Monday, 8 May 2017

A Visit to The National Pet Show at the ExCel

Yesterday we took a trip to see the National Pet Show at the ExCel. Despite living within walking distance of the centre, I have never actually been to see an actual exhibition there outside of events such as the Paralympics. We have also recently been talking about pets - and our inability to own them, what with living in flats - and as such when I was offered tickets to the show I was very happy to accept!

 The National Pet Show, sponsored by MoreThan, is an exhibition dedicated to, well, pets. I was originally concerned that there wouldn't be enough for us to do there being that we don't actually own any pets ourselves. I envisioned nothing but shops and sellers with all sorts of things that were completely irrelevant to us. However, after doing a quick bit of research I discovered that it  was also a place for prospective pet owners, with lots of talks about pet ownership, shows, and the opportunity to meet lots of different animals.

We started the day by watching a little bit of Scruffts - the crossbreed equivalent of Crufts. This is an interesting one for us, as me and Chris differ quite a lot in this area. I've always owned crossbreeds, as I don't really believe in buying from a breeder. I'm a big fan of rescue centres and as such my dogs have always been rehomed from rescues. I also spent a year as a volunteer with Battersea Dogs Home, and as such am firmly supportive of the mixed breeds. Chris on the other hand has purchased all his dogs from very expensive breeders, and as such has never really interacted with mixed breeds.

 After Scruffts, we started to make our way around meeting all of the dog breeds that were there for the day. There were SO MANY. I don't know what I expected - I think I pictured lots of dogs in pens that you couldn't quite access. However I was very pleased to discover that the centre was full of dogs very eager and happy to meet you! Some were in their pens however even those were generally very happy to come and jump up at the side of their pen to say hello, whilst other dogs were more or less free to explore their little areas.

  I'm also going to apologise here, because this is where this post gets a little bit dog heavy. I took SO MANY photos of all the dogs we met that I've already cut them down quite a significant amount before editing and yet still, here we are. Dogs dogs dogs.

  We started off by meeting a pair of Shiba Inu buddies. I have always found these dogs adorable in photos - even cuter in real life! They have such funny expressions. The pair we met were very chilled out and mostly just lay down and observed you as you greeted them.

 It was so hard to get good photos of the majority of the dogs as they just did not want to stay still. Every picture ended up with a blur somewhere or other! However I did have to throw in a picture of this trio - they are Canadian Eskimo Dogs. I'd never heard of this breed before but they were absolutely lovely. Obviously they are a beautiful breed, but they were also very very friendly, playful and affectionate. Sadly this is probably a breed we'd never be able to own, but they were one of our favourites of the day.

The show was a great way to meet some dogs we'd never heard of before. The dogs on the right are wolfdogs, who I hadn't really ever seen much about. I couldn't get any good pictures of them, but we also met some Mexican hairless dogs - I had no idea hairless dogs were a thing! They felt very different to how the hairless cats do - sort of sticky, in a strange way! I can't say I enjoyed how they felt - it sort of made me a bit uncomfortable! - which is a shame as they were really friendly and chilled out dogs.
A lot of the dogs were happy to pose with us. Some of the owners would even bring the dogs back if they saw us attempted to line up a photo - with the dog then immediately walking off once everything was in place!

 I'm not typically a small dog fan, but I tried to be optimistic when it came to meeting the dogs. And some changed my mind - this isn't the best photo, but this little dog was a few meters away from me. I came over to start getting my camera ready and it just casually walked over to me whilst staring up at me until it was right underneath me just looking up! It was very cute and playful, and if I had to go for a small dog something like this little guy would suit me quite happily.

 Something like this however would definitely not! This dog's fur felt so pretty and soft - but there is SO much of it. When it stands up, the tail alone looks like a full head of hair. I don't think I'd ever be able to tolerate the upkeep of a breed with fur like this!

 I also discovered that Pomeranians were a lot smaller than I thought they were. I don't know why, I was always under the impression that they were more knee height or so.

 Equally, St Bernard's were obviously a big breed but not quite the size I expected them to be - whilst some other mountain varieties were much bigger than I expected!

 We watched two performances whilst there. The first was this golden retriever group (with one sad looking retriever in the back corner that seemed to be being excluded from it all!) There wasn't all that much to this performance, but it was still very cute and fun to watch.

 Secondly, we watched the Met Police's dog demonstration. Being ex police I do tend to watch anything related as I used to really enjoy interacting with some of the dog unit - particularly when they had puppies around of course! These two German Shephards were very well trained and well behaved - for the most part, they were impressive and accurate. You were however reminded that they were still dogs after all - at one point the two dogs were instructed to run to a pole and stand next to it. One dog bounded off towards it with a confused expression and then half way there just stopped and started running backwards and forwards whilst looking confused about what exactly it was supposed to be doing. It was a good show though, and the dogs are incredibly well trained. I didn't see the opportunity to meet either of the German Shephards during the day though it's possible they were there - however there were two slightly insane and bouncy spaniels that could be met.

There were plenty of shows throughout the day, including a Superdogs tent for the higher level doggy performances. Unfortunately these were all sold out so we didn't get to go and watch but it sure sounded entertaining!

 Ah yes, the bird of prey. That common pet. If I remember correctly, there were two owls, a vulture, a hawk and an eagle. They were also doing a show later in the day, but unfortunately the timings didn't work for us.

 Equally, you could meet some friendly donkeys...

 Or some miniature horses! Also available in this area were some smaller pigs, which I thought were a good idea. There were images around the pigs that showed the full size that different breeds of pigs could grow too. I thought this was a great idea as the pair of piggies that were there were lovely and I've always heard that they are good pets and very intelligent - that also grow absolutely huge. It amazes me that people still seem to forget that part and that there are still fairly consistent stories of people buying pigs and then being surprised when they don't stay tiny!

 We also met the reptiles and the creepy crawlies. There were plenty of opportunities to meet some of the creatures here as well - there was a lady holding a very well camoflaged insect that looked exactly like a walking leaf, and plenty of people with giant snakes wrapped around them. There were plenty of dragons, geckos and other lizards on display as well. I actually quite like snakes but I suppose I just don't get them as a pet!

 The aquatics section was quite small, but well decorated. From what I heard, the people in the area were very informative when it came to explaining about the tanks and the upkeep required. I used to own an enormous tropical fish tank and I absolutely loved my fish - however the upkeep was actually quite a lot of work, despite the assumption people have that they're just fish and will more or less sort themselves out. They won't!

 We saw some hens, and watched a little talk about henkeeping. I believe there was the opportunity to meet some hens at various points of the day too, but for some reason the idea of holding a chicken  really bothers me!

 There were also some great enclosures built with lots of tunnels and cage pieces for bunnies and guinea pigs. I remember when I was much younger I owned some pet rats which I loved very much. I used to dedicate way too much time building them structures to play with out of pringles cans and cereal boxes - enclosures like this would have been my dream when I was younger!

 Neither of us are massive cat fans, but we did take a couple of looks round to see them. Unsurprisingly the cats weren't as interactive as the dogs and for the most part were in their cages with curtains across them so that the cats wouldn't be disturbed. The main exception to this were a pair of hairless cats, who were quite interactive and curious every time we went round.

Of course, the option to go shopping for your pets were there as well but this was actually a much smaller focus than I'd imagined. There were specialist pet food sellers, dog bed sellers, cat climbing post sellers, some very fashionable collars and some arts and crafts - but the shopping aspect was much smaller than I had imagined it to be. Which was obviously fine for us, being that we didn't have any pets to shop for anyway!

We had a fun day out and enjoyed meeting lots of different pets and learning about some animals we hadn't really considered before. There were plenty of informative talks throughout the day covering topics such as training your dogs for different circumstances, raising tortoises, and what to consider before buying a bunny. I was happy to see that it was more beginner friendly in that regard as I had worried the topics would be much more specific and alienate us as non pet owners however it was quite the opposite. If however you are a hardcore pet owner who could already lead your own workshops then this sort of event is probably not for you - but if instead you'd rather come and meet some animals, pick up some new toys and learn something new then this would probably be a fun choice for you!

The National Pet Show won't be back in London til next year, but if you're near Birmingham you're able to take a visit in November. Take a look at the website for all details here!

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