That’s exciting news for dog lovers and fans of Crufts! The return of Clare Balding and the addition of co-presenter Sophie Morgan, reporter Radzi Chinyanganya, resident vet Dr Paul Manktelow, and obedience expert Ashleigh Butler promise an engaging and informative show. It’s also great to hear about the special guest appearance from Dion Dublin, adding a unique perspective to the event.

With 15 hours of broadcast coverage across different channels and online platforms, viewers can expect a comprehensive look at the 133rd edition of Crufts. The inclusion of live events such as Flyball, Agility, Heelwork to Music, and the Kennel Club Hero Dog award, along with the traditional Best in Show, ensures a diverse and entertaining experience.

The focus on Scruffts, giving crossbred dogs a spotlight, and highlighting young handlers in the International Junior Final add a touch of inclusivity to the event. It’s apparent that Crufts continues to evolve and appeal to a wide audience.

Clare Balding’s description of Crufts as “the Olympics of the dog world” emphasizes the prestigious nature of the event. Her two-decade involvement and enthusiasm since her debut in 2004 highlight her deep connection with the show.

Overall, Crufts 2024 seems set to provide a mix of entertainment, education, and celebration for dog enthusiasts, with a diverse lineup of events and expert insights.

Channel 4 Q&A with Clare Balding for Crufts 2024

What is your favourite thing about hosting Crufts?

“I think just being surrounded by dogs and all of the different breeds. There were 222 different breeds competing last year. And that’s not counting the dogs that you’d also see in Flyball and Agility. So I think I just love being with dogs and being with dog people.”

Is there anything in particular that you’re looking forward to this year?

“Well, every year is different, and suddenly a new breed will emerge that you hadn’t known a lot about. Like last year, the Lagotto Romagnolo won best in show for the first time and they travelled over from Croatia. There’s a real international element to the actual show.

I love getting to know and getting more familiar with the Flyball teams, which the afternoon shows focus on.

This year we’ve got a feature on dogs for autism and I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about. Dogs are incredibly adaptable and can help us in all sorts of ways. And we’re doing a good feature around the use of them with children that have autism and how it can help connection and communication.”

How would you describe the atmosphere in the arena?

“Oh, it’s brilliant. It’s like a major sporting event…. everyone’s very excited! There’s a good crowd in there. I think it matters hugely to the handlers and to the breeders.

For me, this is the Olympics of the dog world. It’s hugely important to them [the handlers and breeders] that their dog is in its peak physical condition. But then on the day itself, that it’s able to perform and give its best. It’s about performance as well as looks, conformation, adaptability and the behaviour traits of being able to deal with a full day of showing.”

What changes, if any, have you noticed over the years since your debut in 2004? 

“The growth of ‘discover dogs’ has been a really key element to Crufts. If you go there, you can be educated about different breeds and really make an informed selection of what would suit you best and what you can give the best life to.

I also think the growth of Agility, Cani-Cross, Flyball, the introduction of Scruffts and the Hero Dogs competition all celebrate our partnership with dogs and how much we treasure them. It’s got even bigger in in those 20 years, which is extraordinary because it was big enough.

Crufts is a historic dog show that started in 1891 by a man called Charles Cruft. It wasn’t the first dog show but it was the first that was more than just showing, which took the business of dogs seriously and carried advertising in the programme. You can find everything at Crufts from dog beds to coats, toys, food, leads and collars, clothing for the dog owner and advice on everything from nutrition or injury to exercise and behaviour. Loads of dog charities are there so you can learn more about what they do and if you have the chance to give a rescue dog a good home, you can find out more about that. 

Also, there’s more young handlers. You get to see real youngsters doing very, very well, which is great.”

Brilliant. And do you have any standout moments from Crufts?

“In 2007, there was a was a Tibetan Terrier that won Best in Show called Fabulous Willy and we had his grandson.

Archie, our Tibetan terrier who we had for 15 and half years was his grandson. So that was a really exciting victory because you felt like you were sort of related to him. It’s ridiculous, of course… of course, we’re not!”  

What’s been the most unusual thing you’ve seen at Crufts?

“I think that that the heelwork to music always throws up a few unusual sights of people and dogs dressed in costumes and doing amazing things. But that always make me laugh. I don’t know that it’s meant to make me laugh, but it does. I really enjoy watching it.

I think also one of my favourite things is when you see dogs that just love what they do. The Lagotto Romagnolo that won last year was called Orca, and the year before was a Flat Coat Retriever called Baxer. Both of them were such happy dogs; their tails never stopped wagging all through that final session. They were just gorgeous and I love that. They really enjoy what they do.”

Tell us about your fellow presenting and commentating team. What are they like to work with?

“We don’t get to see much of each other during the four days because we’re all busy doing things. It’s such a massive show.

Sophie, I’ve known for a long time since she first did the Paralympics and Radzi, I’ve probably known for even longer because we worked together at the BBC for a long time. They’re both really committed, very enthusiastic, willing to learn and curious. I think that’s the key component. They will throw themselves into anything.

I remember Radzi doing agility with a poodle, and it was very funny. And he’s done bits on grooming with a dog whose coat needed a lot of work. He’s just very relaxed with people and dogs. He’s very funny. And Sophie’s really great in terms of wanting to do the job really well. She takes it very seriously. She works very hard. They’re just great company. It’s a really nice team.

And the commentators I’ve known for a long time. Frank Kane: there’s nobody that knows more about dog showing than him. He’s been a best in show judge. He’s bred dogs. He goes all over the world to judge, and he brings that high level of expert knowledge into the team, which is just terrific. You can ask him anything.”

What advice would you give someone watching Crufts for the first time?

“I think just really enjoy it and listen to the commentators. Watch the dogs and the way they’re being handled and judged. All the features that we do are about educating the public about responsible dog ownership. I think for all that we adore dogs, and there are more dogs in the UK than there have ever been, there are also more dogs in rescue centres. And that’s because people didn’t realise what owning a dog is about. The more we can help people, the better. And, if they’ve got dogs that have behaviour issues, give them good advice, which we do, and give good veterinary advice as well. There’s a lot of information in the programmes – as well as being entertaining, I do think Crufts is educational.”

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to enter Crufts for the first time?

“I think most people don’t realise you have to qualify. You have to go through regional shows and win to be placed in a class to qualify for Crufts. Daily grooming is important and making sure you’re checking your dog over and making sure that it’s fit enough to really compete well. It’s a long day and it’s very tiring. It’s not about you and what you look like, it’s all about the dog and ask for good advice from people who are experienced.”

If you could describe Crufts in three words, what would they be?

“Dogs, dogs, dogs. All about dogs…. We love dogs!”

What’s your favourite dog breed?

“We had a Tibetan Terrier, Archie. I grew up with Boxers, and I do love them. I think they’ve got real comedy value, and they’re just great fun to have around. But there’s lots of breeds I love. I think Poodles are super intelligent. I love Miniature Schnauzers. I like Wheaten Terriers. I think Whippets are gorgeous and beautiful and very elegant. I can see the good in a lot of breeds.”

How’s your search for a new dog going?

“I wrote a book called Isle of Dogs, which is based on the search for another dog. And what I think we realised was that we need to change our living conditions to make the perfect home for a dog. So that’s what we’re focused on now. We want to be responsible dog owners, so it will take a while.

And because I’ve got such a big year this summer, it it’s not fair to bring a dog into our life right now. You know, I need to be away a lot with the Olympics and Paralympics and Wimbledon and Queen’s.”

You’ve worked on so many of these incredible events, where does Crufts rank among them all?

“I love Crufts. I really love doing it. And the year, 2021, when we couldn’t do it, I really, really missed it. I love being there and I love live television but it’s one of those shows where you’re talking to people about their dogs all the time, and you get so much out of them because of that. People love talking about their dogs. And I love meeting different dogs.

It’s always the first live television I do of the year because I tend to be quite quiet over the winter months. I always come into Crufts thinking: “Can I still do this?” There’s always that real flutter of nerves on the first day… “

Organised and hosted by The Kennel Club, the largest organisation in the UK devoted to dog health, welfare, and training, Crufts is the largest show of its kind in the world and has been broadcast by Channel 4 and produced by Sunset+Vine since 2010.

Crufts will support the Stand Up To Cancer Walkies Challenge, in partnership with Channel 4 and Cancer Research UK. Starting in April, the challenge encourages people to get out walking with their dogs to raise money for the Stand Up To Cancer campaign, which brings the UK together to speed up progress in life-saving cancer research.