Meet Bakersfield and Strike, as they relax in the dressing room, during a break between performing. These two collies are competing at the highest level in the Heelwork to Music competition at Crufts 2024, the world’s biggest and surely most exciting dog show. 

It’s a glamorous business, competing at national level, yet the atmosphere in the dressing room is cosy and good natured. Both handlers are friends and veterans of the heelwork to music world, with many appearances at Crufts and for Team GB behind them.

Border collie Bakersfield sits on his handler's knee in the dressing room. She is smiling braodly, wearing a red sequin top, while Bakersfield looks directly at the camera
Bakersfield with his handler, Lucy Creek, relaxing in the dressing room after the freestyle performance

Bakersfield’s handler, Lucy Creek, explains what the sport entails (it’s a little like ice dance for humans, in the sense that there is a technical round and a freestyle round, which is more artistic).

Heelwork to music demands precision movement from the dog. The freestyle round allows plenty of room for humour and musical inspiration and the individual performances are very different from each other in tempo and flavour. They cannot practice in the arena itself until the day – and so the odd unexpected distraction can play havoc on a dog’s nerves, often calling for the handler to improvise “on the fly”. 

Strike the tan merle border collie looks at the camera. he is sitting on Lucy Heath's lap next to another smaller dog.
Lucy Heath is in full make up for the next performance of heelwork to music with Strike the border collie

It’s the first time Strike has performed at Crufts, but his handler, Lucy Heath has qualified for Crufts 16 times with various dogs, performing in the heelwork to music category. In honour of her last, beloved dog, she’s chosen a medley from the musical, Grease. With Strike by her side, their performance is a huge crowd pleaser.

More photos at shineradio.uk/dogswithjobs 

Do you work your dog or dogs?

Get in touch with me, Kate Fairweather at team@shineradio.uk. I love to meet and hear about all manner of working dogs