I’D LIKE, if I may, to concentrate on the positive. Whether that will be altogether possible is another story.

There was so much positive about Crufts 2015. It ran like clockwork, over 20,000 dogs were scheduled to compete, there were some dramatic battles in the ring, we saw huge numbers of stunning dogs we had never met before, and the vast majority of visitors and competitors appeared to be in their element. I was, anyway.

Crufts Group Winners.. Photo Credit Alan V. Walker

Yes, a tragedy followed the show, about which it is too early to say anything definite, though that of course has not prevented first the social media and then the national press from coming immediately to conclusions which may or may not eventually be proved to be true but about which none of us currently have any concrete evidence. In the mean time all we can realistically do is to offer our heartfelt sympathy to the owners concerned.

The same applies to reports of other dogs being ‘poisoned’ – let’s wait and see before saying any more.

Whether it is time for a debate about who has access to the benching areas is another story and no doubt something the committee will be thinking about seriously at their after-show briefing.

And then there was best in show, where few would have quibbled with the decision as far as the dogs themselves were concerned, but many have taken issue with the winner’s handling style. That I can understand but again so many rush to comment on Facebook and elsewhere on the web, apparently without thinking whether this actually helps matters and in many cases over-reacting to a quite ridiculous degree.

I have come to the conclusion that what matters in today’s world is appearances and that dog people don’t seem to realise this. This applies both ways – taking this instance, first to those who cannot see that what may have been ‘traditional’ handling methods don’t always look good in today’s more sensitive times, and secondly to those who go on and on about it in very intemperate terms but who may be doing far more harm than good.

Anyway you can read all about this, and the show’s other controversies, on our news and comment pages, and I for one would like to get back to the positive.

With its dedicated Young Kennel Club ring largely run by the juniors themselves, as well as the glamorous international final, no one can claim that the dog world’s future generations are not well catered for at the world’s biggest dog show. So it was especially rewarding so see several juniors, including a couple of real youngsters, make it through to the group rings, in each case putting on a calm and professional performance showing real empathy with their dog.

For many of us the defining image of the show will be the great job done by Ryan Ross, just 12, with his English Toy Terrier who went all the way to a group placing. His composure when it mattered followed by his joy when it was all over were a pleasure to see.

All these juniors were a tremendous credit to their parents, their mentors, those prepared to let them show a good dog and the judges who treat them on equal footing.

After the nonsense about foreign exhibitors which was peddled before the show, they certainly showed us how it should be done – and in the final line-up the only one of the seven not to be either bred or owned outside the UK was sired by an American dog living in Europe! Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular, had a phenomenal show.

Whether this disproportionate success rate has anything to teach the Brits I don’t know – certainly I was watching one breed when someone said to me, “Aren’t the foreign exhibitors so much smarter than ours?” but perhaps it’s to do with more than mere dress sense. Food for thought, anyway.

From a ringside view it struck me that there were far fewer weak links among the BOB winners than is sometimes the case, and once again all the category three breeds gained the vets’ approval. Could it be that the fuss of a few years back really has made judges think more carefully about selecting all-round good dogs, and not just in the breeds with a profile!

It was good to see impressive representatives (British-bred, too!) of the three breeds who achieved CC status, the Bracco Italiano, Havanese and Tibetan Mastiff. The Beauceron was competing in the main ring for the first time, and honestly, isn’t it about time some of the current imported register breeds were allowed to compete properly, rather than just doing a lap of honour?

In general the show was very much the mixture as before with no startling innovations. Recent years have seen the launch of Mate Select, MyKC and EBVs; this year saw more consolidation with extra breeds joining the latter. With PBGVs in the limelight in recent years, the launch of the breed’s glaucoma DNA test was something to celebrate.

The booked-to-capacity Career Zone has been one of the show’s success stories and as ever lots of veterinary students were entertained – let’s hope it persuades at least some of them that pedigree dogs aren’t so dreadful after all. Discover Dogs seemed as busy as ever but I have to say I didn’t envy those breeds sited near the at times extremely noisy activities ring.

An excellent attendance figure of 159,915, a few hundred up on last year, was recorded. To me, gundog day seemed extremely crowded for a Thursday, though Friday was quite easy to get around. Saturday was packed as ever, Sunday seemed rather less so.

The older I get the more frustrating I find it trying to get from A to B while the public is moving at a snail’s pace. I know it’s me in the wrong and that we should be truly grateful that the show attracts such a wide audience, but if only there could be express lanes for those of us who aren’t simply gawping at the stands!

A quick summary of the ‘disciplines’ – obedience saw Dot Watts win an amazing fifth Championship from four different dogs, this time with Working Sheepdog bitch Ob Ch Zygdann Rockin Frenzy. Great to see a Golden Retriever win in dogs, the first for 43 years! This was Jessica Lewis with Ob Ch Pepsanner Atlantic. The North took the Inter-Regional title and England the World Cup.

Agility Champions in the three sizes were Charlotte Harding with Ag Ch Rujaff Red Hot Scandal, Sian Illingworth and Ag Ch Arnpriors Made Of Honour and Claire Burrell and Ag Ch Daimonic Expelliarmus, and the International event went to Morten Juhl Hansen and Spottie from Denmark.

Lucy Creek had a marvellous time in the dancing arena, winning both the Freestyle and Heelwork to Music events with Harriot Skiffle King, and then runner-up in the International behind Slovakia’s Monika Olsovka with Arsinoe z Rise Wa.

Hollie Kavanagh won the YKC handling competition judged by Fay Matthews and it was a triumph for Belarus and Daria Moiseeva in the International Handling final where Elina Haapaniemi was in charge.

Full details can be found on our specialist pages in this supplement here

Back to the beginning and for many people Crufts now begins on Wednesday evening with the Pawscars at the Metropole. The enthusiasm which this has been greeted is remarkable though to me at least hardly surprising.

Up bright and early next day for the gundogs and before the group the Gamekeepers’ final, won by a working-type English Springer called Master Bojangles, was followed by Adrian Slater’s gundog training display which always provides welcome light relief.

Then it was a sad moment with the last breeders’ competition final, 50 groups and 181 dogs filling the ring. What more could have been done to involve more British breeders in this concept? Wish I knew. Steve Hall judged and Jane Wilton-Clark’s winning Shalfleet Whippets certainly exemplified ‘breeding to type’, didn’t they? Wonder if the replacement vulnerable breeds competition will catch on?

Finally it was Chris Atkinson’s turn to judge the gundog group. The show’s theme was set when Anette Dyrén from Sweden piloted her happy big winning Flatcoat Sh Ch/Int/Sw/Norw Ch Castlerock Simply Magic to top spot. British-bred but from Anette’s breeding on the sire’s side, he’s closely related to the show’s previous Crufts winners – isn’t this a breed which excels on the green carpet here?

Following on were three of the UK’s most consistent gundogs of the last few years, Pointer Sh Ch Wilchrimane Ice Maiden, Welsh Springer Sh Ch Ferndel Aeron Magregor and BIS-winning Weimaraner Sh Ch Gunalt De Ice at Stridview, G2 here two years before.

Even the most ardent pedigree purists can’t really moan too much about Scruffts at Crufts and from six appealing finalists on Friday evening it was Golden Oldie rescue dog Gracie whose story appealed to the judges.

Annette Oliver swapped her commentator’s chair for the woolsack and assessed the ten Junior Warrant finalists, going for Manuel Fernandez and Chris Purnell’s Airedale Ch Muliebrity Rilletta.

This set the scene for Bob Gregory’s working group, from the ringside one of the most spectacular from that group I can recall. His choice was Sue Ellis’ Malamute, the breed CC record holder and multiple group winner Ch Chayo My Prerogative. This kennel’s success rate since CCs were granted has been astonishing.

Sweden was second this time with the Leonberger named Sw/Fin/Norw Ch Namupalan Bling Smack Chap, bred in Finland. Australia managed third with the Sydney Royal-winning Bullmastiff Ch/Aus Sup Ch Costog Mompessons Home Bru, currently being campaigned in Britain, and back home for fourth in the BIS-winning St Bernard bitch Ch Chandlimore Sparks Will Fly over Samhaven.

Pastoral had Vic Salt in charge and it was a Bearded Collie bitch who won, Ch Victory Wind’s Ghost Whisperer for Snowmead, owned by Justine Waldron and bred in France, another example of mutually beneficial exchange of bloodlines.

You’ll never guess where the runner-up Pyrenean Vi’Skaly’s Harlem Shake comes from – Sweden of course. German Shepherd Ch Veneze Ellie, by the same German sire as Elmo, was third and the BIS-winning Samoyed Vandreem Imperial Cruz was fourth having earlier gained his crown.

Demon Dogz’ flyball victory preceded the International Juniors’ final on Saturday, and then it was terrier group time, with Martin Phillips making the decisions and you all know his choice, the many-titled US-bred Scottish Terrier McVan’s To Russia With Love, handled by Rebecca Cross for Marina Khenkina from Moscow. She had been BOB here two years ago and BOB at Westminster a few weeks back. Martin, incidentally, owned a grandsire of the winning Flatcoat (grandsire also of BIS winner ‘Jet’).

Earlier in the day we had all ensured we made the pilgrimage to the packed Wire Fox Terrier ring where runaway Top Dog ‘Oliver’ was in contention. In recent years Crufts has rather lost its reputation as ‘graveyard of Top Dogs’ but not in this case and as last year BOB went to the Belgian-bred Ch Kingarthur van Foliny Home (whose co-owner, incidentally, is Oliver’s owner Victor Malzoni from Brazil). This time ‘King’ ended up one place lower than last year’s group first.

Third was the all-British Border Ch Brackenfell Bok To Bach and fourth was a first ever Crufts group place for a Miniature Bull Terrier, Italian bred and owned Ch/Ir Ch Grasco’s Honky Tonky, currently being campaigned from Ireland.

The show had quite a number of overseas judges and one of them, Portugal’s dog world’s first lady Carla Molinari, was in charge of the very hot hound group. There was no holding the Swedes and top spot was Nicklas and Ingunn Ericsson’s Saluki Sw/Norw/Fin Ch Qirmizi Ovation, the only pup in a litter sired by a dog from Paraguay!

A Whippet from Northern Ireland, Ir Ch Demerlay Armabay Billie Jean, was second, followed by a Finnish-bred Borzoi from Italy, Int/It Ch Yegorov Hotter Than July, and British Ridgeback Ch Kinabula Bin There Done That.

Once the Agility Champions had been crowned on Sunday, the gorgeous painting by Paul Doyle of last year’s BIS ‘Ricky’ was unveiled and then the four Eukanuba Friends For Life finalists told their touching stories. None more touching than that of ‘Miracle’, rescued from a terrible fate in Thailand, and now best friends with young Kyle whose health problems must seem less of a burden with such a great dog for company. Also honoured was the courageous hero of the Manchester Dog’s Home disaster, Colin Ballance.

Doing the utility means that Zena Thorn-Andrews has now judged five Crufts groups as well as BIS. Most of us know Åge Gjetnes from Norway for Greyhounds, Afghans, Whippets and now Griffons but he clearly has further talents and here he appeared with a homebred Miniature Poodle bitch Am Ch Montserrat Caballe, co-owned with Elsa Storesund, and ended up in first place.

Two of our most distinguished affixes ended up second in the Min Schnauzer Saredon Born A Star for Risepark, with third to Bulldog Ch Sealaville He’s Tyler and fourth to Toy Poodle Ch Vanitonia As You Wish, a top ten dog of 2014.

Finally the toys under Steven Bardwell and Italy scored here in the big winning multi-titled Maltese Ch Cinecitta’ Sacha Baron Colen (not a misprint) piloted by Javier Gonzales Mendikote for Stefano Paolantoni and Franco Prosperi. A nice double, in that he won the group (and RBIS) at the great Helsinki World Show.

Ireland came in second with the veteran Pomeranian bitch Ch/Ir Ch Belliver The Ultimate Creation (this kennel bred a Crufts group winner a few years back), third young Ryan with new champion English Toy Terrier Witchstone China Girl for Poshpins and fourth the BIS-winning and CC record-holding Peke Ch Yakee Ooh Aah Cantona, last year’s G2.

Every year we wonder how Mary Ray, now routinely accompanied by Richard Curtis, will think of something new to entertain us. An RAF-themed performance gave us uplifting music and amazing choreography as well as the chance for the talented duo to be accompanied by several more dapperly dressed handlers and their dogs.

The timing of the final main ring events was a little different from usual and this time the short interval was followed by a display of how police dogs are trained, given by the West Midland force which has supported Crufts for many years. I wasn’t totally sure about featuring manwork immediately before BIS but guess I’m being over-sensitive and the display was certainly slick and exciting, and was followed by a presentation to the Humanitarian Action police dog of the year, a German Shepherd who has since retired and now lives with his handler.

Then the lights dimmed, the group judges lined up (a touch I do like), the trumpeters trumpeted and it was time to introduce the best in show judge. Surprisingly, Ronnie Irving got less of an intro than had done the group judges and I don’t think it was even mentioned that he had once been KC chairman. I thought it was fun they way they did this a few years ago when Clare Coxall judged and there were filmed clips and an interview during the interval about her life with dogs. Not sure why that can’t be done every year.

That aside, it looked from my perspective an exciting line-up and an interesting one, all seven in fabulous nick and (Tailgate aside) beautifully handled. Ronnie clearly felt any reservations he might have about the Scottie’s handling style – it was during his time that using a tail (and a leash, thankfully not the case here) to lift a dog was declared ‘unnecessary and undesirable’ – were secondary to the quality of the dog and ‘Knopa’ was declared the winner with the the Flatcoat from Sweden runner-up, two happy dogs with amazing show temperaments and a wonderful way of holding themselves on the move.

The Scottie was just reaching the podium when a small disturbance became evident. I’m not quite sure how the person had got into the ring as he cannot have been far away from the VIP area, but once he did the security were quick to pounce and he was bodily removed in no time at all. Apparently his rather amateurish placard read ‘Mutts against Crufts’.

So that was that but there was more to come as the various controversies gathered steam. Meanwhile let’s celebrate the plus points and as far as the BIS is concerned, Knopa is the first American-bred dog to top Crufts, the first Russian-owned dog to do so, the first Scottie since her tail-mate ancestor 25 generations back Ch Heather Necessity in 1929 and Vandra Huber must surely be the first person to both co-own a Westminster BIS winner (Knopa’s great-great-great-granddam) and co-breed a Crufts BIS winner.