It is an honour to have been asked to judge the Heelwork to Music , Freestyle and International Freestyle competitions at Cruft's this will be my second time doing so .
I love Cruft's it has something magical about it — my first visit was at Earls Court in 1983 and I remember watching the obedience dogs work and being so mesmerised by the whole event. I have been to Cruft's every years since, and it still has that magic - I love seeing the best dogs in the country compete in whatever sporting activity they have excelled at.
I last judged the HTM and FS competitions in 2010 and loved the atmosphere and audience participation, it was so wonderful to have the best seat in the house.
I have also been lucky enough to have competed at Cruft’s several times and love working in the main arena there is no finer place to perform a routine with your dog.
I am really looking forward to seeing teams shine in the atmosphere of the NEC, and routines that are polished and flow with lots of musical interpretation.
I started competing in the sport at the Rugby Dog Club show in 1999 with my Collie Coran - I had moved up North and also had young children, so I took time out of obedience and was delighted to see that a HTM competition had begun - We all did dancing type heelwork at dog club Christmas parties and I love music, I also love to move with music, so I knew straight away this was the sport for me. I was hooked.
Coran and I performed to Will Smith’s ‘Men in Black’ and I still remember my whole body freezing in fear — even though I had worked Ch C obedience it was nothing in comparison to the fear of being watched by hundreds of people and trying to move to the music with a dog.
We won our first competition and Coran went on to work in advanced HTM he was such a lovely dog.
I have been lucky enough to train 5 dogs to advanced class standard in HTM. Three are currently working . I also am working in Novice freestyle with my tibetan spaniel Dargo the first tibetan to attempt the sport ,and I will shortly be competing in heelwork to music with my second tibetan Spyda who also competes in breed showing. I work my young collie Phoenix in intermediate FS and my wonderful blue merle collie Boyce (Stillmoor Show Stopper) has been competing in advanced freestyle for many years and has qualified for Cruft’s several times in both HTM and Freestyle, he is my special boy.
People ask what is it you get out of HTM ? - I try to explain that the training of HTM is such fun; to be able to play, train, and interact with your dog using music to demonstrate the team work and partnership is what makes it extra special — when you compete or give demonstrations you are showing others what can be achieved using positive motivational training and having fun too.
I love planning a routine — finding things to wear and props to interact with all add to my enjoyment of the sport.
With that in mind I want to see the sport grow and develop with emphasis on routines telling a story which encapsulates the best of the dog and the handler — the teamwork. I am sure that this years handlers will ensure their dogs are showcased to the best of their capabilities and more importantly enjoy their time in the big ring.
I am looking forward to judging the International Freestyle class too and seeing the best handlers from other countries shine in the main arena.
I wish all teams the very best of luck .
Ann DeRizzio Lives in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire - She is a part-time lecturer at Myerscough college where she specialises in canine behaviour, aggression and holistic care. She also runs dog training classes in Lytham and Blackpool.
Ann is a member of the Kennel Clubs Heelwork to Music working party and one of the five Kennel Club accredited judges trainers and assessors.