Search is on for UK's hero dogs for national award

The Kennel Club is looking for four-legged heroes to celebrate at the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts

The nationwide search begins today (8 September 2022) to find the UK’s top dog who will be crowned the 2023 winner of The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award, which celebrates extraordinary unsung canine heroes and the remarkable ways that dogs transform our lives.

At Crufts 2022, Bob and a team of life-saving Newfoundlands, with their owner, Pete Lewin, were announced as the winners of The Kennel Club’s prestigious award, presented by the competition’s ambassador, actress Sally Phillips – who credits her own dogs for changing her family’s life. Crowned as the UK’s top hero dogs, Pete’s Newfoundlands provide support for staff from front-line emergency services and military veterans, and those struggling with their mental health, through open-water swimming.

Pete has worked with water dogs as a hobby for around 25 years and both his own experiences and feedback from others about the positive effects of swimming in open water with Newfoundlands, who are natural water rescue dogs, made him realise the potential for a unique experience to support people with mental health needs.

Speaking about Bob and the team’s recognition, Pete said: “I never expected all of this, I'm just a paramedic who helps people by swimming with my dogs. The work we do is for the emergency services staff, veterans, disabled children with different needs. Getting this award is just amazing - not just for me but the whole team - it's quite unique what these Newfoundlands do.”

The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation, is now searching for more inspirational stories and is calling for the public to nominate their unsung canine heroes who deserve to be recognised for what they do for The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award 2023.

The winner of the award, which is supported by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, will be revealed at Crufts 2023 on Sunday 12 March, and will be awarded £5,000 for a dog charity of their choice. Runners up will receive £1,000 for their chosen dog charity.

Nominations for four-legged heroes can be made within the following categories:
  • Extraordinary life of a working dog – For those who have shown extraordinary qualities working in the army, police force, RAF, airport, search and rescue etc.
  • Hero support dog – Celebrating all support and assistance dogs, from medical detection dogs or hearing dogs, to therapy dogs or pets who provide emotional support
  • Best friends – Celebrating a canine companion who has seen its owner through the hardest times, as well as the happiest
  • Child’s champion – Recognising a dog that has supported and had a positive impact on a child's life (16 years and under)
  • Rescue dog hero – for a rescue dog who has overcome adversity and gone on to irrevocably improve the life of their owner/s.
The nominations are open until 2 October 2022 and five finalists will be chosen to go forward to the final at Crufts 2023, where the overall winner, selected by public vote, will be announced before the grand finale of the Crufts Best in Show award on 12 March.

Vanessa McAlpine, Crufts Show Manager commented: “We are very much looking forward to holding The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award competition at Crufts in 2023. Every day there are brave dogs out there protecting the public, giving confidence and independence to those with disabilities – both mental and physical – and showing remarkable loyalty as our companions, and this award showcases all that our four-legged heroes do for us and in society.

“We want to hear from anybody who has a heart-warming tale about how their dog has changed their life, how a canine companion has made a difference for a friend or family member, or about those heroic dogs who work to keep us safe. The winner will take centre stage at Crufts 2023, an event which is dedicated to celebrating the diverse role that dogs play in society and all the ways that they enrich our lives.

“We encourage anybody who knows of a four-legged hero to put them forward for recognition in this competition and showcase all the reasons why dogs are known as ‘man’s best friend’.”

Nominations can be made by visiting The Crufts website. Finalists will be announced next year, ahead of the winner being crowned Crufts 2023, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from 9 - 12 March 2023.