Crafts is huge, it is the biggest dog show in the world after all, so in this piece I'm concentrating on the 'core' of it all, the pedigree dogs and the showing aspect. Actually, there is a whole heap happening, you could quite happily spend the whole weekend here and not see a single dog in the ring.
The areas for the initial rounds of judging at at the very edges of the massive arena of Crufts, you do have to travel to find them. Here you see the (little bit dull), nuts and bolts of the showing world.
A bunch of dogs of one breed all line up around the edge and a lady or chap in questionable tweed stands in the middle directing the show. They then give them a quick once over, a bit of a back massage and send them to trot to the back of the lineup. This process, if you can be bothered to hang around, takes a good half an hour and then one dog, not looking much different to all the others, is crowned the winner. Huzzah! They then go on to do it again and again until the best one in the whole show is picked. Simples.
The thing that struck me was just how well behaved all the dogs were, literally every single one. They waited quietly, allowed a complete stranger to handle them, didn't bark or lunge at the other dogs and were totally focused on their handler. Seriously impressive! I just wish the ones I see in my working life were half as well behaved! It would make my job MUCH easier.
Huge, strong dogs like Rotties and Mastiffs were being controlled on tiny leads, no harnesses that just turn a dog into a carthorse here!!
And this wasn't just in the show ring but out and about in the crowds as well.
As a dog lover it was also an absolute pleasure to see so many in such gorgeous condition; shining coats, beautifully muscled and not a fat one in sight, apart from the show labs where 'extra condition' appears to be a pre-requisite(!)
The Kennel Club and the show world comes into huge criticism, especially at this time of year, but actually many aspects of the dogs; their behaviour and relationships with their owners especially, are actually vastly better than those of the 'average' dog owner.
My day was not all perfect and I did see things which really concerned me.
Lets talk about noses, or the lack of them.
Flat faced dogs suffer for their looks. There is no getting away from that fact. They cannot breath as well, they cannot exercise as easily as a dog with a decent sized schnoz. This isn't in question. However, they aren't going anywhere any time soon and most of this kind of breed, that I see in my clinic, have some sort of shape to their face. It's not perfect but it could be worse. They could look like the Kennel Club ideal.
The Pugs from the Discover Dogs section of Crufts, where people can meet the dogs and find out about the breeds, had faces so flat, if they stood up against a wall, they wouldn't have been able to breath. Why does they have to look like this? There is NO benefit for the dogs whatsoever! Would a little bit of nasal capacity be so bad?
It gets worse.
The biggest disappointment of the day for me was the German Shepherd who was crowned the Best of Breed. Really, I thought we had moved on from backs like playground slides. This conformation will only lead to hip displasia, spinal problems and an early death due to the inability to walk. I actually now rarely see GSDs this extreme in the 'real world' and was super surprised, and really sad, to see that they are alive and well in the show ring. Which just goes to show how far removed it is from reality.
However, these issues, although significant, represent just a tiny proportion of the pedigree dogs being shown at Crufts 2016. The vast majority I saw were happy, healthy, well behaved, well socialised and very well loved dogs.