The Southern Golden Retriever Display Team, consisting of sixteen Golden Retrievers and their handlers, has been wowing audiences at Crufts since 2004 with their impressive obedience routines to music.
We spoke to Karen Menter, team manager, to learn more.Find out when their display is on!
The Golden Retriever Display team is always a very popular feature at Crufts, can you let us know how it all began?
The original eight members of the Display Team had enjoyed their Kennel Club Good Citizen training so much that after their dogs had achieved the Gold Award they wanted to carry on doing something together. We began to do simple obedience routines to music, then performed at a small local fete which led to requests from other fetes. The Team grew to twelve, finally to sixteen and the routines became more and more complicated over the years.
How long have you been doing it?
The Team came into being in 2000. We first performed at Discover Dogs in 2003 and at Crufts in 2004. We have performed at both events ever since.
How many dogs do you have in your team this year?
We have sixteen dogs performing at any one time.
How do you find new members?
They generally come from the Southern Golden Retriever Society’s training classes which are held at Wrotham in Kent. The dogs must achieve their KCGC Gold Award and their handlers have to be able to walk in time to music. We also have rescue dogs in the Team.
How often do you train together?
For display training and learning new routines, we train once a week outside on a hard court in Kent in all weathers; luckily, golden retrievers and their owners are hardy. In addition, obedience classes are available weekly in a nice warm hall!
Do any of you spend time together when you aren’t training?
We have all made great friends within the Team and it is a wonderful social group. There are many lunches, dinners and parties. Once a year we have one big party for the whole Team. Groups of Team members often walk their dogs together and in the summer have trips to the seaside. The Team also offer fantastic support for members who have trauma in their lives such as their own or family illness.
Who is your naughtiest team member?
One dog can smell food a mile off; her best effort was quickly removing an entire cake from a stall at a fete during a warm up! Luckily the stall-owner (who was recompensed) thought it was hilarious.
Has anything ever gone wrong?
Yes! Once in the Main Arena, we had just started the routine when one dog saw his mum in the wings and ran gaily out of the ring. Our reserve came in swiftly and all was well. We always have reserves standing by during a performance.
A couple of years ago one dog thought the end of part one was the end of the routine and roared off to where he expected to find his handler. He turned around and rushed back across the arena, through all the dogs who remained steadfastly in place, and found her. A Team member’s friend, travelling home by train that evening, heard someone say “That Golden Retriever Display Team was fantastic, and that dog which ran backwards and forwards across the arena was amazing. How did they train it to do that?”!
We have also had dogs who seemed to be affected by static from the carpet in the Main Arena and, on the spot, they would do a roly-poly with four legs waving in the air. The audience loved it - because it happened a few times they thought it was part of the routine!
Are any of the dogs related?
Yes quite a few. Many of us have two dogs, one working and one in training.
Do you ever get fan mail?
We get great comments online. Some people who come to see us ‘backstage’ tell us they come to Crufts specifically to see the Team perform. One dog, Angus (now retired), used to have fans who came especially to see him with gifts! I think the public love seeing family pets, wagging their tails and having a good time with their owners. The dogs think they belong to a doggy youth club!Watch the team in action!