When actors become animal experts (apparently) and everyone applauds…

A week or so ago, a chap called Peter Egan, did an interview with the Radio Times.  This chap is an actor and self-proclaimed animal rights activist.  In this interview, the actor (and animal rights activist) questioned whether Crufts and show dogs in general is nothing more than a dangerous beauty pageant.

So the Crufts-bashing has started once again.  Delightful. Last year, we took a look at PETA storming the Crufts arena.  This year lets take a look at the statement made that Crufts “perpetuates pure breeding which leads to harmful genetic conditions, with the dogs health secondary to its appearance”.

Let’s break it down into its two main statements:

  • Dog shows = appearance > health
  • Pure breeding = poor quality genetics

There is a difference between a dog show such as Crufts and a competitive grooming show where quite literally appearance is everything.  We’re not going to talk about grooming shows here, because that’s something else entirely.

As with all animals, whether canine or human, fish or fowl, the greatest physical sign of poor health is appearance.  An unwell dog will usually physically appear unwell.  What the actor chap meant, I assume, is the underlying structural and genetic conditions you can’t see with the naked eye.  Nobody will take a lame dog into the show ring.

Health is a huge part of a show dog’s life.  Let’s take Welsh Terriers as an example.  You will not believe how much time has been spent in the breed desperately trying to ELIMINATE (yes, that’s right – get rid of) genetic diseases inherent in the breed.  I’m talking about PLL – primary lens luxation – an eye condition which is painful and hereditary.  There is a test for it, and you can be clear, a carrier or affected.  If you’re clear or a carrier, you won’t get the disease.  If you’re affected, you will.  If you breed two carriers, you’re going to be affected.  If you breed a carrier with a clear, none will be affected but some will be carriers.  I don’t need to tell you what will happen if you breed an affected dog with a clear or a carrier… it’s obvious.

Now, if you don’t test for PLL, you don’t know whether your dog is clear, a carrier or affected. All respectable and responsible breeders in our breed have tested for PLL.  If you’re an exhibitor at a show like Crufts, you’re probably a breeder or intending to breed and you know about PLL, you’re going to make some serious enquiries before mating or breeding.  We spend a lot of time looking at this.

When we’ve tested for PLL we then look at the percentage of inbreeding.  With rare and vulnerable breeds, inbreeding is going to happen.  The best we can do is minimise it and balance that with the need to eliminate PLL amongst other genetic problems.  It’s called the COI% and is FREELY AVAILABLE on the MyKC website.  You can literally create a login and calculate the likely inbreeding percentage of any two registered dogs.  Each breed has a target percentage to work below.   With Welsh Terriers, you’re going to be lucky to get anything below 5% and PLL clear.

We are not inbreeding brothers with aunts with sisters with sons.  There’s a likely chance a great great great great great great grandsire might be related.

Physical structure is important, and I will admit that there are “trends” people follow.  The shocking German Shepherd with the banana back should never have been put through to Best of Breed.  But that is not the fault of Crufts.  It is the fault of the Breed Club and the judges.

Each breed of dog has a published ‘standard’ which is about physical structure, temperament and so on.  This standard is maintained by the breed clubs, KC and judges.  It is up to this triumvirate to ensure that the standard set is promoting the health and good structure of a breed, NOT a show committee or a TV presenter.  If there is something that looks ‘off’ with a dog, or physical structure is being ignored, report it to the Club committee which upholds the standard.  Question it.  Don’t take it out on the dog show – they’re merely facilitating judging.  Judges are appointed and approved by Breed clubs, councils and finally the KC.  It is they who select their chosen best of breed and therefore judges who should ‘know better’.  In response to all of this, the Kennel Club did start a Judges Competency Framework, which includes many hours of training, seminars and mentoring to ensure that banana-gate doesn’t happen again.  The KC is learning from its errors and we should applaud all it does to promote correct training of judges.

Where the wheels fall off is when “hobby breeders (and worse)” who think dog shows are pathetic and a waste of time start breeding. 

They don’t check for genetics.  They often don’t check COI%.  They breed because there is a demand and a market for puppies.  These dogs have NOT been “gone over” by a well-respected judge with many years of in depth breed knowledge to say that yes, these dogs are good quality terriers.  All they have is a vet health check, if they’re lucky.  Now that is important, but it is only one factor to consider.

So you buy a cross-breed instead, because you can’t face having an inbred sickly pedigree dog.  Ok, that’s your choice.  Congratulations on your new puppy.

Tell me about the traditional temperament of your cocker-wotsit-multi-poo-bull around children? You can’t.  You won’t know whether it’s more cocker or poo.  Yes, of course how it was raised as a pup will affect that answer, BUT is it genetically predisposed to herd? To protect?  No idea.

What are the health signs I should be looking out for as it gets older? Is it more likely I should look at potential heart conditions, so ensure a less active lifestyle in its senior years? You won’t know. It’s a lottery.

So, I ask you, when you tune in to Crufts, take a long hard look at the dogs.  More time, knowledge, health tests and money has been invested into that dog than your designer mutt, bred because it’s the “new thing”.  That dog’s lineage can be traced all the way back.  That pure-bred “circus animal” has the appropriate temperament, structure and quality to represent ALL of its kind.

The actor (and animal rights activist) owns a pure-bred black labrador, by the way.  Literally years of breeding, testing and conformation (and yes, potentially a bit of inbreeding) has gone into the creation of that pup.  Probably at some point, an ancestor has been a show dog, culminating in the birth of… oh, wait…. the actor(and animal rights activist)’s black lab pet.  Say what, now?   

What has Social Media ever done for us (dogs)?

We’re going to have to suspend the imagination for just a moment.

Clearly @chukkabennett isn’t actually the dog himself typing away.  Though I’ve suspected for a long time that he can read, he clearly doesn’t actually type his own tweets.  And anyway, if he could, they’d be in Welsh.

This dog has over 3,000 followers on Twitter. That’s more than an organisation I recently worked for.  It’s 2,900 more than I have on my human twitter profile. One of his other doggy friends on Twitter nearly has 10,000 followers.  Is the world insane? What is going on!?

We’re human, we’re dog-lovers and giving “voice” to the animals we so dearly love isn’t anything new.  Consider Scooby Doo, Muttley, Sweep… We have always anthropomorphised our canine companions, but perhaps before, it was on a more private scale.  Social media has just gone and made the whole thing way more public.  And I for one, think it’s a good thing.

We bring joy to others.  So many comments on Chuck’s posts have been about how his photos and videos (sometimes bordering on the indecent) have brought a smile to the face of a stranger hundreds of miles away.  If that one photograph I posted has brought a chuckle for someone who really needed a laugh at that moment, then my job is done.

We educate.  Chuck is a pet.  Chuck is also a show dog.  An industry which, in some very loud corners, is absolutely despised as the pit of all wrongdoing and abuse.  If being a show dog means Chuck is abused, then all hope is lost for the dogs who really need your help.  Sharing his daily stories is my little way of giving a bit of insight into the life of a show dog.  Along the way, I’ve offered tips on grooming, feeding, training and all sorts.  For free, by the way.  Sharing is caring.  As a community, we share information on missing dogs, news updates on diseases and tragic events.  And together we raise money for all sorts of causes which might otherwise not have got quite as much screen time!

We nurture relationships.  In a world where making new friends, and I mean REAL friends, is probably getting harder and harder, Chuck and his twitter profile has afforded me the opportunity to meet real, human friends.  People who by virtue of also having profiles for their dogs, have a shared interest in all of the above.  We laugh, we cry and we meet up from time to time, with and without our dogs.  If I hadn’t created @chukkabennett, I would never have met these wonderful individuals.

We’re participating in fancy dress on the internet, basically.   A love letter to our dearest companions, and it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I bloody well hope Chuck is flattered! It’s a cathartic way to express our thoughts which perhaps as our human selves we wouldn’t otherwise do.  We can let ourselves go just a little bit.  And that’s liberating.

Crufts is nearly here.  Crufts is an important date in my diary for obvious and not so obvious reasons.  Yes, it’s all about Chuck and his show career, but secretly I’m actually more excited that it’s the anniversary of our twitter meet-up.  Having chatted to each other and met individually here and there for a year, at Crufts 2018, nearly all of us came together for the first time.  Our little group of terrierists has grown since then, but that core group – without Twitter I wouldn’t have you.  I am certain there are other stories out there just like mine.  Liberated by their twitter dog profile.

Some people might find all of this ridiculous and pathetic.  Well, do you know what? @chukkabennett is a dog.  He doesn’t care!

2018 in Review

Now I’ve finished the shows for the year, I’ve done some number crunching…

10 Shows, 2 best of breed awards, and 3 qualifications for Crufts 2019:

  • 8 Championships
    • 5 1st placings and a BoB
    • 2 2nd placings
    • 1 3rd placing (WDS)
  • 2 Open
    • 1 1st placing and a BoB
    • 1 2nd placing

Overall, seven 1st placings, three 2nds, and a third.  Two Best of Breed placings, one at a championship and one at an open – both new awards for me! A significant improvement on 2017! The third was in the Open Class at the World Dog Show, where you have to enter according to your age, not your prior wins, so I was up against champions and I still beat a couple of them to get 3rd! My only Championship second place of the year was at Crufts where the standard was a lot higher than usual, too.

I was also out for 4 months after Crufts with a shaved leg, so missed out on 4 shows, too!

Back on the (Chalk)Block

It’s been a while.

A week after Crufts, it snowed.  I ate some snow which had been poisoned with weedkiller/antifreeze and was rushed to the Vets to be put on a drip for a few days, get it all out of my system.

They shaved my leg fur for the drip on one leg (they don’t have to, to get the needle in, they were told not to, but they did it anyway).  My leg fur takes AGES to grow back, so despite me feeling better a week later, I wasn’t able to show until my furnishings grew out.  It was mid-June before I was back in the ring.

In the meantime, the humans had got new jobs, oops North, starting in September, so were panicking about housing, showing, grooming, finances etc etc

PS if you want a 4 bedroom detached house in Buckinghamshire with built in kennels INDOORS, I have the home for You!

We went to Amsterdam in August – that’s a whole blog post on it’s own! I held my own against champion dogs and came third, beating some serious competition.

and now… I live in Cumbria, I still go to dog shows all over, but won my first best of breed in Darlington, which basically makes me King of the North!

A response to PETA’s disruption of Crufts…

Chuck’s Mummy here! I don’t often write long ranty posts, but I’m going to, to stand alongside every dog show handler, breeder, and dog. I don’t really care if anyone agrees or disagrees but this article makes me absolutely FURIOUS… and here’s why:

1) You cannot compare the cruelty of a bullring to Crufts or indeed any dog show at any level. If you’re going to stand up for animal rights, go and tackle illegal dog fights. Go and tackle puppy farming, animal testing, the ivory trade, hunting, game sports… go and tackle real abuse. Not a dog show where people put their dogs first.

2) “breeding dogs for their looks” – that’s an incredibly shallow scratch on the surface of what we do. We breed for temperament, health and type. Judges are judging against these qualities, they don’t go “ahhh, cute! First prize!” Many dogs are indeed bred for their looks – look at all the “designer” cross-breeds around. You know what? The KC takes a dim view of breeding for looks. They just don’t shout as loud about it as maybe they should. “Being bred with “pushed-in” faces and weak hips is what puts them at risk” this isn’t actually what Crufts is there for at all… you need to tackle the general public on this one, and the irresponsible breeders who will happily not test their dogs, not pay attention to Inbreeding COI scores and general disregard everything in pursuit of cold hard cash. If there’s a market, they’ll sell to it. Lots is being done to promote healthy stock by the KC, more than ever before, but this is a long multi-faceted marathon to improve, so many of these “deformed” dogs are being imported from abroad now, because UK breeders are taking a stand. It’s a bigger issue than dog shows themselves. Notice that none of these “deformed” dogs were put through to the show you disrupted. Things are moving forward, and you would do better to help promote welfare than protest against showing.

3) In a world where people are in a heightened state of paranoia over terror attacks, what the bloody hell did you think you were doing, storming the show ring? Do you know the panic you caused? It wasn’t helping your cause. You looked irresponsible. You say “my aim is to give audiences pause, to get them to stop and consider” – yeah, do you know what they paused to consider? If they were about to get blown up. Idiot.

4) Do you really know the organisation you’re “speaking” for, with these acts? PETA euthanise perfectly healthy dogs and other animals because they simply can’t be bothered to rehome them. They’ve even admitted to this. Why?

5) “I was no threat to the animals in that arena, but undoubtedly they did feel threatened by the thousands of people, bright lights, music, and loudspeaker announcements in the ring and by being yanked around by the neck, even while wearing choke collars.” They’re not wearing choke collars, they’re literally on the flimsiest of strings… Look at the canine body language of the dogs in that ring, did they look threatened, scared? No. Nobody would take a threatened, scared dog into a show ring like that – they’re well-acclimated to being in this sort of environment. Do you know what threatens them? A crazy person storming the ring and running at them.

6) “when they weren’t being forced to perform, they were being sprayed with products or confined to crates – all weekend long”. Incorrect on many levels, they’re not there all weekend long, you’re there for the time you’re showing, that’s all. You wander around, you go outside, you eat, you snooze… and when did crate training become abuse? Yes, some (but certainly not all) are sprayed with products – most of which carry fewer toxins than the things humans use on themselves. Nobody can force a dog to perform. Have you ever tried getting a Newfoundland into a bath when he doesn’t want to go? Good luck with that one… The steward wouldn’t even let you in the ring if they saw distress.

If I had been in that ring, and you had come within a metre of me and my dog, I’d have taken you down (and Chuck would have probably got to you first). How dare you put me and Chuck in the category of “animal abusers”, you misinformed, camera-hungry fanatic.

Crufts 2018

What an experience!  I loved every second – my tail was wagging, I was giving everyone lots of kisses and cuddles, mum felt sick with nerves and I came second in my class! You can see the results listed here – I’m Tough Cookie at Bolhaus.

It was a long, long day for the humans.  At least I had my crate trolley to have a nap in, but no chance for M&D!

A picture says so much more than any words, so here are some highlights… not all of these photos were taken by Dad, so he’d like to thank Archie’s Dad, Mollie’s PA and anyone else who took photos of me and sent them to us!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Countdown to Crufts

The Crufts passes arrived yesterday in the post. It makes everything rather real, all of a sudden. In a mere 17 days’ time, I shall be in the ring at Crufts.

I am one of 39 Welsh Terriers competing, and I’m under no illusions of being awarded any success. I’m just happy to be part of the greatest dog show on Earth!

I’ve been under daily grooming supervision, and yesterday, for the first time since September, we went to Ringcraft class again, just so I could go through the motions of being on display. I love school. I really do. It was full of ladies this time! I decided I’d give the judge a kissy and spend my time wagging at all the lady dogs, like the tart I am. Mum did a lot of eye-rolling.

17 days… Eeek!