There was plenty of time for shaggy dog stories, canine capers and tickled tummies as owners and their pets packed into Birmingham’s NEC for the opening day of this year’s Crufts.
Owners started arriving at the venue from 6.15am yesterday – nearly three hours before events were due to start – to get their prized pooches ready for competitions.
And visitors were still pouring into the NEC at around 1pm with long queues forming at ticket offices in the venue.
Due to the scale of the event, competitions were split between five halls and the main LG Arena.
Individual rings were set up in each for different breeds to be judged in a variety of classes.
The opening day of the event, which will run until Sunday, focused on working and pastoral dogs.
More than 50 breeds took part in competitions including dobermans, Newfoundland, great Danes, Portuguese water dogs and rottweilers.
And alongside the dog classes there were also hundreds of stalls set up in each hall catering for all your canine needs – from dog bedding through to toys and food.
They proved a major draw to visitors who packed out each of the halls throughout the day looking around the items and chatting to stallholders.
Those showing their dogs spent the time between competitions grooming their pets and talking to fellow enthusiasts, with many bringing along a packed lunch to eat.
And the dogs themselves lounged in their cubicles opting to sleep or wait patiently for their time in the ring. Some were also given the occasional tasty treat.
Among those showing their dogs was Maggie Pittendrigh, of Great Bridgeford, Stafford.
The 73-year-old said she had not missed a Crufts since 1983 and looked forward to the event each year.
She was showing her dobermans Cody and Danny at the event. Danny was in the junior class and Danny in the limit category.
“Crufts is always a big event in the calendar and I look forward to attending each year,” she said.
“I have been coming for a number of years now – in fact I have not missed the event in over 30 years.”
Also attending was Sara Bevan, of Herefordshire. The 57-year-old had her Alaskan malamute Thunder taking part in the Good Citizenship competition for his breed. He took fourth place in the event and received a certificate for the achievement.
Also taking part in the event was Sian Barratt, of Spencer Close, Oldbury, who showed her 13-month-old great Dane Presley in the special puppy category.
He also took fourth place in the competition.
“I am a little disappointed at only gaining fourth place but it has still been a great event and I have really enjoyed it,” she said.
For Bruce Lyons, of Norwich, it was the first time he had attended the event and took along his two-year-old border collie Wiz.
She was taking part in the Kennel Club’s Novice Cup agility event held in the main arena.
The 60-year-old said: “Because it is both my and Wiz’s first time at the event I decided to take a quick look around the arena first to get us both used to a new environment.”
And alongside those who travelled to Birmingham from closer to home there was a large contingent of dog lovers who travelled to the event from overseas.
Many came to the venue from as far afield as Holland, Germany and Belgium to take part in the events and meet with other dog owners.
And there were others who travelled in from Wales and Ireland for the event.
Valerie Morgan, 61, arrived from Llanelli, in Wales. She was showing Pembrokeshire Welsh corgi Robin who was taking part in the Post Graduate competition for her class.
Valerie said: “It has been a really good day and is always enjoyable. Robin has enjoyed it as well.” Sinead Dempsey, 40, from Cork, Ireland, was showing her 17-month-old hovawart Pippa.
She was in the special junior category for her class.
“There is literally months of preparations involved starting in around December and continuing all the way up until the competition,” she said.
Alongside the smaller competitions taking place in the halls here were also a series of events taking place in the main arena from 9am. Spectators packed into the arena in their hundreds to watch as teams competed in the Kennel Club British Open for jumping and the Novice Cup for the same discipline.
The East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier Display Team also entertained the crowds along with a display by West Midlands Police dogs.
Terriers and hounds were taking centre stage at the event today with toy and utility dogs featuring tomorrow and gundogs on Sunday.