Spectator report from Obedience Championship, Dog Day

By: Susan & Gemma Henshaw

We were lucky this year to get a good deal on a hotel quite close to the NEC so not too early a start on Friday morning and just a junction up the already slow moving, busy M42 and we arrived at the venue in good time. Walking across to Hall 5 at about 7.40am there were plenty of people and dogs milling about the concourse, quite a few of them it seems trying to find out just where they were supposed to be going.

We made our way round, avoiding the cumbersome toe crunching trolleys, to where today’s competitors were setting up their benches with good luck cards, banners and balloons, always a very colourful display which really does give an expectant buzz about the place. After dropping off some card to friends we had plenty of time to grab a coffee and take our seats ready for today’s competition to start.

Just after 8.15 the handlers came into the stand to watch a run through of the heelwork from some of today’s ring stewards, quite a flowing round, starting off in fast pace but not too much of it then there is a zigzag laid out in tape in the corner of the ring near the entrance, the ASSD down will be given on the zigzag, and a large circle which is worked in slow, then normal and has the ASSD sit position on it, nothing to trick dog or handler which is always nice to see.

At 8.45am the judge and his stewards enter the ring and take up their position to greet the teams, then to the song ‘The boys are back in town’ the parade of teams gets underway, Gerard Paisley introducing each one as they enter, with a brief description of where and under which judge they gained their wins in 2013. Each team is greeted with cheering and applause from an appreciative audience that is gradually filling the seats around the ring.

Once the parade had finished, Roy Paige took over and read out a very moving tribute to Jenny Gould’s dog ‘Ob Ch Zakanja Bitter ‘N’ Twisted’ who having qualified for today with three ticket wins in 2013 sadly passed away in December, there were not many dry eyes left in the arena and there was a warm round of applause when Roy had finished.

The show officially opened at 9am and the judge and his stewards entered the ring once again for their official introduction. This years Championship is judged by Nigel Slater, who started in Obedience in 1979 and had his first judging appointment in 1985, going on to judge his first Championship class in 2000. The ladies in the ring party are wearing dark trousers, a white lace effect top and a dark leather cropped jacket, extremely smart looking. The judge is wearing a dark grey suit, white shirt and a yellow/gold striped tie and matching handkerchief, the male stewards are in paler grey suits, white shirts and matching ties.

The order of ring work for today is Retrieve – a small white and blue hand knitted bear. Heelwork, Send Away – across the ring to a large circle with two front markers which are blue folding steps with a soft padded blue circle with a picture of a car on it, attached to the front of the steps. There is no back marker so we assume the judge wants the dogs somewhere in the circle, the last exercise being the Distance Control.

Getting the competition underway for the third year running was Alison Gresty with her WS ‘Ob Ch Double Jeopardy’ this lady has a very calm upright way of working which compliments this dog so well, the footwork is precise going through the long zigzag and the dog maintains close attention, just a couple of wides creeping in on some of the turns and not quite finishing off squarely coming out of the multi turns, the DC is spot on with the dog only having eyes for Alison, instant positions and hardly any backwards or sideways movement, marked clear and they set the standard for the day with a score of just 15 marks.

In at no 5 was Steve Frazer with his WS ‘Ob Ch Gwynfair Classical Gas’, starting with the retrieve, Steve managed to give the article a good long throw, the dog going straight out on command but ran on slightly as he picked the article up, turned smartly and straight back into a good present and tight finish. The send away saw a fast outrun but the dog slowed slightly as he neared the front markers then dropped on command just at the front edge of the circle, a good wait and then picked up very neatly into the heelwork position with instant attention. The second gentleman of this years competition came into the ring at no.9, Mark Herrits and his WS ‘Dodgin Master Markat’ Cdex, Udex, a lovely controlled start in the fast pace in heelwork and they show a matching stride, the dog finished the turns off neatly but then didn’t seem to settle properly in the slow pace, a little too slow on the straights just dropping off the pace and not coming out of the turns properly, also missed the sit at the end of the heelwork which was directly from an about turn. The DC exercise was almost textbook with the dog’s total attention on Mark and they were marked clear on that exercise.

Following them into the ring was Michelle Dunscombe with her WS ‘Forever Magic X Rated’ Michelle looking well recovered from her stint as part of the ring party in yesterday’s Inter regional competition. In the retrieve the dog had a fast but well controlled run out to the article, a neat pick up but did mouth just a little on the way back to a straight front present. The heelwork looked very accurate and they showed good definition’s between all three paces, with superb concentration and measured stride especially in the slow pace. The dog held superb attention throughout the heelwork and they looked at home in this ring. Running at no.10 was Dot Watts with her WS ‘Ziggdan Zyco’ this boy is just coming up to 3 years old and it’s nice to see Dot back in the Dog Championships as she has worked bitches for the last 13 years. A very confident retrieve to start with, neat pick up on the teddy and straight back to the handler, then onto the heelwork and a flowing fast pace from this big rangy dog, showing neat transitions between the paces as the round progressed, Dot’s lovely upright no fuss handling suiting this boy exceedingly well. The send away was costly as after a fast outrun he dropped just behind the right-hand marker, not quite making the edge of the circle.

Janet Matthews and her WS ‘Ob Ch Croftmiss River of Krismoss’ were next into the ring, a third appearance at Crufts for this team and they certainly seemed at home in the heelwork, a good definition between all three paces with the dogs footwork almost as precise as Janet’s. The slow pace was mouth-watering with superb attention throughout. They lost just 5 ¾ marks on that exercise which was the best of the day, unfortunately he was another dog that seemed to back off a little running towards the markers on the send away and dropped in front of them, which was costly. Coming in at no. 14 was Christine Roberts with her WS ‘Ob Ch Bheinn It’s Cuddly He’s Dudley’ a very long throw of the article in the retrieve and the dog went out at speed, picked up neatly with just a fraction of a run on and returned into a neat and tidy present and finish, losing just ¾ mark. The send away saw a very fast outrun straight through the front markers and an instant drop on command just to the rear of the circle, a well controlled pick up into the heel position finishing off a very good exercise.

Into the ring at no.16 was Philomena Barnes and her WS ‘Ob Ch Forever Magic It’s A Gift’, it was very nice to see this boy back in the big ring after he missed last years Cruft’s Championships due to illness, thankfully looking very fit and well now. The heelwork showed instant attention as they set off and

a well controlled stride in the fast pace. The normal pace was carried out with precision, as was the slow with the dog holding a very straight working line throughout all three paces. The three ASSD positions were instant on the command and he picked up straight into the heelwork position with ease. A cracking send away, fast outrun straight into the circle for an instant down and then finished with a controlled pick up onto the handlers leg.

After dog 17 had worked we had a break for lunch at 12.10, Gerard asked if everyone could remain in their seats, as there was to be two presentations. The first was to Denis Ashley, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Lyn Tozer. Gerard gave a brief outline of Dennis’ life with his dogs and in obedience from the start in the late 1940’s, through the inception of the Obedience Championships at Crufts up to his retirement from judging in 2000 and retirement from competing in 2013, having given 63 years to the sport, what an achievement that is. He received a framed portrait of his current dog and a book containing memories and anecdotes from people who have known him over those years. Then we had the presentation of DTW’s Top winning Dog and Bitch for 2013 and the winner was Mary Ray with her ‘Ob Ch Colliewood Blue Jeans’ and ‘Ob CH Red Hot Foxy Music’ we think that this is the first time a handler has taken both top spots, well done Mary, what an achievement.

Looking around the stands at times during the morning the majority of the free seats had been filled but the ticket only stand remained less than half full, surely there must be a better way of using the big stand, how about having it ticket only from the floor to half way up, then open the top half to anyone, this would still ensure seats for those that wanted to pay for one so that they had a seat all day but would probably see that the stand is used to its capacity. We had plenty of time for lunch and a walk around some of the trade stands in Hall 4 & 5 before the competition resumed, the range of products never ceasing to amaze.

Back into our seats and the Championship got underway again, in at no.20 was Jessica Lewis and her GR ‘Ob Ch Pepsanner Atlantic’, starting with the retrieve and the dog ran out at quite a speed, just a little pounce on the article but no run on, turned quickly and finished with a very straight present, losing just ½ mark for the exercise. In the heelwork Jessica works this boy at a good pace, the fast is flowing and the slow well controlled and very neat. The precision through the zigzag is superb and the dog was very responsive to the transition in the changes of pace. A well squared off movement on the turns and you can tell they enjoy a good partnership. Last team to work today was Julie Rowlands and her WS ‘Ob Ch Blue Eye Boy of Daislen’, who kept Julie waiting for three years before winning his third ticket and the Ob Ch title. In the retrieve the dog ran on a little when he picked the article up and then decided to give it quite a good shake as he returned to Julie. Into the heelwork and he started well, looking as though he really enjoyed the fast pace, just backed off a little from position going round the zigzags and lost some attention on turns, but he settled more as the round progressed and put in some good work, Julie had announced that she would be retiring him here at Crufts and he certainly seemed to enjoy this round.

By 2.20pm the ring work had finished and we had a short break whilst the stewards laid out the scent cloths. The dog being sent from the side of the ring in towards the middle, there was three horizontal lines of cloths, the first line – 2 blanks, the second line, from the left – a female decoy, a blank and then the judges cloth. The third line – from the left – three blanks, one male decoy, and one more blank.

Scent got under way at 2.30 and first in was Alison Gresty with ‘Haddie’, on a score of 15 from the ring work, a long search over the cloths very thorough but returned with a decoy. Entering at no.5. was Steve Frazer and ‘Que’, carrying forward a score of 14 ¼, a very quick find, hardly bothering looking at the other cloths, neatly picked up the right one and returned to a good present, losing just ¼ mark.

Mark Herrits with ‘Bob’ at no.9. a very methodical search which went on for quite a while, but the dog never stopped checking and re checking the area until he eventually found the right one and returned to Mark, just ½ lost and on a total so far of 18. In at no.12. was Dot Watts and ‘Zyco’ a good search and quickly found the right one, straight back into a bounce of a present, certainly happy in his work. Following them into the ring was Janet Matthews with ‘River’ and similar to last years scent, he went out at speed, found the correct cloth quickly and shot back into a straight present, marked clear.

In at no.14 was Christine Roberts and ‘Dudley’ a methodical search checking each cloth and a good positive find, losing just ¼ mark. Philomena Barnes and ‘Ginty’ were in at no.16, holding the lead in the championship before scent and the dog gave very little away, a good search of the area, neat pick up of the cloth and straight present, losing just ¼ mark and on a total of 10 ¾, with just the stay exercise left.

Jessica Lewis and ‘Tigger’ were in 3rd place after the ring work and the dog went out quickly, worked over the scent area, positive he had the correct cloth and back into a good present and finish, another team that lost just ¼ mark on this exercise.

Once all the teams had finished scent we had a ten minute break whilst the stewards prepared the ring for the stays, which got underway at 3.35, it never ceases to amaze at how many people stand and watch this exercise from the corners of the ring, seemingly enthralled at the sight of 22 dogs sitting calmly in a ring without their handlers. Three dogs broke the sit stay, one of them as his handler left the ring and one dog decided that he would rather do a stand stay instead of the down, none of those breaks affected the top four places.

So today’s competition was over and we had another short break whilst the place boards were set up in the ring and trophies, place cards and rosettes were made ready. The judge and his party then entered the ring and took their position at one side as the teams entered to the music of ‘We are the Champions’ and the audience greeted them with cheering and applause.

Then the winner was announced – Philomena Barnes and ‘Ob Ch Forever Magic it’s A Gift’ – Crufts K.C. Dog Obedience Champions 2014, and the applause thundered from the stands, a very popular win for a lady who had been so close so many times and now has the title. What a way to come back from illness, the dog could not have timed it better.

In reserve we had Christine Roberts with ‘Ob Ch Bheinn It’s Cuddly He’s Dudley’ and they received another round of cheering and applause.

So the Dog Championship closes, photographers and interviewers take over the ring and for us its back to the hotel, feet up and a coffee recharging the batteries ready for tomorrow’s competition.

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