Essentially, there are four strands to Crufts, one is great, the second is harmless and the other two are controversial.
- As well as the huge commercial exhibition, Crufts includes many aspects of dog-related activity: from Canicross to agility to obedience to community dogs.
- The wackiness of pedigree dogs showing. Getting up at 3am to brush a dog’s hair, moisturise the skin, hair spray the fluffy bits. It’s fascinating to watch how much time and energy people are prepared to put into this.
- The show ring encouraging bad conformation of dogs. To win in a dog show, a dog has to be as exact a possible replica of the “breed standard” which is devised by humans. Unfortunately, the breed standard is about appearance, not health, so it can mean an appearance which is not helpful for function eg dogs with baggy eyes, squashed noses, bulgy eyes, low slung hips. The Kennel Club has started to change this, but has a long way to go
- Pedigree breeding by its nature means some degree of inbreeding – only allowing genes from a narrow pool. As well as meaning that the resulting pups have a certain specific appearance, this means that certain inherited diseases are more common. The Kennel Club has begun to take steps to deal with this, but much more needs done.
By the way, the Irish angle to this is that the biggest dog show of the year is about to happen here – the St Patricks Day dog show.
As well as discussing these aspects of Cruft, we also answered some listeners questions.