Much as I love dogs, there is a part of me that really doesn’t like Crufts. It’s bigger than the part of me that doesn’t like horses or cows, but nowhere near as big as the part that doesn’t like the Grand National. I really don’t like the Grand National. And if recent reports are to be believed, the Kennel Club (who are responsible for the running of Crufts) are not the best organisation to be involved with.
Last year, there was an allegation made by a dog owner that three of her prize hounds were poisoned by persons unknown, but probably a rival competitor. This year, there are assertions that a judge awarded a “Best of Breed” to a dog owned by her sister – without making it clear that there was a potential conflict at any point – and another of a German Shepherd with a deformed back and who appeared to be having problems walking. Something is clearly amiss in the world of the dog show.
I’ve never liked dog shows, and my family have owned a number of pedigree dogs in our time. Yet all our dogs have been pets; only one, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was ever shown (by my brother) and, handsome though he was, he was the family mutt first and foremost. The Jack Russell pup was not well enough to be shown, had we ever considered it, and the Yorkshire Terrier and Chihuahua are a lazy pair with slight personality crises who love nothing more than fuss and a treat. There’s something unnatural to me to flounce up your pet’s hair, put it in bows, blow dry it to within an inch of its life and spend an absolute fortune on breath freshener and conditioner, then have it bounce around a small arena in a gait it isn’t used to, to then stand in a fixed pose while it’s poked and prodded by a pesky human. No. I wouldn’t like to do it so I don’t see why I should subject my pets to it either.
The problem is that Crufts itself isn’t inherently cruel; it’s the people behind it who raise the questions. Is the rivalry so strong that contenders will, with an apparently clean conscience, take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that another’s dog doesn’t win (but theirs does)? And are the rules of the Kennel Club for breed types now so strict that the dogs themselves suffer unnecessarily? Many have heard of the bulldogs who cannot breathe because their faces are so squashed up, or their pelvises shaped in such a way that they can only deliver puppies through C-Sections. It is not confined to bulldogs, but each breed has its own issue where the selective breeding has now become so out of hand that the dog is no longer recognisable to one of a similar breed fifty or a hundred years ago.
I personally have grave doubts about the stomach of the Kennel Club for keeping the best interests of the animal at heart whilst maintaining breeding standards. A dog can still be a bulldog if its face is a bit longer and its pelvis a bit shorter. The breeding standards for a number of breeds is appalling and bordering on cruel. I am sure that each and every dog that competes at any dog show is well loved, but really – does it have to look like that?