IT HAS sure been a week and canine enthusiasts this side of the ‘pond’ have had a lot to savour and enjoy.

As I mentioned last week the entry numbers for Crufts were announced and they are up. This follows on from increased entries at 2014’s first two championship shows; Boston and Manchester – a good omen for the year, we will have to wait and see.

Crewe Hall (photo Alan V Walker)

Then from the Kennel Club came news of last year’s full registration figures which totaled 223,770 – 5,460 fewer than in 2012. The good news though was the final quarter of the year which showed a slight recovery, with 55,118 registrations as opposed to 54,294 for the same period of 2012 – so a small increase.

All the groups except utility registered fewer dogs than in 2012: hounds 14,003 (14,351 in 2012), gundogs 87,996 (90,529), terriers 24,211 (25,976), utility 37,812 (35,519), working 16,456 (16,102), pastoral 14,993 (15,573) and toys 28,299 (29,180).

Labs Still the Top Breed in UK

The top three breeds remain the same as in 2012: Labradors 35,026 (36,487), Cocker Spaniels 22,943 (23,306) and English Springer Spaniels 11,316 (12,792).

Pugs move up one place to fourth with 8,071 registrations (up from7,539), overtaking German Shepherds 7,954 (8,502).

Golden Retrievers stay in sixth place with 7,117 (7,085), but French Bulldogs continue their rapid ascent of the list, rising five places to seventh with 6,990 (up from 4,648). Border Terriers with 6,390 (6,577) drop one place to eighth but Bulldogs are up two places to ninth, with 5,769 puppies (up from 4,782).

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are down two in tenth with 5,767 and Miniature Schnauzers down one in 11th at 5,584. Cavaliers with 5,145 drop three places to 12th and Shih Tzu with 4,319 are up one in 13th. Boxers, 4,003, drop by one place to 14th while Lhasa Apsos, 3,923, remain in 15th.

Dogworld-UK Team

Last week was the final of our Pup Of The Year competition which we run with Purina ProPlan. At championship shows throughout the year people enter their puppies to win the chance to attend the grand final which we hold at Crewe Hall in Cheshire. The grand old building is married to an ultra modern events centre and provides an ideal setting for such a prestigious final.

The winner this year was the Wire Fox Terrier Travella Step Forward, known as Audrey. This was just her second time out and judge Clare Coxall chose her as her winner. We were hoping for a dramatic conclusion to the event, and we were not disappointed. For any judge, reducing the 32 competitors down to just a winner and reserve must be a task they undertake with mixed feelings; wonderful to have the chance to go over so many of the undoubted stars of future years’ shows, but unenviable too as there is always so much quality on show.

So it’s good when the judge makes several cuts to indicate their general preferences and this certainly ramps up the tension for the ringside. This year Clare first shortlisted 12, then took eight from these, then down to four, from which she brought out just two ‘in no particular order’.

The Podium Ready for the Winners (photo Alan V. Walker)

The Wire Fox put up an amazingly polished performance for only her second show appearance, and the magnificent Akita Ch Redwitch Will I Am, already a seasoned performer, and they finished in that order. If you watch the interview with Clare on you’ll see her telling Simon Baillie that in the end it came down to the handling of the two dogs and the fact that in the final go around the Wire Fox just gave that little bit more. It was fascinating to see her point to the spot in the ring where the Wire Fox won it.

It was a lovely day. The competition is held in the morning and then we move on to lunch and make the awards to the winner and the runner-up. We make additional awards too, there is the Dog World Award of Excellence and the Kerry Williamson Memorial Award.

As its name suggests we make the award of excellence to someone we feel has had a profound influence on the world of pedigree dogs. This year we felt there was an obvious recipient and that was Ferelith Somerfield who officially retired from judging when she judged Best in Show at British Utility Breeds Association Championship Show back in December. Feffie, as she is known was also the editor of Dog World for many years and was the major shareholder up until 2007. Associate Editor Simon Parson made the award outlining many of Feffie’s achievements as a judge, as chairman of LKA and as an author and editor.

The second award is one we give in memory of my late business partner. Kerry and I bought Dog World in 2007 but in 2010 Kerry died leaving a very big hole in the company. She was a modest woman who was reluctant to acknowledge just how successful she had been as the breeder of Tibetan Spaniels under the Nimana kennel name. Kerry’s husband Adrian is always on duty at the POTY final to hand out the award and this year it went to the DogLost organization which has done so much in the last ten years to reunite owners with their lost dogs – more than 50,000 people have been helped, an amazing figure.

Taking the Lap of Honour

The POTY final also highlighted just what a small world we live in these days as a number of the people who were there were leaving Crewe to head for the airport to fly out to New York to be at Westminster. Of course with modern communications those of us who can’t make it in person to New York can relax at home and watch the live streaming and the social networks were abuzz all weekend with the goings on in the big apple!

Talking of the US I was looking at photographs on a friends’ Facebook page recently about the drought that is affecting California. It was frightening. But as I read about the lack of rain on the west coast of the USA I was watching torrential rain falling here in the UK. Jessica Holm, one of our columnists and a commentator at the POTY final was telling me that she has had only two days in over three months when rain has not fallen where she lives. Huge areas of the south of England are under flood waters and as I write there are no signs of the rain stopping, in fact forecasts for today are for more torrential rain and gale force winds.

Of course this has a huge impact on dog owners. We told the story of a Siberian Husky exhibitor, her family and 12 dogs who became homeless after becoming the victim of flash floods.
Julie Platt was asleep in her bungalow in Wootton on the Isle of Wight when a wave of water engulfed the property, leaving her, her 14-year-old son, partner Lee Wooliscroft and dogs struggling to find a place of safety. Two of the dogs were seconds away from drowning when they were rescued.”It was absolutely terrifying,” said Ms Platt, who also races her dogs. “The water was coming in through gaps in the doors and I was trying to work out how to get myself, my son Rohan, Lee and our 12 dogs onto the roof.

“We just didn’t know how high the water was going to go. It was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see anything.” The 11 Huskies and Australian Cattle Dog sleep in a room in the bungalow which is higher than the rest of the property. Ms Platt was about to make her way there when she heard the dogs ‘screaming’. “I rushed to the room, opened the door and saw that water had poured in through the dog flap, which was slightly open, and the dogs were literally swimming in about 3ft 6in of water, The worst was that I keep two of the boys in wooden crates overnight which are fixed to the wall and they were under water. As I opened the door the water all poured out and drained away so they emerged again,” she said. The couple are now living in a camper van and the dogs in the converted van used to transport them to races and shows. “It’s far from ideal,” Ms Platt said. “Every time it rains we drive both vans to higher ground just in case.

It’s difficult to relax.” I’m due to drive up to Scotland this weekend so I’m hoping things will be a little better… but I’m not holding my breath!