The winners of the annual Good Citizen Dog Scheme (GCDS) awards were announced at the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, on Sunday 8th March.
The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme is the largest dog training programme in the United Kingdom, with over 680,000 dogs and their owners graduating through the scheme’s Bronze award. The GCDS awards were created in recognition of the hard work, efforts and contribution made by dedicated canine clubs and enthusiasts.
Twelve individuals, dogs, clubs and organisations were vying for the top prize across four categories: Best Kennel Club GCDS Listed Status Dog Training Club Award, Best Kennel Club Registered Club Award, Royal Canin Dedicated Person Award and Royal Canin Most Inspiring Dog Award. The nominees were all put forward to a public vote, with the winners announced at the GCDS awards ceremony, which took place at Crufts.
The winners for each award were:
Royal Canin Dedicated Person Award – Gwynneth Williams from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Gwynneth’s 48-year service to the Danesford Obedience Dog Training Club in Congleton, Cheshire, saw her pick up the Royal Canin Dedicated Person Award. She has been based with the club for nearly half a century, after starting as one of the founding members. Teaching the Bronze and Pre Beginner classes, through the GCDS, Gwynneth and her team have managed to get many dogs through to the semi-finals and the finals of GCDS Pre Beginner Stakes.
Members of the club had travelled to Birmingham to watch her pick up the award and afterwards surprised her with a special collage showing photographs of her with her first dog, a collie, and training dogs over the years.
Speaking about winning her award, Gwyneth said: “I still do nine hours a week dog training at the club and what drives me is seeing the relationships people get to have with their dogs and because it’s still enjoyable.”
Best Kennel Club GCDS Listed Status Dog Training Club Award – Best Paw Forward, based in Hayes, Middlesex
A chance meeting at the vets between Lyn Bowers and Lyn Church led to the pair setting up dog training club Best Paw Forward four years ago, and they haven’t looked back since.
The two Lyns work together to offer a motivational approach to training, for dogs and puppies of all breeds and ages, with both group classes and one-to-one training. The club offers all levels of the GCDS, as well as agility, heelwork to music, ringcraft, rally, hoopers and scentwork. The club achieved a runners up finish in 2019 at the GCDS awards, but returned this year to claim the top spot.
Speaking about their win, Lyn Church said: “It’s a wonderful recognition of the fact that we started the club from nothing and have grown to the point where we have now had more than 1,000 dogs go through training at the club.
“I hesitate to even use the word club because we are a family really. We train together, we socialise together, and we all love our dogs. This is just amazing.”
Lyn Bowers continued: “I am absolutely elated. I have been training dogs for 30 years and it is lovely to have this kind of recognition. Our lovely club members organised a party for us at Crufts and we will have a club meal soon.”
Best Kennel Club Registered Club Award – Wakefield Dog Training Club
Wakefield Dog Training Club was set up 62 years ago to make dog training affordable to all members of the public. The club has more than 21 trainers who work there as unpaid volunteers, running at least one class a week each for the 300+ membership.
As well as promoting the GCDS, consisting of puppy courses, Bronze, Silver and Gold, the club also holds junior handler classes and platinum classes for those handlers and dogs who want to go a little further.
The club has also been trying to raise funds for a new building. The projected cost is £130,000 and over the last 15 years the club has raised more than £100,000.
Speaking about the award, Catherine Chadwick, chair of the club said, “It isn’t something you expect to win, because there are so many dedicated clubs, so we are especially pleased.
“Now we are hoping the publicity from it might get us the final push to raise the money to preserve the club and what it does for many years to come.”
Royal Canin Most Inspiring Dog Award - Rupert, a Working Cocker Spaniel, owned by Antonia Mellor, from Brackley, Northamptonshire
Antonia Mellor and her seven-year-old Working Cocker Spaniel, Rupert, were presented with the Royal Canin Most Inspiring Dog Award.
Rupert went blind suddenly last year and was initially too afraid to leave the family home. Antonia decided to take him along to training classes alongside one of her other dogs, where he started with some basic Bronze exercises. His confidence grew and he has since achieved both Bronze and Silver GCDS awards, now working towards Gold.
Speaking about the award, Antonia said: “I know he is amazing, but to have other people recognise him in this way is just wonderful.
“I have had him as a puppy and it was an enormous shock to everyone when he went blind. Now when I tell people they say you wouldn’t know it. He is such a courageous dog.”
Vanessa McAlpine, Crufts Show Manager, commented: “Congratulations to all of this year’s winners of the Good Citizen Dog Scheme awards. We’re so proud of all the work that both our clubs and organisations carry out, as well as the remarkable results that are achieved as a result from the dogs and handlers that attend.
“It’s great to see that GCDS clubs and enthusiasts are getting the recognition they deserve and we are very thankful for the valuable work our clubs, organisations, trainers and volunteers do.”