A proud Basildon dog owner has tribute to her crossbreed pooch after he booked their ticket to the Crufts next year.

Benji, a one-year-old mixed breed of schnauzer, Yorkshire terrier, poodle and cocker spaniel from Dunton and owned by Nicole Crockford, 41, has been named the ‘Most Handsome Dog’ in a regional heat for Scruffts, the annual crossbreed competition run by The Kennel Club.

It means the pair will go on to compete in the semi-final of the world-renowned Crufts competition at the NEC Birmingham between March 9-12.

They were just one of four winners from the event held Hylands Park in Chelmsford as part of the All About Dogs show which attracted mixed breeds and their owners from across the region.

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Speaking after their victory Ms Crockford paid tribute to her pet pooch saying they were excited to prove themselves at next year’s competition, the Scruffts Family Crossbreed Dog of the Year.

She said: “I’m totally overwhelmed with Benji winning – I never thought in a million years that he would go that far.

“I’m a very proud owner. I always knew in my heart that Benji had something special from the moment I saw him.

She added: “But for someone else to see that special bond and connection we have is truly amazing.”

Judging the competitors on the day was Tess Newson who had the tough decision of choosing just one winner for each of the four classes.

These were most Handsome Crossbreed Dog, which Benji won, prettiest crossbreed bitch, golden oldie crossbreed and the good citizen dog training scheme class.

All dogs competing were judged against a set criteria including, good character, good health, good personality and good temperament with people and other dogs.

Echo: Nicole Crockford, Benji and judge Tess Newson. Credit Dan Towers and The Kennel Club.Nicole Crockford, Benji and judge Tess Newson. Credit Dan Towers and The Kennel Club.

The four class winners from each heat will received goodies from dog food company James Wellbeloved, the sponsor of Scruffts, with the winner of next year’s grad final to receive a year’s supply.

Sonja Hartomo, European brand manager for James Wellbeloved said: “Congratulations to our four brilliant semi-finalists who have all qualified to Crufts next year. It was a fantastic day at the All About Dogs show at Hylands Park and we were impressed by all the entrants who took part.

“James Wellbeloved is very proud to exclusively support Scruffts and we’re looking forward to seeing how our semi-finalists progress.”