Crufts 2013: Snoods, boots and apps for pampered pooches
There's no limit to the luxuries you can bestow on your VIP dog. Mark Andrews visited Crufts to investigate.
What do you give the dog who has everything? Why, a squeaky toy app for your pooch's smartphone of course.
All that is assuming he can get a signal while pounding the giant treadmill, trying to keep in shape after indulging in the luxury doggie ice cream, venison and pop corn ranges.
Even in the midst of an economic slump, there is never a shortage of people wanting to pamper their pets, as the sheer range of luxury products at Crufts, the world's largest dog show amply demonstrates.
Model Jodie Kidd was even keen to get into the act, making a star appearance to introduce her Jack Russell Doobbie to the new range of dog entertainment apps on the latest Samsung smartphone.
While she was busy endorsing products inside, plenty other owners were outside going to great lengths to ensure their animals did not have to endure the rain.
One Afghan hound arrived wearing a fleece blanket, snood, dog jacket and fur-lined boots, while another appeared to be wearing specially-made wellies and raincoat.
And there were no shortage of people willing to splash out and ensure their dogs have the best of everything.
"Even when times are hard, like they have over the last few years, there are still a lot of people who love their dogs," said Paul Thomas, who launched his new range of bespoke dog products at the opening of the show at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.
Buying one of his Kip range of dog beds is akin to going to the tailor for a new suit. Paul, who has been in the luxury dog business for 20 years, hands customers a book of fabric swatches, inviting them to choose their favourite fabric. Then he will ask them to consider what type of filling they want in the mattress, with memory foam being the material of choice for many discerning pooch owners.
"There are more than 2,500 combinations of fabric, filling and shape," said Paul, adding that only upholstery-grade materials are used in the products. And the cost of such canine indulgence? Between £79 and £150, depending on size, shape and material.
Then of course, you might want to invest in some bedclothes. Charley Chau, run by sisters Christine and Jenny Chau, offers a range of delightful faux fur blankets, ranging from £55 to £120 depending on size.
And it is only natural that your pet will want to bed down in a bit of comfort after a workout on the Fit Fur Life treadmill, which has specially been designed with dogs in mind.
The Fit Fur Life is the brainchild of Sammy French, who secured a £100,000 investment from James Caan when she appeared on the television programme Dragon's Den.
Sammy describes it as the Rolls-Royce of treadmills, and it is a serious investment, with the Professional model on sale for £1,845, and the Ultimate - Fit Fur Life's flagship model - costing a cool £5,440.
Kate Muncaster, who runs a pet supplies business in Bromyard, Herefordshire, was putting her Siberian huskies Merlin and Zeus through their paces on the Ultimate.
"They are racing dogs, they run together, and I used the treadmill to prepare them for the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain rally, where they came second.
Another dog with plenty of pedigree was Mango. a basset fauve de Bretagne who took second prize in his class, and he looked very impressed by the hair drying equipment on sale at the Simpsons grooming equipment store. The Allbrook blaster, a snip at £440, is the tool of choice for expert groomers Suzanne Morris and Rosie Morton.
"It's got the right amount of power, and it just clears all the dirt out of their coats," says Rosie.
If you're really serious about keeping your dog in the best possible condition, you might want to look at some of the products at Mutneys, based in Whitchurch, Shropshire.
The electric height adjustable dog bath, priced at £935, allows you to wash your dog in total comfort, before drying him off in a drying cabinet costing between £1,700 and £1,900. Most of these goods, of course, are aimed at the professional groomer, but Mutneys managing director Jamie Roberts says some owners do invest in such equipment to save the need for visits to the salon.
And you do not need to be wealthy to give your dog that Crufts feeling. A popular line are Mutney's own brand dog shampoos and fragrances, designed to replicate the smells of Hugo Boss or Calvin Klein CK One, although sadly there is not a Brut 33 range yet. These products start at just £5.99 for a small bottle.
If the Crufts experience gives your dog a taste for the high life, he will probably want to tuck into one of the gourmet dog treats from Billy & Margot. Founder Marie Sawle began by making a healthy ice cream for her labrador Billy after hearing how normal ice cream could harm the canine digestive system, and she decided to set up in business after her friends started asking her to share it with them. An appearance on Dragon's Den secured a £60,000 investment from Deborah Meaden, and she has added venison and popcorn to her range.
"Human popcorn is full of sugar and salt, and that is no good for the dogs, so this is flavoured with seaweed, which is much healthier," she says.
While summer still seems a long way off, Lisa Balmer says the intense heat can make it a miserable time for many dogs. To counter the problem, she has devised the Easidri cooling coats, which once soaked in water can keep dogs body temperatures down for up to two hours.
As for the phone apps, you can programme your phone to communicate with your dog through a range of barking noises, imitate a squeaky dog toy, or even provide an electronic dog whistle to help with training.
"You don't always remember to take a whistle with you when you go walking, but you never forget your phone," says Samsung brand ambassador Sam Chant.
And the price? Free. Providing, of course, you spend £400 to £500 on a Galaxy II smartphone.
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