Following the Crufts controversy last week involving independent health checks on certain highlighted breeds, the discussion of a pedigree dog’s physical health & well-being has once again come to the fore. It’s wonderful that this issue is being taken seriously and acted upon at last.
However, bubbling under the surface has also been the discussion of a dog’s mental health, the stress levels they encounter whilst showing, or taking part in competitive obedience, flyball, agility etc. On two separate occasions in the past few days, I heard dog professionals discuss the body language of certain dogs during Crufts, once in relation to the show ring, and again in relation to competitive obedience. In both cases, it was pointed out that certain dogs clearly showed high levels of stress and in some extreme cases, fear.
Anyone watching the Best in Show event last Sunday night can’t help but have noticed that the Pomeranian dog who qualified loved the limelight. This dog screamed ‘Look at me, I’m adorable!’, and he was. He was happy, excited and strutted his stuff around the ring, as indeed did all of the final line up. A pity then that the same can’t be said for the rest of the event. Several times during both the live and extended tv footage of Crufts 2012, I witnessed show dogs with tails so far between their legs it almost touched their stomachs. I saw dogs who’s body language quite clearly stated ‘Get me out of here’. I watched competition obedience dogs who frankly looked depressed, fed up and on the verge of committing canine hari kari if anyone had offered them a sharp enough stick.
Dog shows and competitive dog sports should portray dogs at their best. This should mean not just their physical best, but at the peak of mental health also. They should ‘love’ what they do and this should come through in their body language, demeanor and stature. Truly happy dogs will be easy to spot. Have a look at the joy of this Pomeranian 9.23 seconds in & at Tyler, who seems to glow as he smiles and wags his way around the ring. Perhaps as well as focusing on a dog’s physical health and wellbeing, we should also be looking at their mental health and consider this equally as important when choosing our winners.