Northern Ireland judge Michael McCartney returns to Crufts to help spot the best dog in the world

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A Co Down man said he was “delighted” to be back to judge the world’s best dogs at Crufts for the first time in two years.

ichael McCartney, from Lisburn, is the manager of the Northern Ireland team which is currently in Birmingham competing in the prestigious dog show. He also judges in the obedience and agility categories.

Michael (66) is joined by his wife Kate, also a judge, and their son Crawford (24) who is on the show with his border collie Denny.

The popular dog show was halted for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, but just yesterday the National Exhibition Center saw tens of thousands of dogs and their handlers arrive to show off their prized pooches.

Owners and pets will see dogs from around the world compete in agility and obedience competitions over the next three days, as well as show dogs organized by breed, although only one can to be named best dog on Sunday in the “Best in Show”. Category.

The Northern Ireland team consists of three border collies, three golden retrievers, a black Labrador and a sheltie cross, all hoping for a rosette.

“We have a very strong team this year, with very good managers,” he said.

“What makes a winner in the end is pairing the right dog with the right person – if the partnership isn’t right, you won’t be a winner.

“Normally the weak link is the human when there is such a mismatch,” he added.

“The dog is always the strongest and always wants to do its best, but being paired up with the wrong master is usually what lets it down.”

As a show of support for the home side, the Irish Football Association (IFA) sponsored all of the competition’s leashes and collars, while providing pampered pooches with their own Northern Ireland shirts through the UrbanPup brand.

Michael and his wife Kate are both obedience and agility judges, with Kate being named one of only two accredited obedience stewards for the show this year.

He said it’s “a huge honor for someone this side of the water.”

“Northern Ireland only have one vote in the competition, compared to Wales and Scotland who have two, and the Midlands alone have four votes, so you need to be aware for having a say and knowing what you’re doing, so it’s a benefit to have Kate and I there,” he said.

Due to their unique combined skills, the husband and wife duo are normally sent to dog shows all over the world to judge.

“Not many people can do both and so we would normally be sent to shows in the Netherlands, all over Europe, Singapore and even Abu Dhabi,” he said.

Michael pointed out that judging is “a passion” for them.

“We do it out of love and we’ve been doing it for about 37 years now, but we’ve been involved in dog training for much longer,” he said.

The McCartney family have run Glen Craig Canine Training for 35 years from their home in Lisburn, but Michael says his love for dog training began at an early age when he joined the Belfast Dog Training Club in 1969 at the 13 years old. .

“The club was where the peace line is now, between Shankill and Falls Road in west Belfast. But when the unrest broke out, they had to shut it down,” he said.

“I remember seeing the poster on the wall advertising one of their meetings and I brought my first dog – a Labrador collie cross called Cap – and that was me addicted to dog training, ever since that I was a little boy.”

Michael’s son, Crawford, followed in his father’s footsteps.

He first got involved with the fledgling Kennel Club at the age of seven and has been competing ever since.

Crawford has represented Ireland at the European and World Agility Championships in previous years as well as the next competition in 2022.

Michael said it’s important to start training a dog as a puppy.

“From eight to 25 weeks, they are like a sponge and will just absorb all this information,” he said. “Dogs just want to please you at the end of the day, and that’s what we have to remember in this competition, as long as they get the rewards and the positive reinforcement that they’re doing a good job, they’ll give you back. proud, and we hope that will be the case this year.

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