Launching PuppyCoach.com at Crufts 2017

Crufts 2017

I have been eager to get this blog out to you for the past week. I am pleased to report that Crufts was an amazing experience for me this year and I have been run off my feet ever since. Not least because it became the official launch of PuppyCoach.com.

Despite applying for a stand towards the end of 2016, I was informed at that time that my application was unsuccessful due to the repeat bookings from previous years. It became apparent that the Crufts Trade Exhibition wasn’t as easy to attend as I had thought. It transpired that you had to be placed on a waiting list and hope to be one of the lucky few selected if a cancellation occurred.

Initially defeated and thinking the world was against me for a few hours I began to put plan B into practice. I fired off an email to the kennel Club enforcing my desire to be part of the biggest dog show in the world (without sounding too desperate) and then began looking for other events. I made the mistake of not actually planning the stand ‘set up’ for any of these events, so when the email came through that I’d been selected for a stand that had become available at Crufts, just 5 weeks before the event, panic ensued! I had just a few hours to give them a decision. My book was still a couple of months from being published, I didn’t know if I would have anyone to help me and how on earth would I pull it together in the short space of time left!

A call to my good friend and camera-man/event manager Sal Ormandji of Magital...

Jo and Sal arriving at the NEC
Jo and Sal arriving at the NEC

... and a few close friends and I pushed the ‘Go’ button. We started with the advertising and my lovely car is now busy showcasing the website.

PuppyCoach.com car graphic
Hogan on the road

I’m not really sure how I got through the following weeks but somehow we did it and I arrived at Crufts with a stand to be proud of and a plan of what I wanted to achieve.

PuppyCoach.com stand at Crufts 2017
PuppyCoach.com stand at Crufts 2017

Despite running two successful businesses, I am not too proud to say that I hate sales, and feel uncomfortable talking about money. Having a product that I’m proud of, have proved works, is totally different to anything else on the market, fairly priced and is designed to support others in the industry was still not enough to get me over this hurdle. I knew I needed to focus on my primary motivation just to raise the brand awareness.

I am driven to make a difference, share my knowledge and I have put my personal life, heart and soul into the development of Puppy Coach. There I was in the spotlight exposing it to some of the most influential dog professionals in the world, along with my target audience of knowledgeable dog people and dog owners. Having spent the entire journey to Crufts in the car in tears, as a result of feeling totally overwhelmed and touched at the love, support and encouragement I received from so many friends and colleagues, I knew my arrival at the N.E.C required me to ‘man-up’ and be proud of what I’d achieved.

I wasn’t there to sell the product, the internet connection was too slow, I wanted people to take their time to look over the website and view the free films, and be comfortable with the quality of the product.

Puppy Coach - Set them up to succeed
The NEW Puppy Coach book

An exhibition stand was not the place for this. Instead I wanted to highlight the ethos of Puppy Coach, engage with fellow trainers, behaviourists and other dog professionals. Working alone has never been the plan, I have a desire to grow Puppy Coach and make it the website people can trust when they want to learn about dogs, choose recommended products and feel supported on their journey as a dog owner. This will become a community, with the films and book providing the basis for education.

This motivation gave me the confidence to share my passion, welcome other professionals and encourage new dog owners to educate themselves about canine needs, values and communication. Having the films playing on the stand was all the sales pitch I needed for the product itself.

PuppyCoach.com screen

I was blown away by the interest Puppy Coach received, any concerns that people wouldn’t visit my stand paled into insignificance when I was 3 people deep and answering questions, one after another. Worries over whether the online aspect would put people off were just wasted energy. People loved it. To be able to sit quietly in the comfort of their own home, view the films at their own pace and know support is just an email or phone-call away was a huge appeal.

I was keen to stress that Puppy Coach is education based, it is designed to build knowledge and understanding in an owner and provide guidance and effective techniques to integrate a puppy. It is not a replacement for quality time spent ‘training’ the puppy and the enjoyment owners get from this in a class environment. As a result, I had trainer after trainer visit the stand and was over-joyed that the feedback was all positive.

Jo with Ross & Vicky
Jo with Ross & Vicky

Day one seemed to pass in a blur as I found my feet with the daily competition I was running, networking with other businesses and listening to the feedback and opinions people gave. Towards the end of the day I realised I had barely left the stand and hadn’t really paid any attention to the dogs wandering around. I turned my attention to this and observed the dogs passing by for the rest of the day, making a mental note to take some pictures on each day and observe the behaviour communication as they walked around the trade stands.

Here are a few.

Standard Poodle
Standard Poodle

On reflection it is a very surreal situation for me to find myself in. Working in the dog industry and launching a brand new online business, where exposure and brand awareness is everything, it made sense for me to make attending Crufts my goal. To the point that I almost couldn’t believe I was attending. I was proud and excited to be present in a Trade Stand capacity. It really is quite a big deal in the dog world.

That said, the show world is not one I am a huge fan of for a variety of reasons. I guess my Vet Nursing background means I have been privy to some of the most horrendous breed related medical conditions, resulting from whatever the current popular breed is or desire for a breed to look like. Animal suffering is measured by a variety of factors and genetic pre-disposition has to be one of the primary causes. Breathing difficulties in our brachiocephalic (short-nosed) breeds, joint problems in many breeds (too many to mention), and skin/immune system and allergic concerns in others. While the human may be responsible for the rise in some of these conditions, there are just as many individuals striving to address the problems.

I can honestly say that I was encouraged to speak to so many responsible dog breeders, dedicated not just to improving the health and behaviour aspect of their breed but to ensure all of their puppies have the very best start.

From a behaviour perspective, I guess I would consider Crufts to be a little bit similar to the child pageants that occur. Some children may well enjoy them but I guess there will also be an element who won’t and even worse those who develop stress related behaviours with long term effects as a result. It’s no different for the dog. Accept of course they can’t tell you how they feel in the way an average owner would recognise!

I watched dog after dog get puffed and fluffed, sit on benches and on crates.

White Samoyed
White Samoyed
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Many of the big breeds were panting and some were clearly displaying stress signals as they waited sometimes for hours for their class. This little chap had been terrified by the sound of a noisy dog toy. He found refuge on my stand and wasn’t going anywhere!

The dogs have to toilet in specified sawdust areas, which I can only imagine is stress in itself, especially for young dogs or those who are insecure or nervous. Owning an anxious dog who walks around in circles for what seems like a lifetime before he will pee, I can appreciate how distressing he would find this environment.

Working on the stand
Working on the stand

I couldn’t help but spare a thought for these real stars of the show and question how I could justify my time here when it seemed to point towards everything I am against with regards animal care. The dog should be a healthy addition to the lives of the human and is not a focus for our entertainment, were these dogs really happy spending their time in this environment, rather than chasing a squirrel or ball and exhibiting normal canine behaviour patterns?

The show
The show

We should consider that the majority of these trusting animals have been bred for this purpose, don’t know any different and may be highly rewarded by their owners in other ways? Some of the dogs seemed to enjoy their moment of fame. I have my realistic view point but would never pretend to be an expert in the show world, my comments relate to what I observed and saw from the dogs on the day.

I can only assume and hope their lives away from the show ring are filled with freedom and fun, boundaries and guidance.

My time at Crufts was amazing, enlightening and fun. The industry I am in can be fraught with conflict, individuals are highly precious about their knowledge and methods. At times I have been witness to some serious defensive and derogatory behaviour between others in person and via social media.

It was nice to feel support from other colleagues and for this period alone I wasn’t exposed to any negativity, in fact it was the complete opposite and I am humbled by some of the comments I received.

I will continue to strive to unite dog industry professionals and rise above negativity and conflict that is so rife in the industry. We all have the same passion and motivation, we may just take slightly different paths to reach a result and we all have experiences that give us something valuable to share. If Puppy Coach can become a platform to encourage this process, I shall die a happy woman!

In the mean time I will continue on my path to make a difference to the lives of domestic dogs. To impact the education of humans in the behaviour and communication of man’s best friend. To encourage observation of the dog’s perspective of situations and not one led by human experience or emotion.

I am working hard to try and get Puppy Coach back to Crufts again next year. I feel this may be an addictive event!

The first Puppy Coach Package ‘Omega’ is now live and selling. It contains all 30 films, over 6 hours of footage in total. The feedback has been really positive from those who have already started viewing.

Finally, I just want to extend the biggest and heartfelt thank you to the following people. Without you guys Puppy Coach and I would never have made it to Crufts, let alone turned it into the fantastic, successful experience it was, from the bottom of my wellies.

  • James Croft
  • Jenny Richardson
  • Jan Wimpenny
  • Sal Ormandji
  • Derrie Cattell
  • Michelle Dupoy
  • Martin Godsave
  • Vicky Lawes
  • Leanne Hill
  • Pam Groom

Thank you and HUGE hugs - Jo XX

Published: 24.03.2017