By Hartpury English A-level student Charlotte Smith
Hartpury student Zoe Maslanka (pictured far left) and clever collie Spyro proved their pedigree when they got the chance to compete at the world’s biggest dog show.
Experienced handler Zoe, 18, qualified through the preliminaries to compete at Crufts – mixing it with the best from all around the UK. The prestigious event draws audiences from all over the world and up to 160,000 spectators flock to the NEC in Birmingham annually to take a look at the talent of both the dogs and the dedicated owners like Zoe.
Zoe, who is studying for a Level 3 Extended BTEC Diploma in Animal Managerment at Hartpury, has been appearing at Crufts with a variety of canine companions since 2009. This year, she competed with her trainer’s male Border Collie, Spyro.
She only started out as a dog handler in 2008 and competed at Crufts after only one year of basic training with a dog called Oz, as her brother’s friend needed an extra team member. In 2013, she competed with her own four-year-old Border Collie, Merlin.
“Since getting that unexpected initial opportunity, I haven’t looked back,” said Zoe. “I fell in love with the sport and I now train twice a week.
“I normally specialise in the more advanced agility events with Merlin. Although I have a busy schedule with college work, I have to find the time to continue perfecting our technique. I even use the garden as a training ground at times!”
As part of the Young Kennel Club, Zoe is able to compete against other handlers of her own age. At Crufts, she competed in the category for 10 to 18-year-olds, who can perform in any of the seven main disciplines: Agility, Obedience, Showing, Handling, Heelwork to Music, Flyball, and Grooming.
Handlers and dogs must qualify in their discipline in the year before the competition. This year, Zoe and Spyro entered into the Flyball and finished in fifth place, receiving a rosette for their commendable performance.
The talented duo were battling against the top nine teams out of thousands of entries from around the country.
Zoe added: “I enjoy the Flyball competition most of all as it takes into account the control an owner has over their dog, exerting authority and showing obedience to the highest extent.
“It is high pressure in the arena but it’s so rewarding, especially knowing how well it can sustain a dog’s physical health; and it’s great as owner and dog can train together!”
Hartpury students from the Level 3 Extended BTEC Diploma in Animal Management also headed to Crufts to see the working and pastoral groups. These students are undertaking a module in working dogs and they were able to see all of the breeds used over the world.
The students were able to talk to trainers and breeders about the dogs and further their knowledge within the industry.
For more information on our full range of Further and Higher Education Animal Management courses, go to www.hartpury.ac.uk