Monday, 14 November 2011

Things I discovered at Discover Dogs

Early on Saturday morning I set out to get the train from Leicester to London, heading for Earl’s Court and the annual dog-fest that is Discover Dogs. ‘But wait,’ I hear you say, ‘surely you discovered dogs many years ago!’ And of course you’d be right, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there’s always more to find out.

One train journey complete with infant sickness in the aisle next to my seat later, and I was saying hello to a beautiful Irish Terrier who works as a Pets as Therapy (PAT Dog), while learning all about the great work of the PAT scheme.

My immediate mission was to head for the EzyDog stand and buy a replacement star flyer for Billy. It’s by far his favourite toy, but that didn’t stop him losing his on the park last week. It’s also very convenient for me because it’s a Frisbee that you can fold up and put in your pocket, leaving your hands free to handle your three dogs.

However, at an event like Discover Dogs there’s just so much to see, and it was only after spending some time at the PAT, Wildlife Trusts and various other stands that I made it to EzyDog – only to find out that the star flyer was the one thing they hadn’t brought with them. This was only a minor disappointment and a quick search of the other stands brought the discovery of a flexible rubber Frisbee that can roll up to fit into a pocket. Not so hard-wearing as the EzyDog star flyer, perhaps, but a good stopgap until I was able to buy a replacement online.

Fun and games with the assistance dogs in training
Education is the name of the game at Discover Dogs. Not only can you meet and learn about different breeds, but there were also seminars on everything from Reiki to puppy farming to ‘Why dogs are good for us’ as well as some great demonstrations for children about how to be safe around dogs.

Mary shows us how it's done
I stopped by the main arena to see Mary Ray demonstrating some trick training with her dogs. Mary is perhaps most famous for her ‘Dancing with Dogs’ routines but she is quite possibly the UK’s best canine obedience trainer too. Her dog Levi was in the recent Will Young video which, whether or not you like the song, is a pleasure to watch. Mary told us some great stories about the making of that video.
Inspired by Mary’s expertise I headed for her stand, where I found the best Whippet-proof treat bag I’ve ever come across. Whippets know that they have long, thin noses and that they can slip them into pretty much any pocket or bag to nick a treat. Billy is especially good at this but Charlie gives it a good go too. Not only is my new treat bag big enough to hold enough treats for a three-dog walk, it also has a spring-loaded opening. You can leave it wide open or snap it shut so not even the most determined Whippet can slip his nose in. As if that wasn’t enough, the inner bag can be detached and washed, and if it wears out you can buy a replacement inner without having to buy a whole new bag. ‘Mary,’ I thought, ‘you really do understand the needs of a dog-owner like me.’

In between my mini shopping sprees, I went to admire all the different breeds of dog that were there (including several stops with the Whippets). With so many British breeds now at risk of dying out, it was great to see them represented here and to get to know more about them. The Glen of Imaal Terrier and the Smooth Fox Terrier were especially delightful and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier never stopped wagging his tail at passers-by.

I always make sure I say hello to Southern Lurcher Rescue when they’re at an event. Not only do they do valuable work in rescuing and rehoming Lurchers in need, but they’re also a really friendly bunch who are great to chat to. I hugged a lurcher, picked up tips on holidays where more than three dogs are allowed, and I now know where to get some beautiful hand-made hound collars at a very reasonable price. Talking of holidays, I also made sure I stopped by the Dog Friendly stand. I’ve written a few articles for their Out & About magazine and it was great to say hello to the team.

At Discover Dogs the dogs really are the stars, and I indulged my dog-geekdom with a bit of celebrity spotting. I was very excited to see Ripley, the face of the recent Pedigree Adoption Drive campaign, and Sykes from Midsomer Murders (AKA Harvey from the Thinkbox ‘Every home needs a Harvey’ advert), who were lending their support to the Kennel Club Assured Breeders scheme.

A bit of fun dog-racing and some flyball-watching later, and it was time to head off home laden with my various purchases and free samples. I still don’t feel that I’ve seen everything there is to see at Discover Dogs and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

And as an added bonus, I met up with my fellow dog-walkers on the park this morning and was presented with... Billy’s star flyer! His friend Lola the Springer Spaniel had found it on Saturday, days after he’d lost it. So all’s well that ends well. It was a very happy reunion for Billy and he let Lola play with it too. We kept a very close eye on it this time though!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent summary of your day! It is hard to cram everything in one post. I am thrilled that you found Billy's toy, he must be relieved to have it back. It was very nice of Lola to look after it for him.