Q What is your opinion on the Crufts Best in Show line up 2011?
A The dog that stood out that should definitely not have been in any line up is the Alsatian. How Frank Kane and Jessica can rave on about what fabulous conformation that dog has is beyond me. It had a very sloping back. What happened to the Kennel Club revising their breeding plans to eradicate hip problems etc? Dogs have all been bred down from the wolf. Show me a wolf with a sloping back and hip problems. Breeding this sloping back creates weakness in the back legs. Will they never learn, I am disgusted. Crufts and The Kennel Club are still promoting unhealthy animals.
Q Over the last 14 years who have you admired and why?
A There are many people… Mary Ray for having started HWTM initially and for being an all round top trainer. Sandra Davis and Pepper for being absolutely amazing and Pepper’s routines would still look good in this present today. The other top American trainer I most admired was Caroline Scott with her now deceased Golden Retriever, Rookie. Attila Szkukalek, for taking the whole game of Freestyle to a new dimension making it more theatrical. Richard Curtis for putting his own stamp on Freestyle. Tina Humphries for again, having her own style completely which is fabulous and Jules O’Dwyer for being the pioneer of Freestyle in Holland and Belgium, being a superb trainer not only doing a fantastic job training guide dogs for the blind, but also being one of the most innovative trainers I know.
Q How has the judging evolved over the years in your opinion?
A Judging was much fairer in the early years as cliques hadn’t formed like they have now. Who would have thought that you would have crowds booing at Crufts because the rightful winner didn’t win, this even made the daily newspapers and TV. The most important thing about entering shows is that you and your dog enjoy performing your routine for the audience as they are the true judges. Should you win a trophy or rosette, take it as a bonus. To all honest and fair judges, these comments do not apply to you.
Q What attracts people to take up the sport and how long does it take to train a dog for a competition?
A I think people are attracted to the sport when they are looking for new outlets to have fun with their dog and teach them new moves. It takes at least 3 months to have a professional routine ready to go.
Q Are costumes important to the routine?
A Costumes are a must for a routine but within reason, I personally don’t like to see skirts, dresses or high heels unless absolutely necessary, as in my opinion it doesn’t look professional and makes the close up moves more difficult for the dog.
Q What don’t you like to see in a routine?
A I don’t like to see ladies of a certain age rolling around on the floor trying to hold onto a dress as above, very unprofessional. There are only a few ladies who can get away with wearing a dress, one of which is the fabulous Tina Humphrey who always works in the most ladylike manner whatever she does! Yes, I am a fan.
Q What is the best music for a routine?
A Music with a good beat, a good theme and something that suits the dog rather than you and gives you plenty of scope for ideas for new moves.
Q How do you plan your choreography?
A I usually plan my choreography in three parts, beginning, middle and end. You must listen to the music until you know almost every beat. This is something which I have failed to do myself on occasions to my detriment.
Q What are your new goals?
A There’s a few things I’ve got in the pipeline, watch this space.
Q How do you see the sport of Freestyle progressing in 5 years time?
A Well, until things are changed with the organisers and the people who are judging nothing will change. As the judges keep putting up routines that are not worthy of a win I cannot see a progression being possible. New up and coming Freestylers need to be promoted and not kept back as has been the case in the past. It is all very well putting up a safe basic routine, but for me the one who comes up with the most innovative move(s) even if not done perfectly, that person deserves points for being creative and not boring. If you look at the routines today they are mostly predictable and boring.
Q Why do you think routines today are not very creative/exciting?
A The main reason in my humble opinion is that over the last few years, there are people who are judging/teaching workshops with most handlers and dogs being taught the same moves. This is fine to teach the basic moves but then they don’t move on. When people see a routine winning based on these basic routines, they think this is all that is required to win a competition, which at the moment it is in the UK. This has resulted in too many people doing the same thing which has stilted the advancement of the UK Freestylers compared with that of the standard now being set by the European handlers. We need more distance moves, more flamboyant moves, more innovative moves. Handlers need to have more confidence in themselves and come up with new ideas if we are to take on the Europeans.
Q What do you think about the Kennel Club?
A The Kennel Club is a wonderful institution but in some respects suffers from an imbalance of power. Too few people have got too much say over too many. Speaking only for the Freestylers/HWTM and World Obedience Cup competitors, I do feel that the Kennel Club could be more generous in supporting the competitors who give their time and pay quite considerably to have the honour of working at Crufts. Even something as little as providing refreshments i.e. coffee/tea, biscuits would be appreciated. Competitors travel from far and wide to provide the entertainment for the large audiences that attend Crufts every year.