The Pedigree & Whiskas Dubai Pet Show is our city’s answer to Crufts. But as well as entertaining crowds of animal lovers (and perhaps creating pet self-esteem issues) with competitions such as Best Six Legs, Happiest Dog, Best Fancy Dress and the prestigious Best in Show, it’s a forum for pet owners to meet, chat and learn more about their animals.
It’s no secret that Dubai isn’t particularly dog-friendly. Our hapless canines are banned from most public spaces, so the show is a unique opportunity for pets to socialise. Even better, a portion of the Dhs10 entry fee goes to local volunteer group K9 Friends, which helps to re-home Dubai’s abandoned and stray dogs.
Here, we meet a few of the competitors and get the inside track from the judging panel.
The owner: Anjulika Dutton, Indian
The dog: Bruno
The class: Best Fancy Dress
Tell us a bit about Bruno.
Bruno is a four-year-old pug. He’s got quite a mind and character of his own, so I think the best way to bring this out is by entering him into a fancy dress competition.
How does Bruno feel about all this?
So far I think he’s excited, although maybe also a bit wary [laughs]. But I’m sure he’s enjoying it because he can sense the excitement of the whole family.
It’s become a family project, then?
That’s the key thing. I have two sons and they’re the ones coming up with the ideas. I’m just trying to bring them back to earth so we can make something practical for Bruno to wear. It brings a smile to our faces in our otherwise busy days. And it’s the one chance my boys have to take Bruno out with pride [in Dubai], where they know it’s not going to be difficult and they know he’s legally fine to be there.
Can you tell us about the costume without giving too much away?
The costume is a mix of practicality and something that will stand out in the competition as well. Pugs are unique in terms of how they look, and you need to choose something that really gels with that.
Do you think you’ll win?
To be honest, I’m having so much fun with the preparations that winning would just be an added bonus. That’s exactly what I’m telling my boys as well. For me, I feel the objective of these competitions should be positive encouragement. I can see that a lot of people get very competitive, when it [should be] about encouraging both your pet and your family into this experience.
How will Bruno be rewarded if he wins the class?
He’ll get his dog cake, which we make for him. It’s a great mix – my boys keep saying they’ll try it! I use a cake batter, then we put dog food and sausages in it and bake it – it becomes like a lovely pie. Then we ice it with lots of cheese spread. I don’t know how healthy all of that is, but it’s fine because it’s only an occasional treat [laughs]. We’ll make it for him even if we don’t win.
The owner: Shahrazad Vallarelli, Italian
The dog: Dolce Dante
The class: Best in Show
Tell us about Dolce Dante.
He’s just turned a year and a half old. He’s a male Great Dane, a blue colour, and he comes from Hungary originally. When I saw him I thought he just looked so sweet, which is ‘dolce’ in Italian.
Has he participated in any dog shows before?
No, but I had another Great Dane back in Italy and we entered competitions. He’s not with me any more – he passed away. But we came second twice.
Why do you like doing it?
I love [Dolce Dante] so much that I just want him to have fun in competitions. Also, in Dubai there are a lot of restrictions when it comes to dogs. For example, you can’t take them on the beach. So I want him to spend a fun day with other dogs.
Best in Show is a tough competition. Do you have any tips for getting your dog in peak condition?
Feed him lots of protein to make his hair shine. A lot of olive oil, but not too much, also makes the hair shine, as does omega. And exercise, for sure. However, this is one of the problems here in Dubai. I have to take him very far out [of the city] to exercise, in the desert where there’s no one around. He’s a big dog already and a lot of people are afraid of him. Some people say he’s a horse!
That’s a little unkind… So, how will you celebrate with Dolce Dante if he wins Best in Show?
With a big juicy bone!
The pet show judge
Veteran judge and canine expert Johnston tells us what the judges will be looking for on the big day.
Best Fancy Dress
‘The judges will look for ingenuity. They’ll pick the one that amuses them, that the crowd likes, and has had a lot of thought put into it. For example, if you make a butch dog look like a wee sweetie pie, that would amuse the judge and the crowd. It shows people are thinking about how they want to present their dog that day.’
Best in Show
‘You’re looking for the dog that has the edge on the others. It will need to stand out in terms of movement, condition, style, quality and presentation. The handler can have a big input here: if he or she stands the dog where the judge wants it, then moves it cleverly and tries to catch the judge’s eye, that can help a lot.
‘Each breed is assessed according to breed standard, and these can be found on our Kennel Club website (www.the-kennel-club.org.uk). Anything out of the norm of the breed standard would probably not be acceptable in the competition. For example, a Rottweiler with a light eye instead of a darkness around the eye would be considered to have a fault.
‘Movement is also different for every breed. For example, on a pug, there’s something called a pug roll. You expect to see the pug roll slightly from side to side as it walks. It wouldn’t march. Alternatively, a bassett should be able to cover ground easily without appearing to be touching the ground.’