner to Championship.
The competition then got underway with the Beginner class, the added exercise being Control at a Gate. First team into the ring was Scotland’s Ruth Cowell and her Newfoundland ‘Tynebears Paloma Faith’, just 3 years old this dog and as they started the heelwork it didn’t seem at all phased by the surroundings, holding a lovely straight position and this was complimented by Ruth’s smart upright handling. Showing superb control at the gate and the only Beginner team to go clear on that exercise today. A very popular pair according to the applause they received as they finished the round. Representing the North was Lynne Lawrence and her X Breed ‘Bee Bee Poppy Jack; a small dog who really knows how to strut his stuff, a good solid wait in the recall, fast straight run into a neat front present and finish losing just ½ mark for that exercise. They finished the round with a good pick up on the retrieve but then the dog held onto the dumbbell just a little too long, obviously enjoying the exercise.
Coming into the ring for the Welsh region were Anna Pleban and her Rhd.Ridgeback ‘Moon Walker’ starting off a little wide in the heelwork but you could see that the dog was trying hard to maintain his position, very good control at the gate with the dog waiting steadily for the handlers commands, finished off with a very accurate retrieve losing just ¼ mark for the exercise. Last team into the ring for this class was Heather Lockyer with her X Breed ‘Barbers Boy’ for the West, a good confident start in the heelwork holding lovely attention but then halfway through the exercise the dog suddenly backed off and stopped momentarily, the handler stayed calm and got him going again but he then worked slightly looser then before. Control at the gate was excellent with his full attention on the handler, listening for her commands.
By 9.35 the ring work had finished and the ring was prepared for the down stay in which all the teams were clear. The Individual Winner of the Beginners class was Ruth Cowell and her Newfoundland representing Scotland.
We were then straight into the Novice Class, with two dogs representing each regional team, the added exercise being a Retrieve over a Hurdle. Representing the South was Teresa Mills and her Spanish Water Dog ‘Josalyn Hortencia’, who showed a little loss of position on the straights in the heelwork but she tried hard to maintain her focus on Teresa, holding very steady positions through the turns, a nice overall picture of a dog happy in its work. In the retrieve the dog jumped with ease going out, picked up the dumbbell with a slight run on and with well-timed commands from Teresa jumped back into a neat front present.
In for the Midlands we had Lynn Griffin with her GSD ‘Vandeldurks Angus’, 2013 was the first year in competition for this dog but you would not have known, he tackled the heelwork with ease, holding superb attention and hardly showing any movement away from Lynn’s leg, lovely left turns and very straight work. Teamwork at its best at this level and losing just 2 ¼ marks on this exercise The Northern Ireland team of Louise Jackson and her ASD ‘Topeka Ocaso Rojo’ came into the ring to a loud cheer from her supporters, the dog didn’t settle in the heelwork and looked a little worried by the ring and its surroundings but waited steadily in the recall and came promptly on command at a good pace, just slightly crooked in the present. Louise gave the dumbbell a good long throw over the hurdle and the dog responded well with clear jumps both ways, a neat pickup on the dumbbell and back to a good front present, losing just ¾ mark on that exercise.
Then straight onto the second set of handlers and dogs in this Novice class and in for Scotland was the team of Penny Crowe with her SBT ‘Ruby Lady of St Leonards’ unfortunately from the out the dog seemed very distracted and didn’t settle at all in the heelwork but credit to Penny she kept calm and sensitively corrected him back into position. Going into the recall the dog had settled a little better, just slight anticipation on the call but gave a good present and finish. They received appreciative applause as they finished the round. In for the North region was Marj Isaac and her B.C ‘Genex Blue Eye Tynka’ again a dog that seemed a bit distracted in the heelwork, overturning on some of the turns and losing attention, but seemed much better in the set exercises, more focused on the handler and gave a good solid performance in the recall. Unfortunately then missed the jump going out to the dumbbell but picked it up neatly and a very prompt command from the handler ensured that the dog came back over the hurdle to a good front present.
Representing Wales was Susan Stalinski and her GSD ‘Myskies Bright Star’ a lovely start into the heelwork with the dog giving focused attention and holding a very neat position just odd bits and pieces added up which totalled 3 ½ marks for the exercise but overall they had the look of a very confident team. The dog showed superb control at the retrieve with good clean jumps and a neat pick up on the dumbbell. Last in for the Novice teams was Carrol Walker and her GSD ‘Jetrill Roulette’ for the West, displaying very tight heelwork and lots of focus, nice to see a big dog working with a very straight line, no crabbing or loose work. Unfortunately he was another dog that missed the jump on the way out but redeemed himself slightly by a clear jump on the return.
All the ring work had finished by 10.40 and the stewards set up the ring ready for the 2 minute down stay in which all the competing teams were clear, which in these surroundings is quite an achievement as the majority of Obedience is done at outdoor venues. The Individual winner of the Novice Class was Lynn Griffin with her GSD representing the Midlands.
Looking around the stands this morning there was quite a good crowd in here with many of the free seats being used, but as in previous years there was hardly anyone in the largest stand, which is ticket only.
We were then straight into the A Class and the extra exercise being a placed retrieve, in which the handler will leave the dog in a sit, walk forward, place the judges article, which is a longish roll of foam, on the floor, turn left and walk a short distance before turning and halting. Then on command the dog will retrieve the article turn and go towards the handler for the present and finish
Representing the South was Donna Bastin with her WS ‘Kethina Combine Harvester’, starting with a very good A recall showing an attentive wait with eyes only on mum, a very quick pick up when commanded into the heelwork position. This very keen young dog barked at the start of the heelwork but settled quickly and gave a good display of attentive work, just backing out of position a little on the left turns and an odd bit of wide work on the straights. Following them into the ring was June Young and her GR ‘Jarysmsytic Golden Garden’ for the North. Slight anticipation on the A recall which was costly but the heelwork saw the dog working with ease, a nice flowing pace with superb attention complimented by June’s no nonsense handling. Another dog who couldn’t quite maintain the heel position on the left turns but whose tail never stopped wagging with enjoyment.
First team in this class for Northern Ireland was Gwyneth Bell and her X Breed ‘Dolwyddelan Dash’ a good solid wait in the recall, fast run and picked up straight into the heelwork position. In the retrieve we again saw a very attentive wait and then an instant movement on command straight out to the article, but ran on a little after picking it up before turning to head to Gwyneth but finishing with a neat present and close finish. Last in for this round were the team for the West, Pearl Bray and her GR ‘Carishill Apollo’, they started with an attentive recall, eyes only on the handler, a very fast run with a controlled pick up into the heel position, one of the best recalls in this class. Into the heelwork and he was certainly a very happy dog, tail continuously wagging and he worked in a lovely bouncy style giving full attention on the handler and finishing the turns off squarely, rarely going out of position, a lovely team to watch.
As with the Novice this class has two teams representing each region. The second team in for Scotland was Doreen Bidgood with her GSD ‘Alikir Fridays Child’ going into the heelwork the dog looked a little unsettled and the first left turn was not finished off squarely, as the round progressed the dog seemed to settle more into his stride and maintained attention and a good position, worked with enthusiasm and gave a good overall performance, showing real teamwork. In for the Midlands was Tony Morris with his GSD ‘Kintonkazz Blue Zonic’ a good steady wait in the recall especially as there was quite a distraction of a small crowd of people coming into one area of the stands, a very smart pick up into the heel position and a straight sit at the halt. In the retrieve he picked the article up very carefully and promptly turned towards Tony, just slightly off centre in the present but a good close finish.
Representing Wales was Katy Girdler and her B.C ‘Gwynion Sinead at Pashamatts’ this dog held a very tight consistent position throughout the heelwork and they both worked at a very active pace, almost matching stride for stride. The dog really showed just what he could do and with total focus not being phased at all by the surroundings. The straights were well worked with hardly a hint of crabbing, turns were neat and tidy and the handler and dog just seemed to work as one. The set exercises were carried out with the same style and control.
By 12.15 the ring work for this class had finished and once again the ring was set up for the sit stay exercise with just two dogs breaking the stay this time. The last exercise for the A class was Scent and the teams came in in their running order, out of the 14 teams only two failed the scent and with the remaining teams the scores lost varied from ¼ mark to 7 marks, overall a well performed exercise. The Individual Winner of Class A was Katy Girdler with her B.C for Wales.
We then had a break for lunch from 1 – 2.10 pm giving everyone a chance to stretch their legs and get a first look around the many stands here at Crufts. The halls not hugely busy today so a little easier to get round.
Then the start of Class B, the extra exercise in this class being a Retrieve over a Hurdle. Once again the Scottish team got us started with Anne Shearer and her B.C ‘Sarkham Truly Trendy’. A nice calm controlled start in normal pace in the heelwork, the dog giving full attention then into slow pace but the handlers pace seemed to be a little too slow and the dog didn’t quite finish the turns squarely and there was a very slow sit at the end of this pace. Very attentive in the fast pace which flowed better, but again not quite finishing off the turns. Set exercises were performed well with the dog obviously enjoying the work
Representing the Midlands was Carol Clack with her GR ‘Braibar Golden Dream’ a fast run out in the send away but as the handler gave the down command the dog decided to have a sniff at the back marker and stood, needing an extra command to go into the down. In the heelwork we were treated to a very confident display, superb fast pace which just seemed to flow with a long stride from both handler and dog, the attention and position from the dog hardly changed throughout any of the paces, losing just 6 ½ marks for this exercise, the best of the class, The Northern Ireland team of Vicky Dixon and her BSD ‘Rustix Ali’ were in next and the send away saw a very fast outrun with an instant down on command at the back marker, just overshot the pick up into heel a little through keenness. In the retrieve the dog cleared the hurdle with ease but was slightly messy on the pick up of the article – which was a square bean bag – jumped cleanly over the hurdle again on the way back and returned to a neat front present and finish.
Last team in the ring in this class was Heather Gardner and her B.C ‘Littlethorn Falcon to Skyedown’ for the Western team. Starting with the best send away of the class, a very good run out with an almost instant drop just in front of the back marker, straight back to Heather’s side on the call, very neatly done losing just 1 mark. In the retrieve the article landed just to the right hand side of the area past the hurdle and the dog went round to the right hand side to pick it up missing the jump altogether, picked the article up cleanly and then turned and popped back over the jump to return to the handler.
The ring was then set up for the down stay exercise, 2 dogs fidgeted a little and lost ½ mark each and another two dogs lost just ¼ mark each. We then went straight into the scent exercise with just one dog out of the seven failing and losing 40 marks. The other dogs lost between ¼ and 5 ½ marks with just one pair, the Welsh team’s Yvonne Davis with her BSD ‘Bonivvant Vincent’ giving a perfect display of how to do a scent and being marked clear. The Individual Winner of this class was Anne Shearer and her BC from the Scottish team.
During today’s competition we were given details on each of the dogs and handlers by Gerard Paisley and a description of each exercise and what the judge might be looking for by Dawn Cox, an important part of this competition as it keeps the audience informed of what is happening and explains the exercises for the non obedience public who stop by for a look.
So onto the last class of the day Class C, the extra exercises in this class being a Directed Retrieve in which three dumbbells will be placed in a line and the handler draws a ball out of a bag to see which one their dog has to pick up, a retrieve over a higher hurdle and a slight difference to the Distance Control/ASSD positions that are normal to this class in that we now have them combined into the heelwork.
In for the South was Teresa Davies with her SSD ‘Samphrey Star Performer’, the dog looking a little overawed by the surroundings and the first set of positions were very messy, but the dog did settle more as the round progressed, trying hard to maintain a better position at heel, the slow pace was quite loose especially on the straights but the fast pace flowed and the turns were well executed. Following them into the ring was Jeny Miller and her X Breed ‘Foxfold Unexpected Edition’ for the Northern team. The heelwork from this pair was superb, calm and controlled handling from Jeny and the dog maintained a very tight position with lovely attention through all the paces, lovely to watch. The retrieve over the hurdle saw the dog jump with ease, a neat pick up on the article (a bean bag cube), a good jump back into a straight present and close finish, losing just ¼ mark on that exercise.
Representing Northern Ireland was Tracy McKinlay with her BC ‘Belverdale My Charrey Storm’ a fast outrun to the send away but the dog was slow to drop on command and then slightly wide in the pick up into the heel position. The directed retrieve and dumbbell number one was drawn (handler’s are allowed to set the dog up in line with the corresponding dumbbell), ‘Storm’ went straight out to the right one, totally ignoring the other two, returned swiftly back to his handler and into a very precise front present and close finish and they were marked clear on this exercise. Next into the ring was Anne Coates with her GR ‘Chisbrook Bundle’ for the Welsh team, they started well with the dog maintaining a lovely natural looking position, very accurate footwork on the turns in all three paces and a lovely transition between the slow and normal pace. A good jump out over the hurdle and a tidy pick up on the article but the dog then decided to go round the hurdle on the way back.
After the ring work had finished we had the out of sight sit stay in which all the dogs were marked clear, then onto the last exercise of the day – scent, in which the dog had to find the judges cloth from amongst seven blank cloths and two decoy cloths. Just one dog out of the seven failed the exercise and marks lost from the other six dogs ranged from ½ mark to 2 marks, so overall a very well worked exercise. The Individual Winner of this class was Jeny Miller and her X Breed for the Northern Team
We then had a short break whilst all the scores were calculated and Team and Individual placings were worked out. Then the judging party were welcomed back into the ring and we had the final parade of teams, which was greeted with enthusiasm from a crowd that had been increasing in numbers during the afternoon. There was a presentation to the judge and then in turn all the Individual winners and places were announced and the handlers and dogs came forward to receive their trophies and rosettes to a good round of applause. Then we had the announcement of the Team winners of the Inter Regional Competition 2014 and they were – The Southern Team – who were greeted with a huge round of applause and cheering. The team from Wales were announced in second place and also received a resounding cheer.
So the Inter Regional is over for another year – were the new exercises a good thing? – that is still being debated and opinion is split. But it in no way detracts from the wealth of talent we have seen here today.