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Ireland's top dogs take to the catwalk at Crufts

Hairspray, onesies, backstage bitching and selfies. It can only mean one thing - the largest dog show on earth, Crufts, is in full flight.

This year, organisers have plenty to bark about; a record-breaking 21,500 dogs are taking part, the dog selfie booth has been a resounding hit, and the Beauceron has finally got its own breed class.

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James and Imelda Wade with their Japanese Spitz ‘Bundy

James and Imelda Wade with their Japanese Spitz ‘Bundy

Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

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James and Imelda Wade with their Japanese Spitz ‘Bundy

But it's not all good news. On the floor of Birmingham's NEC arena, there are rumours of dog owners putting chewing gum in rivals' fur and slipping sedatives into drinking water.

Thankfully, Irish dog breeders have not witnessed any incidents of canine sabotage.

"It's like a holiday for me and the dogs," Lynda Dunn told the Irish Independent. "I don't know who enjoys it more - me or them."

Since moving to Ardee from Australia in 2003, Dunn has competed in Crufts every year.

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Gracie, a terrier cross, watches television in the Samsung Dream Doghouse created by the tech firm to celebrate their sponsorship of Crufts 2015 ? which starts on Thursday 5th March at The NEC Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 4, 2015. The architect designed dog kennel, which features a Samsung Tab S entertainment wall, astro turfed treadmill and paw operated snack dispenser, took 12 designers over six weeks to create in the aim to represent the ultimate in luxury canine living. The Samsung Dream Doghouse will be on display at Crufts, which Samsung has been sponsoring for over 20 years. Photo credit should: David Parry/PA Wire

EDITORIAL USE ONLY Gracie, a terrier cross, watches television in the Samsung Dream Doghouse created by the tech firm to celebrate their sponsorship of Crufts 2015 ? which starts on Thursday 5th March at The NEC Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 4, 2015. The architect designed dog kennel, which features a Samsung Tab S entertainment wall, astro turfed treadmill and paw operated snack dispenser, took 12 designers over six weeks to create in the aim to represent the ultimate in luxury canine living. The Samsung Dream Doghouse will be on display at Crufts, which Samsung has been sponsoring for over 20 years. Photo credit should: David Parry/PA Wire

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Kyle Leask, 6, from Inverness in Scotland who has cerebral palsy and autism with his rescued Crossbreed Miracle, during their Crufts 2015 Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Kyle Leask, 6, from Inverness in Scotland who has cerebral palsy and autism with his rescued Crossbreed Miracle, during their Crufts 2015 Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

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Katy Evans, 24 from Rednal, who was born with cerebral palsy with her assistance dog Crossbreed Folly, during their Crufts 2015 shortlist announcement in Green Park, London for the Eukanaba Friends for Life competition, which celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 23, 2015. See PA story ANIMALS Crufts. Photo credit should read: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Katy Evans, 24 from Rednal, who was born with cerebral palsy with her assistance dog Crossbreed Folly, during their Crufts 2015 shortlist announcement in Green Park, London for the Eukanaba Friends for Life competition, which celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 23, 2015. See PA story ANIMALS Crufts. Photo credit should read: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

PA

Julie Cashell, 38 from Powys, Wales with her Lhasa Apso who helps to bring happiness to people with Dementia living in Oaklands care home, during their Crufts 2015 shortlist announcement in Green Park, London for the Eukanaba Friends for Life competition in, which celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 23, 2015. See PA story ANIMALS Crufts. Photo credit should read: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Julie Cashell, 38 from Powys, Wales with her Lhasa Apso who helps to bring happiness to people with Dementia living in Oaklands care home, during their Crufts 2015 shortlist announcement in Green Park, London for the Eukanaba Friends for Life competition in, which celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 23, 2015. See PA story ANIMALS Crufts. Photo credit should read: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

PA

Katy Evans, 24 from Rednal, who was born with cerebral palsy with her assistance dog Crossbreed Folly, during their Crufts 2015 shortlist announcement in Green Park, London for the Eukanaba Friends for Life competition, which celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 23, 2015. See PA story ANIMALS Crufts. Photo credit should read: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Katy Evans, 24 from Rednal, who was born with cerebral palsy with her assistance dog Crossbreed Folly, during their Crufts 2015 shortlist announcement in Green Park, London for the Eukanaba Friends for Life competition, which celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 23, 2015. See PA story ANIMALS Crufts. Photo credit should read: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

PA

Gracie, a terrier cross, watches television in the Samsung Dream Doghouse created by the tech firm to celebrate their sponsorship of Crufts 2015  Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

Gracie, a terrier cross, watches television in the Samsung Dream Doghouse created by the tech firm to celebrate their sponsorship of Crufts 2015 Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

PA

A flat coated retreiver arrives in a onesie on day one of Crufts 2015  Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

A flat coated retreiver arrives in a onesie on day one of Crufts 2015 Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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Dogs arrive for day one of Crufts 2015 at the NEC, Birmingham Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Dogs arrive for day one of Crufts 2015 at the NEC, Birmingham Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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Dogs arrive for day one of Crufts 2015 Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Dogs arrive for day one of Crufts 2015 Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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Dogs arrive for day one of Crufts 2015 at the NEC, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday March 5, 2015. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Dogs arrive for day one of Crufts 2015 at the NEC, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday March 5, 2015. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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Golden retrievers Lady (left) and Yoda (right) wait outside on day one of Crufts 2015 at the NEC, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday March 5, 2015. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Golden retrievers Lady (left) and Yoda (right) wait outside on day one of Crufts 2015 at the NEC, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday March 5, 2015. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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A dog arrives on a bus for the first day of the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham Photo: REUTERS/Darren Staples

A dog arrives on a bus for the first day of the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham Photo: REUTERS/Darren Staples

REUTERS

Reuben the Springer Spaniel waits outside in his onesie before day one of Crufts 2015 Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Reuben the Springer Spaniel waits outside in his onesie before day one of Crufts 2015 Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

PA

Reuben the Springer Spaniel waits outside in his onesie before day one of Crufts 2015  Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Reuben the Springer Spaniel waits outside in his onesie before day one of Crufts 2015 Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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EDITORIAL USE ONLY Gracie, a terrier cross, watches television in the Samsung Dream Doghouse created by the tech firm to celebrate their sponsorship of Crufts 2015 ? which starts on Thursday 5th March at The NEC Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 4, 2015. The architect designed dog kennel, which features a Samsung Tab S entertainment wall, astro turfed treadmill and paw operated snack dispenser, took 12 designers over six weeks to create in the aim to represent the ultimate in luxury canine living. The Samsung Dream Doghouse will be on display at Crufts, which Samsung has been sponsoring for over 20 years. Photo credit should: David Parry/PA Wire

This time round, she is showing her two 22-month-old Salukis - Irish Junior Champion Ulmarra Cristal and Ulmarra Veuve Clicquot.

"For me, it's not about the winning, it's showing off my Salukis and talking about dogs all day long," she said.

Historically, Irish dogs and breeds have done well at Crufts. The Irish Setter has won the prestigious Best in Show title four times - second only to the Cocker Spaniel, who has seven.

Getting ready for the pilgrimage takes weeks. Dublin native Imelda Wade and her prized Japanese Spitz, Daesdaemar Stop-N-Stare At Saoirian, aka "Bundy", spent hours prepping.

"I put everything but the kitchen sink into the car," Ms Wade said.

"You have to bring the scissors, the clippers, the detanglers, the dry shampoo, the blankets, and the free-standing hair dryer. I don't want to think about how much it costs."

Bundy, who boasts a "white teflon coat and ginkgo nut-shaped eyes", will compete in the Utility dog section.

"We got Bundy at 20 months, and he was already an Australian Grand Champion," Ms Wade said. "He's got the confidence, a 'look at me' attitude, he's a real showman."

Throughout its 124-year history, Crufts has generated a good deal of controversy.

In 2013, the winner of the Good Citizen award, Eddie the Akita, disgraced himself when he attacked an accountant just hours after getting the title.

This year, a handful of UK dog owners are beginning to grumble about the 2,987 international entries.

Apparently overseas mutts rely on "performance enhancing products" such as hairspray, which UK breeders feel is an insult to their more traditional grooming standards.

"Some people will always want to complain but that is not true," Kildare dog breeder Jean Lawless insisted.

"It's an international competition. There have got to be international dogs."

Lawless travelled over with eight German Shepherd Groenendaels. Two of her dogs were awarded rosettes - Revloch Indiana Jones was named Best Puppy in Breed, and Hocus Pocus was awarded the Best in Junior Class.

Irish Independent