What is the etiquette at Crufts when it comes to petting dogs and talking to competitors?
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What is the etiquette at Crufts when it comes to petting dogs and talking to competitors?

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The annual Crufts dog show takes place at Birmingham’s NEC arena in March, and as well as around 28,000 dogs that are competing and involved in displays and events, dog lovers from all over the country (and the world) flock to the show to enjoy a day out and of course, to see and maybe pet a whole range of dogs!

Seeing a huge selection of dogs (probably more than you would ever see in one place in any other situation) and being able to talk to other dog owners and even top-flight dog breeders and competitors is the highlight of the show for many people, and Crufts provides plenty of opportunities for this.

There are even dedicated events like Discover Dogs where you’re actively encouraged to get up close and personal with dogs of many different breeds and types, and to talk to their owners and handlers about them in more detail.

However, just as is the case in everyday life, good manners and good sense are required when it comes to coming into contact with strange dogs, and these certainly aren’t suspended at Crufts; and in fact, there is even more etiquette and things to think about than in a more common situation like a dog park when it comes to petting dogs at Crufts and talking to dog owners and handlers.

If you want to go to Crufts and pet loads of dogs, you certainly can; but make sure you don’t inadvertently offend, bother a dog that wants to be left alone, upset a dog owner, or even endanger yourself, by following these rules of etiquette for petting dogs at Crufts. Read on to learn more.

Always ask the owner or handler before petting or approaching a dog

First up, nobody with any respect for dogs or owners (or any sense of self-preservation!) would touch or even get into the personal space of a strange dog without first asking their owner or handler if this is ok. This rule applies at Crufts too.

Don’t approach or touch a dog without a handler present

It can come as a surprise to some Crufts visitors to realise you can walk along the lines of caged and kennelled competing dogs quite freely, when they’re resting or being prepared for classes. The vast majority will have an owner or handler nearby and/or another owner or handler keeping half an eye on them; but these kennelled dogs may be ostensibly unattended.

Never approach them in their kennel or try to pet them unless or until you’ve found and owner and asked if this is ok.

Not all dog owners will let you pet their dog. Be gracious about this.

Not all dog owners will let you pet their dog; perhaps because the dog is stressed, tired, being prepared for a class, or for any other reason – and they don’t owe you a reason either.

Be fully prepared to be told no if you ask to pet a dog, and be gracious about this.

Never give a dog a treat or food without express permission

Another golden rule that applies in both the dog park and Crufts is to absolutely never give someone else’s dog a treat without permission, even if you’ve already asked if you can pet the dog. Also, ask before you get the treat out – and be prepared to be told no.

Many dog owners at Crufts won’t want you to give their dog treats full stop, and so you might not even want to think of offering. Don’t throw food down where a dog might snaffle it up either!

Pick your place

There are some places where it will be more appropriate to ask to pet someone’s dog than others, so try somewhere quiet where the dog is alert and engaged but relaxed. When in a large crowd, being actively prepped for a class, or waiting to be called into a ring are not good places!

Pick your moment

If a dog has several people primping and grooming it, the dog is being taken out to the toilet or is otherwise either busy, with a busy handler, or not chilled out and receptive (that applies to both dog and handler) then don’t disturb them; pick another time or dog!

Don’t overexcite a dog or mess up their grooming

Don’t try to get a dog excited or hype them up if you are permitted to pet them; and bear in mind that they might have been very carefully groomed and styled, so don’t mess their coat up!

Read the dog’s body language too

Even if a dog owner says it’s ok to pet their dog, read the dog’s body language and take your cues from them too. If they look stressed, anxious, defensive, or otherwise anything other than keen and proactive about meeting you, move on.

Always say thanks and if appropriate, good luck

If someone at the show does let you pet their dog, always thank them afterwards, and if they’re still competing or have classes yet to come, wish them luck. This is just good manners!

Dogs at Crufts are still dogs; they’re not robots and you could still get bitten

Finally, it would be easy to assume that dogs attending Crufts are perfect; after all, competitors in breed classes and dogs taken to Discover Dogs as breed ambassadors are theoretically the best examples of their type.

It would be a huge mistake to think that just because a dog is at Crufts that it wouldn’t potentially snap or bite; dogs are still dogs, Crufts is an unusual and potentially very stressful situation for dogs, and there is a first time for everything and no guarantees.

Be sensible, and if you take children with you, ensure that they are too; don’t think that dogs at Crufts are somehow different and will tolerate anything, or that if you feel as if you’re picking up defensive canine body language, you must be mistaken.

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