DUBAi // For Holly Bergl, 10, and her sister, Tilly, 8, it was a proud day as the siblings showed off their pets - a pair of four-year-old Maltese-Yorkshire crosses at the day-long Dubai Pet Show yesterday.
The sisters walked their dogs in two separate child handlers' categories and demonstrated to judges how capable they were at managing their pets.
"The category is about how to handle your dog," said Holly, as she waited patiently in the ring with her pet, Dinky, for the judges' decision.
"The judges want to see if they obey you. It's the second race I have done today. I was awarded the fourth place in the mixed-breed category for handling my dog well," she said.
The Bergl sisters were among hundreds of people who took part in the pet show at the Dubai Rugby Sevens stadium.
Yesterday's event - in its 25th consecutive year - saw enhanced safety measures with new rules, including dogs being kept on leashes at all time and an increased presence by veterinarians and Dubai Municipality inspectors. Organisers also repeatedly urged owners to keep their pets on a short leash.
The measures were put in place after Pluto, a toy poodle, was killed by Trip, an American Staffordshire - a breed which the municipality has banned from being imported - at last year's show.
Trip was confiscated by municipality officials and kept under observation for 21 days. The animal was then returned to its owner, who was fined Dh5,000 over the bloody attack. This year's rules did not permit owners to bring dogs from any breed which are banned by the municipality.
The regulations did not please many, including one 10-year-old owner.
"Last year, I brought our American pitbull," said Marie-Sophie, a student at Dubai International Academy. "I am very upset I couldn't bring it. Just because of one incident they shouldn't disqualify the others."
This year she was only allowed to enter her pet Fluffy, a toy poodle.
Hamed Al Ghanem, who breeds Salukis and has been part of the pet show since 1994, said the onus was on owners to control their animals.
"It is the mistake of the owner. If he cannot handle the dogs, it is a problem," he said.
But last year's incident did not dampen everyone's mood.
Elga Kassebaum, a German expatriate, and her three pets walked away with the first prize in the fancy dress category.
A long-time participant, she had dressed her white standard poodle, Candy, as a bride in white and touches of pink, while her three-year-old chihuahuas, Dolca and Barbie, played bridesmaids in matching pink.
"They looked so cute," said Ms Kassebaum, who shared her prize with another owner. "People were bombarding us. It is good to dress them up but how they carry themselves is important. They were gorgeous. They were looking and enjoying the crowd."
Despite the fancy attire and manicured looks, it was a group of Dubai Police dogs, mostly German and Belgian Shepherds, that really enthralled audiences with their speed, agility and intelligence.
The sniffer dogs demonstrated - with the help of police and some volunteer children - their ability to track drugs, explosives and locate criminals.
The K9 parade saw mock car chases where police vans pulled up pretend criminals with the aid of trained police dogs.
In one example, a police dog swiftly jumped into a stationary car through the window and violently dragged out a criminal.
In another mock crime, a police dog disarmed one of the volunteers with a gun and pinned down the suspect with force, simultaneously drawing gasps and applause from the viewers.
Not everyone at show had come to compete.
Emiratis Mohammed Al Jassmi and Sultan Al Qassab had brought their pets, a Great Dane and a Siberian husky, to watch.
"We have just come to see the show," said Mr Al Jassmi. "The animals are happy and just want to play," he said.