Over the next few weeks, I hope to share a bit about this once in a lifetime experience with a very special dog. Be warned, at times there may be coarse language and there will certainly be a fair number of shenanigans. There will also be a lot of photos and plenty of humor, plus what I hope may be some useful information for others hoping to take this trip someday. But most of all, this will be about a very cool dog and the adventures he’s taking us on. So, let’s start at the very beginning, because as “The Sound of Music” has taught is, it’s a very good place to start.
What is Crufts?
Crufts is an annual international dog show in the United Kingdom, widely regarded as the world's largest and most prestigious canine event, featuring various competitions, and showcasing diverse dog breeds and activities. From Conformation to Flyball, Agility to Freestyle, The Kennel Club expects 18,000 dogs from around the world to participate. There are incredible demonstrations throughout the week, 500 vendors (FIVE HUNDRED!), meet the breed booths and so much more. Many of these activities can even be watched online via the Crufts YouTube channel. For additional information, visit https://crufts.org.uk/.
Competing at Crufts
In order for a dog from the US to compete at Crufts, dogs must earn or win an invite and meet certain requirements. At the 2023 Parson Russell Terrier Association of America National Specialty show, Effin came from the Working Dog, for dogs with an AKC earthdog title, to win an Award of Merit and one of the coveted invites to Crufts. The Award of Merit itself was an exceptional win. Few dogs are eligible to compete in the working dog class, which requires an AKC Earthdog title. As the breeder, owner, and handler of working terriers it is a win that I will carry with me for a lifetime. I still have moments where I check to make sure this is real and even happened. Effin was entirely unphased by the whole thing. For him, conformation shows are one of the many activities we enjoy together.
Traveling From the US to Crufts (and back again)
Getting from Reno, NV to Birmingham, UK is a lot more exciting and challenging than it sounds. Due to regulations and limitations, flying dogs directly into the UK isn't feasible. Instead, we'll be flying into Paris, hopping in a special pet taxi van that will then drive onto a train (you read that correctly), go through two international checkpoints where Effin’s microchip gets scanned and his passport reviewed even more than mine, go through the Chunnel and into London to catch another train (without the pet taxi) to Birmingham. When we’re all done, we do almost the exact same thing in reverse.
How does Effin travel?
Fortunately, Effin is a very good traveler, and he has a lot of experience, both riding in a travel bag and a crate. There are times he won’t have to travel in a crate or bag but will need to wear a muzzle. Fortunately, he’s totally comfortable in a muzzle from previous excursions. A lot of this will be just another day for him – just longer, weirder and with a lot of microchip scanning.
From Reno to LAX, he’ll be traveling in a bag under the seat. This is my preferred way of flying with dogs and we’re flying Southwest, which doesn’t take dogs as checked baggage. Flying internationally, he’ll fly in his crate in the hold. This always stressed me out to no end, not only because he’ll be away from me but also because of the joys of crating regulations.
Not just any crate will do. There are a variety of requirements when flying a dog in the hold and they can not only vary by airline and aircraft but also by individual airline employee tasked with checking for safety. The general guideline is that dogs must be able to stand up and turn around easily without touching the top of the crate. This last part is always a challenge and when flying internationally, the clearance can be 2 – 3” above the dog’s head. The crate also needs side rails or similar so that when placed side by side or up against a surface, there is plenty of airflow. There are even guidelines for door materials and spacing of holes or bars to prevent paws and noses from poking out.
It was crucial to choose a crate for Effin that is not only appropriately sized to prevent bouncing during transportation and met airline requirements but also practical for navigating various scenarios such as train travel, stairs, and adherence to the specific size requirements at benched shows like Crufts. We have what feels like a thousand crates, many of which are IATA compliant but even then, I felt a lot like Goldilocks trying to find the right one that met ALL the requirements for this trip.
Trust me, I once had to drive a friend’s dog to Salt Lake City to ship him via cargo because an airline attendant in Reno refused to let him fly out in his bag even though he had flown in on the same plane in the same bag (and around most of the country) without issue. And have you ever had to find a larger IATA crate at 7 am in San Franciso because one cargo attendant said the crate was 1/8” too short? The struggle is REAL.
In this case, Effin will be flying in a heavy-duty collapsible metal crate which has a removable solid crate dolly (wheels are important to me!) and additional screws to keep it IATA compliant for cargo. This crate has the same length and width of his normal travel crate and is made of the same material but the primary difference is that this one is 3” taller so there will hopefully be no question that his head is not touching the top. The crate is appropriately terrier sized and shouldn’t have an issue on the bench either. Although it is heavy, it has wheels. I’m no stranger to lifting and hauling. Being able to break it down means it’s more like carrying a heavy suitcase. Bonus, I have a piece of yoga mat in my suitcase I can toss on top to create a make a grooming platform.
Now, what kind of bag do we fly with? Each airline has slightly different requirements for a travel bag but fortunately, our large Sturdibag hasn’t been an issue on most of them, including the airline he’ll use it on. Most importantly, the bag is comfortable for me to carry onto trains and such. Think of it as Effin’s everyday trip to adventure and my opportunity to not pack his crate around.
And now you know more than you probably wanted to know about how we're getting Effin to Crufts...or do you?
What would you like to hear about next? Text us at 775-298-1552 with your ideas and you might just see them here!