Bonding with man’s best friend

Anna Britton from Portchester with her 14 week old Chiuhauha ''.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13731-955)
Anna Britton from Portchester with her 14 week old Chiuhauha ''.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13731-955)
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We are a nation of dog lovers.

Everywhere you go you see people walking their dogs through the park down the street or along the beach, whatever the weather.

But how many of us are showing off our precious pooches and taking them to dog shows?

It can be a great way for dogs to meet other animals and for owners to socialise.

And although it may be seen as an expensive hobby, it can also be very rewarding.

Organisers of the Solent Ringcraft Club in Portsmouth are encouraging more people to sign up and get involved.

The club was set up in May 2011 by Sharon and Gavin Samson, who have six dogs between them.

Sharon is a championship show judge, and started as a junior handler more than 20 years ago.

Gavin has judged and shown dogs for 14 years.

The club meets once a week and there is a match night every month, putting owners and their dogs in a show situation.

Match nights are a simulation of what they can expect to encounter at a real show.

Gavin says: ‘My partner and I have been involved in dog shows for years.

‘We decided to set up our own club using our experience and knowledge over the years.

‘Other clubs are closing all over the place.

‘But our club is going very well.

‘It’s a friendly club. We have got a lot of new people coming.

‘Some of them have never shown dogs before in their lives.

‘They go to local shows and work their way up. It’s quite nice to see new faces every week.

‘It’s good fun and it’s another hobby.

‘Now, I am going to shows all over the country.’

Gavin says it’s good for the dogs to take part.

‘They love it,’ he adds.

‘Just like people, we make friends and I’m sure the dogs do too.

‘It’s good socialisation for them.

‘It’s fun seeing dogs that don’t know each other who then start playing together.’

Sharon and Gavin teach every aspect of ringcraft, ring etiquette, ring procedure and they show how to show your dog and get the best out of them.

Gavin adds: ‘We tell them what the judges are looking for from the movement of the dogs.

‘We have some dogs who look bored to start with but after they have been running a couple of times their heads are up and their tails are wagging.

‘They see it like going out for a walk.

‘It’s nice for people to speak to each other about experiences with their dogs.

‘They learn new things. They are learning to walk in a straight line and go in a triangle and stand still. So there’s a certain amount of discipline.

‘We had one owner in who said it had seen her dog sleep all through the night.

‘So there’s that sort of positive as well. It calms them down.’

And Gavin added that he hopes the stereotypes associated with dog showing can change.

‘Everybody is welcoming,’ he says.

‘When I first started I thought it was a bit of a posh thing.

‘But I have been to a few shows and it’s not as upper-class as it used to be.

‘Nowadays it’s a bit more relaxed.’

And Gavin says it’s not as expensive to take part as people may think.

‘For the people that take it more seriously that go to a lot of the championship shows, it can get quite expensive.

‘For us, Crufts would generally cost a couple of hundred quid for the day.

‘But for a local show you are looking at about £5 for an entry.

‘So it can be quite a cheap day out.’

And Dawn Hobbs, who helps organise the day-to-day running of the club says she is trying to encourage younger members to join.

‘We would like to encourage more young people into junior handling,’ she says.

‘They are the future of dog showing.

‘Junior handling is not just showing a dog.

‘Children from the age of six learn about pattern-work, anatomy of dogs, classes and breeds.

‘Sharon and Gavin are excellent teachers and readily pass on tips about how to get the best out of your dog.

‘Dog showing is very sociable.

‘You get to meet lots of different people.’

Tina Ezzard, 55, from Gosport has six dogs.

Her two rottweilers Earl and Millie are now involved in Solent Ringcraft Club.

She has been entering her dogs into competitions for a number of years.

Tina says: ‘We have been involved in dog shows for more years than I care to remember now.

‘I have been going since the 90s.

‘We have gone to various clubs.

‘It’s more about the socialisation for the puppies. It gets them used to being around other dogs.

‘I just generally enjoy it. It’s taken me on to other things like animal behaviour and other forms of animal psychology.

‘The dogs enjoy it.

‘If they didn’t I wouldn’t take them.

‘They love being out and seeing other people and meeting other people.

‘And they adore having their cuddles.

‘It’s a good PR for the breed too.

‘We do have problems with people’s perception of the breed. But people can cuddle them and make a fuss of them.

‘The majority of the training classes should be about socialisation.

‘It’s about the dogs being able to meet others in that environment. It’s not necessarily about having the best show dog.’

‘I like the social side of it’

Tamar Quinn is one of many members of the Solent Ringcraft Club.

The 48-year-old from Waterlooville has four dogs. But it’s Japanese chin Harry who she likes to show.

She has been attending since last May and has been involved in dog shows for the past two years.

‘I like the social side of it, getting to make friends,’ she says.

‘And I like the competitive angle too – I like to win something.

‘I like to do things with my dog rather than just going for a walk.

‘You learn so much about different breeds of dogs.

‘It’s good for Harry because he is mixing with all different breeds and sizes of dogs.

‘He’s probably one of the smallest dogs there.

‘He loves it. You can’t force a dog to show. If he didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it.

‘But he struts around the ring and really enjoys it.’

Meetings held on Wednesdays

The Solent Ringcraft group runs every Wednesday evening, starting at 7.30pm, at Paulsgrove Community Centre in Marsden Road.

Match night takes place on the last Wednesday of the month and starts at 7.45pm.

Prices are £2 per dog, per session. There are no membership or joining fees.

Puppies can start ringcraft training when they have had their second vaccinations.

Dogs must be registered with the Kennel club to compete at show level.

To find out more information, please visit solentringcraftclub.webs.com or call Gavin Samson on 07767 369717.