Crufts 2015 is just under a week away! It was my (the human’s) first time going last year, and whilst super fun, I did find it a bit overwhelming! If it’s your first time too, here’s some things I found useful during my visit. Unfortunately I can’t go this year but I hope these might help anyone who is going.
- Buy the official guidebook on entry, ok, it is quite expensive, but I found it invaluable. I get lost really easily, the NEC is big with many halls and there are market stands in each hall which make you feel a bit like you’re in the same place wherever you are. The map and the what’s on where in the guide were immensely helpful. It also lists all the shops and what stall number they are located at and which area each breed judging will be in. Plus it’s a nice souvenir.
- Visit the Crufts website a couple of days before going to familiarise yourself with what will actually be on, there are so many events and displays which you may not know about. I happened upon some great demo’s, even in the main arena, such as the ‘Safe and Sound‘ scheme demo.
- If you are there with others designate a ‘lost area’ and a time to be there, if you separate, or get separated. The phone signal in the arena can be poor, so don’t rely on that. Just in case, find the first aid/emergency areas too.
- Wear a watch. Sadly, as with any big event, getting your phone out to check the time is not always practical or safe. On a similar note, people often say to take a ‘bum bag’ with your money and essentials in, rather than a handbag and purse which could be easily accessed by others.
- Look out for little events going on around the outskirts, where you might not expect it. I found a cute little demo of Pets at Therapy reading dogs and the people were more than happy to chat to me about what they were doing.
- Take a notebook. Obviously it helped me as I was noting down names of dogs I was photographing for the blog, but it was also helpful for shopping. Use it to note down which shop you saw that must have item in, or your days itinerary.
- Wear comfy shoes! It seems obvious, but I thought my feet might drop off by the end of the first day, in my assumed comfy shoes, which apparently were not comfy after several hours. It’s also warm there, so a light jacket that can be stowed away is a must!
- Try and decide what you want to watch at the start of the day and allow time to get to where it’s held. A couple of times I arrived just as something I wanted to see was just finishing. Some display’s and comps only last 10 – 20 minutes. It also doesn’t hurt to get to an event early and sit in the arena for a while, ok, so you might have to watch the setting up, but I found the main arena quite relaxing, one day I ate my lunch in there. The arena hosts the finals of Agility, Flyball and Heelwork to Music/freestyle as well as hosting many demo’s and display teams. Most of the obedience is in it’s own ring so be sure to look out for that too.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Every dog owner and exhibitor I met was very friendly and more than keen to talk and get their dog’s photo taken. Just be aware of what’s going on. If someone looks like they are just about to step into a ring for judging, try not to strike up a conversation.
- Try and watch some breed judging, even if conformation showing is not your ‘thing’ it’s a really interesting experience and it’s good to go back to Cruft’s ‘roots’. also found the breed rings an ideal place to get some’zen’ back. The main arena’s can be very hustly and bustly and noisy but the breed rings were pretty peaceful, everyone just looking after their dogs or grooming them and so on and this was some of the places where I met the most interesting and friendly owners.
- Everyone always says to take your own food as the prices are expensive. I did this on the first day and by the time I remembered to eat my sandwich it was a bit warm and unpleasant (and squashed) but then, as I live far away and was staying in a hotel, it was not very easy to take my own food. I didn’t find the café in the breed ring area any more expensive than a motor way services for example and the trade stands similar. So actually my recommendation would be to set some money aside in your budget to allow for fresh, hot food, so you feel nice and refreshed. Unless you are very good at packed lunches.
- There are lots and lots of shops with lovely tempting goodies, but don’t forget, if you’re on public transport, you’ll need to be able to carry whatever you buy (we just about managed). I picked up some cards for stalls I liked and went shopping online when I got back.
- Speaking of shopping, many of the stalls at Crufts have special offers, goody bags and competitions on, so look out for the chance to get some bargains and freebies, if you enter something, don’t forget to go back and check to see if you won. Our friend Jack won a competition with Natural Instinct food.
- If you are at all interested in dogs in an academic fashion, you should also check out the Kennel Club’s stands on breeding, rescue etc and the KCAI career zone. There are a very interesting range of seminars and lectures on a host of topics, you do need to pre register your interest though and many are sold out already, so be quick!
- Lastly, I don’t think Crufts would be complete without a wander through Discover dogs to see the sheer variety of amazing breeds that are out there. It;s a great opportunity to meet some breeds that you probably have heard of, but maybe have never seen. Like This Skye Terrier (of Greyfriar’s Bobby fame)
- Oh, and you can also do a bit of celeb spotting. As well as famous dogs doing book signings, and people endorsing products, I spotted various celebrities just wandering around, enjoying Crufts.
I hope you have found my tips useful, please share your own in the comments. Have a great time everybody! Next year I’ll be there too!