Victoria Marston introduces the winners and runners-up of the Britain’s Naughtiest Dog Award. Main photographs of our winner, Pici, by Daniel Gould; many thanks to the dogs' respective owners for sharing the other images with the world.
Sociable, sun-loving and incredibly patient with children, this innocent-looking Jack Russell actually enjoys a secret life of crime. So naughty is she, in fact, that we’ve named her Britain’s naughtiest dog in the competition we’ve been running in association with Lily’s Kitchen.
‘Pici thinks she’s human – I think all Jack Russells do, actually,’ says the London-based little dog’s owner, Elizabeth Johnson.
She goes on to explain that Pici (who is named for the local pasta where she was born in Italy, pronounced ‘peachy’) is confident, kind, gentle, a sun-worshipper, slightly territorial with strangers or other dogs, but unbelievably tolerant of children – ‘a child in a shop the other day grabbed her tail and just pulled and pulled and pulled. We had to prise its fingers off as she would never snap or growl, she just rammed her tail firmly between her legs for the next half an hour’. Pici, however, is also something of a master criminal.
When Country Life announced a new search for Britain’s naughtiest dog, four years after Rabbit was crowned, the postbags were soon overflowing with tales of disobedience and destruction, but it quickly became clear that there was only ever going to be one winner.
Pici – a much-loved birthday gift, 12 years ago, to Mrs Johnson’s daughter Lottie, who turned 21 yesterday – cut her teeth, so to speak, with the usual litany of canine crimes. ‘No one seems to have told her that chocolate is poisonous to dogs,’ reflects Mrs Johnson, recalling the time the little terrier snaffled the family’s Easter eggs. ‘We found a ball of foil placed neatly in her basket and she showed not the slightest ill effect.’
Another time, Pici managed to retrieve and demolish a packet of biscuits from the bottom of a guest’s overnight bag, without leaving the slightest trace of disturbance – ‘she’s very light-fingered’ – and, one Christmas, she discovered and opened her own present, leaving the rest untouched.
A slightly more costly incident occurred when Pici apparently took against the idea of Lottie’s sister Alice going on a gap-year trip to Australia. ‘Lucy, another sister, was sitting in the kitchen when Pici hurtled past with what looked suspiciously like a passport – unfortunately, it was and, once again, she’d removed it from the bottom of a bag,’ Mrs Johnson laughs.
‘It was chewed to bits. When asked the reason for an emergency passport, we explained the dog had eaten it. We got the usual “yeah yeah” response, until we showed them…’
At this point, dog owners around the land may well be thinking, ‘Cheeky? Yes. Naughtiest dog in Britain? Mine is worse.’ Reader, your dog is not worse – assuming it has never summoned the armed police.
‘Our eldest, Katharine, was in the shower when she heard banging on the front door,’ Mrs Johnson explains. ‘Fortunately, she got there before they kicked it in, but was told to stand aside so they could search the house. The police quickly found Pici on our bed with the phone, which was covered in tooth marks. She must have chewed repeatedly on the nine – the first three times were enough!
‘My husband, Neil, has heard a tape of the call, with a woman asking: “Are you alright?” It sounded as if someone was being strangled, but it was just Pici, crunching happily on the phone.’ Luckily, the police had brought their senses of humour, as well as their guns.
First runner-up: Ted the West Highland white terrier, aged 10
Owned by Alice-Kate Dyer, Warwickshire
Ted’s family, returning from an evening out the night before Christmas Eve, would have been forgiven for thinking they had been burgled or, perhaps, visited by the Grinch. In fact, the small dog – never one to let his diminutive stature stand in the way of the amount of havoc he might be able to cause – had found his way into the room containing the Christmas tree, gifts and food.
The result could only be described as carnage, with every present unwrapped – and given a good chewing – and not a bauble, biscuit, satsuma or walnut left intact. Ted shall be forever known as the dog who ate Christmas.
Second runner-up: Jack the rottweiler, aged 8
Owned by Christine Wright, East Yorkshire
Jack’s repertoire of naughtiness is extensive and includes — but isn’t limited to — sleeping on the dining room table with his head in the fruit bowl (having eaten all the fruit), ransacking each and every kitchen cupboard, transferring the contents of the dishwasher to the lawn and licking everything clean and kicking the glass out of a window during a particularly vivid dream, experienced during a nap on the windowsill. His finest moment, however, has to be flooding the kitchen after turning the tap on, then blocking the sink — by sitting in it.
Winner: Quercus the Slovakian rough-haired pointer, aged two
Owned by the Swain family, North Yorkshire
Gorging on an entire bag of party poppers must have seemed such a good idea at the time – less so when he was regurgitating multi-coloured streamers and glitter.
Runner-up: Buddy the beagle, aged 11
Owned by Paul Bingley, Suffolk
Deceptively handsome, with his kohl-rimmed, deep-brown eyes, Buddy will devour anything he finds, from pants and socks to a wall. Yes – Buddy ate a wall.
Highly commended: Mister Barkis the basset hound, aged four
Owned by Anthony Martin, Dorset
Wilful, lazy and an unrepentant thief, highlights in this Fagin of the dog world’s career include eating an entire cake left cooling on the Aga and 50 individually wrapped wedding favours. Responds only to the word ‘sausage’ when out on walks.
Best Escape Artist
Winner: Eddie the wire-haired fox terrier, aged three
Owned by Andrew and Helen Thorpe, Denbighshire
Eddie had long enjoyed watching the world go by from his home’s flat roof, which is accessed by some outdoor stairs, but took things to new heights (literally) when he scrambled onto next door’s roof to evade his owners – then leapt off it. The parkour enthusiast was unscathed; the stairs, dismantled.
Runner-up: Teddy the Parson Russell terrier, aged seven
Owned by Nicky Nelson, Rutland
There is nothing Teddy enjoys more than a day out at nearby Oakham Castle, where he has attended two weddings and an archaeological dig – none of which he was invited to.
Highly commended: George the border terrier, aged four
Owned by Nikki Hunt, Oxfordshire
Son of a three-time Crufts best-of-breed champion, George’s illustrious bloodlines have resulted in the ability to open (upstairs) windows and jump into the garden. On one occasion, after disappearing for two hours, he was found in the river, up to his neck in water, clinging to a tree root and awaiting rescue.
Winner: Wilma the cockapoo (cocker spaniel/poodle cross), aged one
Owned by Helen Stewart, London
This inveterate pick-pocket has graduated from taking tees from golf bags to seamlessly extracting the wallet from a man’s gaping pockets at a neighbouring cafe table (without him noticing). Her owners blushingly returned it, claiming it had been ‘dropped’.
Runner-up: Ted the labrador/spaniel cross, aged one
Owned by Georgie Ball, Cornwall
To say that Ted has a spring in his step doesn’t really cover it. This athletic pup easily jumps 5ft in the air to steal apples from a tree in the garden, sharing the spoils with his friend Archie.
Highly commended: Cooper the cocker spaniel, aged three
Owned by Natalia Ashton, Lincolnshire
With his noble looks, Cooper considers himself the good boy of the family.
To maintain this reputation, he has trained his younger companion, Fred, to steal on his behalf, indicating what he would like before walking away and waiting for Fred to deliver. Truly dastardly.
Winner: Pippin the Irish terrier, aged two
Owned by Camilla Ainsworth, Somerset
When Pippin spotted a topless sunbather on the beach, she decided that a most enthusiastic greeting was in order – and refused to be beaten away by the distressed recipient of her attentions. Cue attempted retrieval by mortified owner.
Runner-up: Bonnie the chorkie (chihuahua/Yorkshire terrier cross), aged two
Owned by Marianne Mcdonald, East Sussex
Guilty of stealing a vintage cuddly-toy penguin from an auction and piddling on the vicar’s kitchen floor, Bonnie’s finest moment has to be herding the peacocks in the Kyoto Garden in London’s Holland Park. Coincidentally, dogs off leads have since been banned.
Highly commended: Reggie the wire-haired dachshund, aged two
Owned by Bradley Hill, Leicestershire
Accompanying his vet owner on a call out, Reggie not only managed to lock himself and Stan the whippet inside the car, but also the necessary veterinary equipment. The AA duly arrived to liberate them and Reggie celebrated by eating the fee for the call out – paid in cash – while his owner was in the petrol station.
Winner: Ella the English mastiff/Rhodesian ridgeback cross, aged one
Owned by Roxanne Hunter, Devon
When left unattended, Ella consumed a child’s birthday presents, a sofa and two mattresses in one sitting. Because a growing girl has to eat.
Runner-up: Archie the Jack Russell/Lakeland terrier cross, aged one
Owned by Desmond Mackey, Co Down
From missing hands to severed ears and ravaged faces, Archie took it upon himself to maim an entire family of garden gnomes.
There were no survivors.
Highly commended: Fergus the Italian spinone, aged one
Owned by Elizabeth Barker, Lincolnshire
To Fergus, it is a truth universally acknowledged that clean washing on the line must be in want of being dragged through a puddle. He is equally fond of deadheading live flowers.
Works a treat
Henrietta Morrison, founder of Lily’s Kitchen, says: ‘For happy, well-behaved hounds, try our new Lily’s Kitchen natural treats for dogs. Packed with proper meat, these tempting treats are made to a grain-free recipe, with natural ingredients and without any added nasties, so your furry family can enjoy them every day. Perfect for training, in between meals or simply to share a little moment of joy with your dog.’ www.lilyskitchen.co.uk
Country Life 23 October 2019 names Britain's naughtiest dog, defends the countryside way of life and visits a glorious Devon
Naughty dogs come in all shapes and sizes — as do their crimes and misdemeanours.
Lovable, scruffy and nearly always in trouble, this Heinz 57 terrier has won Country Life's quest to find the UK's