The Young Kennel Club (YKC) has seen a number of major successes this year, with over twenty major wins for its young members including Reserve Best in Show at the world's greatest dog show, Crufts.
The biggest success was 19 year-old YKC member Charley Donaldson and her Whippet, Hazel, who won Best in Group in the Hound Group shortly before returning to the Genting Arena at the NEC in Birmingham to take the title of Reserve Best in Show in the final of the 125thanniversary of Crufts on Sunday 13th March. Charley and Hazel collected her award and rosette in front of a large audience at the NEC and to millions watching live on Channel 4.
Charley, who has been a YKC member since 2005, has trained with the YKC for a number of years, including helping with training weekends, before claiming one of the most sought after prizes at the show.
Charley said: "I can't believe it - I am over the moon. I never expected this to happen. Hazel is one in a million and I can't thank enough anyone who has supported us - it really means everything to me and my family.
"The YKC gave me the confidence to go out there with my dog and try my best. If it wasn't for them making showing so interesting, I would never have achieved what I have so I can't thank them enough!"
It was not just Charley who wowed the crowds at Crufts. 13 year-old Alicia Hancock from Weston-Super-Mare took first prize in the medium category of the Kennel Club Novice Cup Agility finals. Despite being up against agility competitors of all ages, Alicia and her crossbreed Barney were victorious during the exciting final.
Alicia, who has been a YKC member since 2012, said of her fantastic win: "It was an amazing experience to qualify for Crufts and I am very happy that Barney and I managed to win the Novice Cup. I am so proud of him - although he was tired he kept going and was the only medium dog to get a double clear."
Previous YKC members have also found success at Crufts this year. Adam Rose, who was a YKC member for 14 years, won Best of Breed with his German Shorthaired Pointer, Morgan. Adam, aged 30, is now secretary of the Central and Southern GSP Society and puts his position within the society down to the skills he learnt whilst he was a YKC member.
His highlights whilst being a part of the YKC include winning the Shaun McAlpine Junior of the Year award (now called 'Outstanding Young Person'), Young Handler of the Year and winning the Gundog Stakes, all in 2001. As well as this, he also regularly helped with the YKC summer camp and training weekends.
Celebrating his third Best of Breed win this year, Adam said of the YKC: "It's an amazing organisation which really enhanced my knowledge and interest in dogs. As well as competing and meeting like-minded people, it really gave me a chance to develop my skills. This gives heaps of confidence and a real feel you can give something back to your hobby.
"I can't thank the YKC, and the late Meriel Hathaway who represented the Midlands region, enough for their support and opportunities over the years."
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: "Many congratulations to every Young Kennel Club member who took part in competitions at Crufts - we're so proud to have so many talented young people involved in the dog world. The YKC is such a fantastic start to any dog trainer or dog show handler's career and we hope that this year's excellent achievements inspire other young dog lovers to sign up."
YKC-specific competitions at Crufts saw a number of inspiring young people and their dogs win over a number of competitions including; Handler and Groomer of the Year, Agility Dog of the Year, obedience, flyball and many others.
YKC membership is for anyone aged 6-24 years (with or without a dog, pedigree or crossbreed). It provides and promotes activities that enable members to train, compete and socialise with like-minded youngsters within agility and jumping, obedience, flyball, grooming, heelwork to music, junior handling, pre-beginner and breed showing stakes. For more information on training days available, please visit the YKC website below.
The YKC also offers award based competitions as an alternative to competing in shows. Artist of the Year is a great way to get creative, the Cinnamon Trust Young Volunteer celebrates those who give their time selflessly to others and the Outstanding Young Person award recognises the achievements of inspiring and innovative young people who make a difference to dogs. More information on these awards can be found at www.ykc.org.uk.
Not only that, YKC members can also apply to participate in the Outward Bound Youth Development Course, which aims to give young people important skills for the future including teamwork, confidence, sportsmanship, communication, problem solving, and leadership and project management. The YKC also offers multiple training weekends across agility, heelwork to music and handling all over the UK.
For the first time ever, the YKC will be taking dogs and handlers to the European Open Junior Agility Championships 2016, which will take place on 9th and 10thJuly 2016 in Slovakia. Although the team for this year has been chosen, members can apply to be in Team GB next year by taking part in selection days in order to impress the coaching team.