Fun dog shows in Kent
PUBLISHED: 07:45 24 July 2016 | UPDATED: 13:06 24 July 2016
Fun dog shows are a firm favourite in Kent, but for one West Malling couple their own dog shows hold a more serious place in their lives.
The Fun Dog Show is a familiar summer sight around Kentish villages and towns, where ‘man’s best friend’ vies for titles such as waggiest tail, prettiest bitch, most handsome dog and, most importantly, best in show.
While these fun-filled events are light-hearted in tone, with an element of competition, for one West Malling couple their own dog shows hold an altogether more serious place in their lives.
David Knight and Gemma Simmons set up Beth’s Dog Shows six years ago in memory of and inspired by the courage of Sarah, a family member, who bravely battled with an incurable brain tumour and sadly died in 2010, aged 27.
The dog shows are named after David and Gemma’s German Shepherd rescue dog Beth, who died in 2014 and was a regular at fun dog events over the years, winning many best in show titles –which is remarkable when looking at her chequered past.
David explains: “We took Beth to a lot of fun dog shows, then we heard about Gemma’s cousin Sarah, so we said we would support the family with fundraising for the Sarah Kitchener-Perrow fund/Brain Tumour Charity.
“When sadly Sarah lost her battle we thought we could do this via a dog show. We came up with the name Beth’s Dog Show because we knew a lot of people from 12 years of competing in fun dog shows and they knew Beth.
“The shows we went to throughout the south east would be fundraising for a charity of some sort and we thought OK this is what we will do and it’s really picked up momentum. Between ourselves, Sarah’s parents and Sarah’s widowed husband David we have raised more than £320,000 for the Brain Tumour Charity. It’s just a drop in the ocean, but we keep on going.”
David reveals the charity received a will legacy donation of £65,000. “It’s the largest-ever will legacy donation the Brain Tumour Charity has received and came from someone approaching us at a dog show and asking us why we were doing the show and what charity it was in aid of.”
David adds: “Beth had three owners prior to us and had behavioural problems, she was under socialised, had puppies at eight months old and was kept in a small, gravelled courtyard.
“When Gemma collected her, Beth’s paws were red raw from where she had been pacing. When she came to us her life completely flipped. In terms of showing, she won many best in show awards – in total 35 cups and was even a guest at Crufts – and her life completely changed. She won around 350 to 400 rosettes at fun shows.”
Over the years David and Gemma helped Beth overcome her behavioural problems and she became adept at clinching the top spot in many ‘rescue’ classes.
David adds: “She had never had training so didn’t understand basic obedience but over time we got there with her. When her life changed she knew she had to change and her personality came out. She was affectionate, a cracking dog, she relaxed and knew she was safe.”
The couple, who now own another rescue German Shepherd called Angel, run a number of shows a year – a total of 10 in 2015.
One of the largest has been run alongside the East Malling Picnic in the Park for the past three years and the other is David and Gemma’s annual show on Greenways field, West Malling, which took place at the end of last month.
“At the Greenways show we usually have about 300 dogs attending, and that’s every type of dog you could think of. The show has got bigger over the years, it was our landmark show when we first started and this year we have a novelty show, a pedigree show, a German Shepherd rally and a Kennel Club Scrufts qualifying heat for 2017. If you win at a regional Scrufts heat you go to Crufts to hopefully win Scrufts 2017,” he adds.
At the show competitors choose which classes they wish to enter their dog into on the day (at a cost of £1.50 per class), register their dog on site and then wait for their class to be called numerically. David explains: “There are five classes for pedigree and for novelty there’s about 17; if they’re successful they go through to Best in Show. Over the years we have made contacts with dog trainers, dog groomers and judges and we ask them if they would like to come and judge for us and their response is always positive.
“Beth’s Dog Show is well established in Kent and when the dog show season has died down we do online photo competitions as well.”
David admits fundraising becomes more of a challenge every year and aside from class entrance fees, one way they do this is via sponsorship deals with local businesses and by having a dedicated band of volunteers to help out with the organisation of the shows.
“It’s a mammoth effort, but we love doing it,” says David, who is a driver for a pet food company. “If we are not at work we are either organising our own dog shows, networking or competing at dog shows with Angel.”
In addition to raising money for the Brain Tumour Charity, each year at the main dog show they also raise money for a pet charity. This year it’s the turn of German Shepherd Rescue South, which is where Angel came from. And now Angel takes her place in the ring, competing and starting to pick up those all-important rosettes.
David adds: “As an owner you feel a sense of achievement for the dog. Some people say this isn’t true, but a rescue dog knows when it is safe, the layers start coming off, they start relaxing and the insecurities they may have had go away. To see her waking past 100 other dogs at the shows and not react in a negative way is amazing.”
The Greenways’ show is Kennel Club registered and certain criteria must be met. As well as the dog show, other canine activities are also on offer including agility and ‘doggy dash’ with the fastest dog winning the owner a prize. Best in show wins a trophy and a 15/25kg bag of dog food.
David says that despite the challenges of organising these events, the impetus is there to keep going in memory of Sarah and Beth.
“We also do it for the people who have followed us at the shows over the years too. We have seen their dogs grow from puppies into dogs and they always tell us that they can’t wait to come back.” w
Find out more
The next Beth’s fun dog show is on 27 August at Stalisfield Green ME13 0HY,
How to set up a dog show
The Kennel Club gives 10 top tips on showing your dog at Companion Dog Shows (the formal name by which charity dog shows licensed by the Kennel Club are known)
• Team effort: train together and play together so that you build up a real partnership with your dog.
• Back to school: find out from the Kennel Club about Ringcraft classes in your area where you can learn how to present and train your dog for the show ring.
• Look and learn: talk to the experienced people at the Ringcraft classes; they will be more than happy to help a newcomer. Watch how they present their dog to show off its finer points.
• Be prepared: try to visit one or two shows without your dog so that you have an idea of what is required.
• All mapped out: plan your journey to the show well in advance and make sure you arrive at the show in good time.
• Go walkabout make sure your dog has a chance to stretch his legs before you go into the ring.
• Keep watch: keep an eye on the judging; you can familiarise yourself with what the judge is looking for and what he or she will ask you to do.
• Mind your manners: always be polite and considerate to your fellow exhibitors.
• Have fun: win or lose, remember to praise your dog; he will no doubt have given his best for you. Owners like to win rosettes but praise and a cuddle from you will mean far more to your dog than a rosette does!
Finally, if you love your dog and want to get the best out of the thousands of dog events and shows held up and down the country every year, why not join the Companion Dog Club? It’s a great way for you and your dog to become part of the dog community and celebrate your dog’s company with others.
For more information, visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk
Paws in the Park
The Kent Showground, Detling, will once again play host this year to Paws in the Park Autumn show on 17 and 18 September, giving members of the public and their dogs an opportunity to watch and take part in a wealth of canine activities.
For more information visit www.pawsinthepark.net/about-us/autumn-show/autumn-show