A PROFESSIONAL dog trainer from Solihull admits she will be nervous but extremely proud when she takes on her role as a judge at the internationally renowned Crufts show.
Claire Coughlan-Khan is the solo judge in the newest dog sport to the competition – Rally – a contest which is becoming increasingly popular year-on-year.
The 37-year-old has designed six courses for the Inter-Regional Rally Competition that will test each dog’s obedience and intelligence alongside their handler.
“It’s a massive honour and I didn’t expect to be chosen,” Claire told the Observer. “The fact that it’s the first ever one makes it even more special.
“To judge at Crufts is the pinnacle of a career in dogs. It’s like being given the best possible promotion at work.
“A few years ago I judged a smaller competition but nothing as big as this on the international stage.
“It will be nerve racking as the competition gets closer and there will be nerves on the day but everything will be fine. It’s going to be a wonderful feeling.”
Crufts is the world’s largest dog show and is held annually at Birmingham’s NEC.
This year is the first time the ‘Rally’ category will be judged with seven teams representing the UK regions competing in six levels of competition.
The aim is to demonstrate a variety and range of breeds and competition levels in Rally, with Claire having to judge 49 dogs in total.
Handlers must follow instructions on the signs placed out around the course, which include weaving through cones, sitting, lying down or standing when told to.
“It’s all about using the dog’s brain, it’s not about how well they look or how well they are groomed. It’s about how well they do the task.
“It’s becoming really popular. We’ve been doing displays at Crufts over the past five years but this is the first time it will be judged in a competition.”
The Inter-Regional Rally Competition will run from 9am to 4.30pm in Hall 5 on the opening day of Crufts.
Asked what she is looking for in her winners, Claire added: “I will have to judge each dog that comes into the ring.
“It really has a massive community and I know a coach load of people coming over from Italy so I’m really looking forward to it.”