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Incredible Kratu rescue dog with Chris Miller UK dog photographer at Crufts

Make your first time at Crufts a magical experience - what can you expect?

Crufts is the world's greatest and busiest international dog show hosted over 5 halls at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, UK. For Dog Lovers, it's a dream come true to visit this prestigious annual event held in March and organised by The Kennel Club. It attracts more than 20,000 dogs competing for the world-class title of Best In Show.

Crufts is also home to more than 500 trade stands where you can shop for you and your furry friend. Whilst many dog lovers attend every year, we thought it might be useful to have a few hints, tips, and what you can expect to help your first time at Crufts be a magical one.

Like any major event, you'll get the most out of it if you have at least a rough plan and schedule. It will really help you not waste time getting distracted, which is very easy for any Dog Lover!

The Greyhound Trust Charity exhibiting at Crufts

Crufts is massive - have a rough plan

Crufts is absolutely massive. As we mentioned already, it's hosted over 5 halls at the NEC, as well as the Main Arena itself. The Crufts website details information about what’s on and where - we'd highly recommend you purchase a show guide too.

It's so hard to not get overwhelmed when you visit Crufts for the first time. There are so many trade stalls, dogs and people everywhere. The Crufts website is excellent in detailing each specific display, activity, and competition - it makes sense to invest time ahead of the event to make a note of what you want to see, the location and the specific time.

Get to Crufts as early as you can

Most first time visitors to Crufts only attend for one day. As there is so much to see and do, we'd strongly recommend arriving as early as you can. The doors generally open from 8:15 and it makes most sense to be there no later than 9:30. If you are driving, be prepared for a 10-20 minute walk from the car parks unless you take the shuttle bus.

As the crowds build through the day, working around your schedule of judging and activities, you can visit some of the trade stands ahead of the mass crowds. It's a good idea again to use Crufts' website to review the exhibitors with their stand numbers, and make a list of who you want to see in each hall. Spending your arrival time in the hall that has the most exhibitors in that you want to visit means you'll be through that one before the crowds get too big.

Medical Detection Dogs Charity exhibiting at Crufts

Be Comfortable

We walked over 15000 steps in the day - it makes sense to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. There are cloakrooms where you can leave large coats, baggage, and even shopping - these are chargeable.

We highly recommend that your main bag/rucksack is A4 in size - this way you'll have no issue taking it into the Main Arena with you as well.

We recommend wearing layers as there are sections where you will be very warm around the trade stands but you may need to add a layer in the Main Arena.

Tickets in advance

Buying your tickets for Crufts in advance saves you money, and ensures that you can also get tickets for the Obedience Ring or Best in Show events - these are normally all sold out ahead of the main event. If you are deciding last minute to visit Crufts, general entrance tickets can be purchased on the day if needed.

Lowland Rescue - Berkshire Search and Rescue Dogs exhibiting at Crufts

Unless Qualified, you will need to leave your dog at home

Only assistance dogs and dogs invited by the Kennel Club are admitted to the event - there is plenty of opportunity though to treat your dog through the many goods on sale. Many of the stalls run promotions specific to the Crufts event, and so there can be great show offers for you and your dog.

Support Dogs Charity exhibiting at Crufts

Pick your day to match your interests

Crufts splits their breed judging into seven breed groups, and the winner of each group goes forward to compete for the best in show. These are Toy, Gundogs, Utility, Hounds, Working, Pastoral, and Terriers. The timetable and schedule for these are available well ahead of the event on the Crufts website.

Most days also have displays and activities in the Main Arena including things like dog agility, flyball, freestyle, heelwork to music, and junior handling.

The weekends are very busy days. If you have the luxury to choose the Thursday or Friday over the weekend to visit, we strongly recommend you do. You are likely to get easier access to the Main Arena on Thursday or Friday too.

Can you take your own food and drink into Crufts?

There is a great selection of cafes and food eateries at Crufts. As you can bring your own drinks and snacks into Crufts, we highly advise that. It means that you can even eat a snack in the Main Arena whilst enjoying the show.

Support Dogs Charity exhibiting at Crufts

The train to Crufts may be an option

Many people drive to the NEC (postcode B40 1NT for sat nav). There are plenty of car parks but there’s a bit of a walk from the car park to the main halls (10-20 minutes) or you can take a shuttle bus. Do note that it can take a long time getting off the motorway and into a car park. The congestion entering and leaving can take quite a while.

Another option for many is the train, with Birmingham International Railway Station accessible to the NEC via a bridge on foot (or by wheelchair). With the additional cost of car parking, the train may make the most sense depending on where you are coming from.

Support Dogs Charity exhibiting at Crufts

What are the must-sees?

There's just so much to see and do at Crufts. We love spending our time talking to the amazing dog charities and the great work that they do. If there were three must sees, we'd recommend:

1. Spend an hour or two in the Main Arena seeing the displays and competition events like agility and/or flyball

2. Visit Discover Dogs where you can meet the owners and their dogs from most breeds in the Kennel Club

3. Visit the Dog Charity stands in the halls and see what a difference they are making to others

Incredible Kratu rescue dog laying down at Crufts

The Main Arena

The Main Arena is accessed from a corner in Hall One, with seating all around. There can be quite a queue during busy times, but as it is free seating, the moment you are in, the seat is yours. If you enter mid to late morning, you should be able to get 2-3 activities in before heading off to the trade stands again.

This could be a great time to sit, have your packed lunch and snacks, and enjoy the show.

Final tip, if there's an event you really want to see, try and attend the one prior too - this should help you get seated for what you really want to see then.

The Greyhound Trust Charity exhibiting at Crufts

Discover Dogs

Crufts is an amazing opportunity for you to meet many different breeds. They are split into Kennel Club categories so that they’re easier to find amongst the 200+ breeds at Crufts. The owners and breeders are proud and willing to provide advice on grooming, training and help you decide on the best breed for you. It's also a great chance to stroke a lot of dogs, but do check first with each owner.

Medical Detection Dogs Charity exhibiting at Crufts

Dog Charities

There are so many amazing dog charities in the UK, and many take the opportunity to be at Crufts. It's fantastic to speak to those directly involved and benefiting from the charities. We had the opportunity to learn so much about how the dogs are trained and are in awe of those that commit themselves to making a difference in helping dogs help others. We recommend you spend some of your day talking with the different charities - and maybe like us, buy something useful that also helps the charity!

Incredible Kratu rescue dog laying down at Crufts

Every Dog Lover should attend Crufts at least once!

We hope this article is useful for any first time visitor to Crufts. If you are thinking of going and have never been, we highly recommend it. Every Dog Lover should attend Crufts at least once - you'll love it!

Chris Miller LSWPP

MIL Pet Photography

Click photo below for the related article: "Unleash the Potential: Exploring the Boundless Benefits of Dog Agility Training for Your Canine Companion"

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