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Deal: Scruffts winner takes top spot after helping owner overcome anxiety

By Eleanor Perkins

A dog who helped his owner overcome her anxiety issues celebrated his Scruffts win with his favourite treat - Sainsbury's own brand cocktail sausages.

Josie Baldwin, 16, of King Street, Deal and her five-year-old Maltese Shih Tzu cross Jack, were named the overall winners of this year's Scruffts - a strand of Crufts which shines the spotlight on dogs who are more pet than pedigree.

They were one of just six finalists - whittled down from 2,500 - who had made it through to the final at the NEC Birmingham on Saturday.

Scruffts 2018 winner's Josie Baldwin and Jack. Picture: Flick.Digital
Scruffts 2018 winner's Josie Baldwin and Jack. Picture: Flick.Digital

The Goodwin Academy sixth former and her pet have a special relationship because the hound has helped her overcome anxiety issues and build confidence.

It is their touching story which she believes impressed celebrity judge, Judge Rinder.

She said: "It was an amazing experience. Rather than at Crufts where they look at the stature of the dog, at Scruffts they focus more on the personality and bond between dog and owner.

"Judge Rinder said he fell in love with Jack as soon as he saw him.

"He loved Jack's character and the fact that he looks a bit grumpy."

She thinks judges may also have been impressed with their heelwork which wasn't a requirement but they did it anyway.

She said: "As we walked in we did heelwork.

Scruffts 2018 winner's Josie Baldwin and Jack. Picture: Flick.Digital
Scruffts 2018 winner's Josie Baldwin and Jack. Picture: Flick.Digital

"Jack was looking up at me and prancing away. He did really well. Nobody else did it."

The devoted owner rewarded her performing pet with his favourite cocktail sausages.

She said: "He's allergic to beef so we have to give him Sainsbury's own brand as they're don't have beef in them."

It was after relentless pleas, Josie's parents Debra and Colin Baldwin finally gave in and let their daughter have a dog, purchasing Jack as a puppy from near Dartford.

One condition was that Josie trained him, prompting her attendance at Happy Hounds training classes in East Langdon.

They started with obedience sessions and soon moved up through the classes before entering competitions.

They still attend the classes about three times a week with Josie helping trainer Denise Coyle out on Thursdays.

Josie said: "I got Jack as a puppy five years ago and we got him in the summer holidays so we could really bond.

Josie Baldwin with Jack
Josie Baldwin with Jack

"Training with him has really built that bond.

"Before Jack, I was scared of people. I couldn't really talk to anyone but it's all changed now.

"When you're going to shows you have to talk to the judges and the stewards. Basically because of Jack I've had to talk to people.

"If it wasn't for him, I think I'd still be the same."

The day before Scruffts, Josie and Jack also competed in Crufts in the Special Pre-Beginner

Young Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog category where they was awarded third place out of 15.

The pair were awarded two trophies and a rosette.

With two shelves already full of prizes from previous competitions, Josie said: "We're going to have to make some room."

The excitement doesn't stop there.

Josie and Jack will feature in Scruffts: Britain’s Favourite Dog on Channel 4 on Friday, March 16 at 8pm.

Camera crews have been following her journey in the competition since the early heats.

The show will also include clips from when Josie and Jack met the Mayor of Deal Cllr David Cronk at Deal Town Hall as well as her at home and with comedian Alan Carr.

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