Rising Star: Eliza Langman Rouse, Daughter of Veteran Competitor Lauren Langman, Shines at Crufts

Rising Star: Eliza Langman Rouse, Daughter of Veteran Competitor Lauren Langman, Shines at Crufts

In the world of competitive dog agility, few stages are as coveted or as challenging as Crufts. It is a place where the bond between a handler and their dog is put to the ultimate test, showcased before an audience that appreciates the finesse and dedication required to excel in this sport. This year, the event witnessed the emergence of a new young talent, Eliza Langman Rouse, who, under the guidance of her mother, Lauren Langman, has already started to make waves. 

Eliza, competing in the 12-17 age group, was able to achieve 2nd place in the Young Kennel Club (YKC) Jumping category semi-finals at Crufts. Given her young age of 12, this accomplishment is nothing short of remarkable. Eliza was among the youngest in her category, pitted against competitors who were often many years her senior—a testament to her skill, training, and the partnership she shares with her dog, Cruz. 

A legacy competitor 

Cruz, a medium-sized Cocker Spaniel, was bred by Lauren and has also joined her in a number of agility contests. Lauren herself is known as both a prolific competitor in the arena, competing at grade 7—the highest rank of competition in British agility.

Outside of competitive dog agility, Lauren is a well-known figure within the canine care and training industry, having spent over two decades building several businesses and brands dedicated to enhancing the well-being and performance of dogs. She founded Devon Dogs, a unique and all-encompassing training facility at East Bowerland Farm in Okehampton, where she serves as the principal trainer, and is also the driving force behind the massive online training resource Absolute Dogs. Additionally, she co-hosts “Sexier Than a Squirrel”, one of the top dog training podcasts in the UK, and recently partnered with nutritionists and vets to develop AO-K9, a line of canine supplements.

Lauren’s approach to dog training revolves around the concept of play, harnessing the strength of positive reinforcement and game-based techniques. Her methodology focuses on fostering a bond of trust and shared delight between dog and owner, steering clear of fear or punitive measures.

Lauren’s dual role as a competitor and trainer has profoundly influenced Eliza’s path in dog agility competitions. She instils in everyone she teaches, including Eliza, the importance of approaching challenges with a light-hearted attitude. For Lauren, and consequently for Eliza, mistakes are not seen as setbacks but rather as opportunities for personal growth. 

The journey to Crufts 

For young handlers like Eliza, the agility season often revolves around the pursuit of one ultimate goal: qualifying for Crufts. Widely regarded as the pinnacle of the dog world, Crufts represents not just a competition, but a culmination of months, or even years, of hard work, training, and unwavering dedication.

Crufts, an event with a legacy spanning over a century, owes its name to its founder, Charles Cruft. His journey commenced in 1876, upon his graduation from college, where he made the unconventional decision to forgo joining his family’s jewellery business. Instead, Charles embarked on a career with James Spratt, a Holborn-based entrepreneur who specialised in selling ‘dog cakes’. Through dedication and ambition, Charles quickly ascended from an office position to become a travelling salesman. This role afforded him valuable connections with large estates and sporting kennels.

Only two years later, while traversing Europe, Charles’s potential caught the attention of French dog breeders, who recognized his entrepreneurial flair and invited him to orchestrate the canine section of the Paris Exhibition. Upon his return to England in 1886, Charles assumed management of the Allied Terrier Club Show at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster. This experience led to the inauguration of the first Crufts show in 1891.

Since its inception, Crufts has grown and transformed into one of the world’s most celebrated dog shows. Now spanning four days, it has been hosted at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham since 1991. The event draws thousands of dogs along with their owners and handlers who showcase their pets’ talents and skills to enthusiastic audiences. In 2024, Crufts saw attendance soar to over 150,000 people, not counting the canine participants.

The journey towards Crufts demands more than just technical skill; it requires a profound bond between the handler and their canine partner. Eliza and Cruz became a team, united in their pursuit of excellence as they navigated courses together with precision and agility. They spent countless hours honing their skills, fine-tuning their communication, and strengthening their connection through trust and mutual understanding, aided by Lauren’s guidance. 

Bright future for a rising star

Eliza secured her spot in the semi-finals of the YKC Jumping Cup by winning a qualifying event. Her exceptional performance in the semi-finals secured her second place, and led to her first appearance in the main arena at Crufts at only 12-years-old. Despite a mistake that resulted in being given an elimination, her ability to qualify for such a competitive level stands as a significant accomplishment. Qualifying for and participating in a competition of this calibre, especially at a young age, suggests a strong foundation and potential for further success. 

Reflecting on her experience, Eliza is already setting her sights on the future. Her goal is to qualify for Crufts 2025, with plans to not only compete with Cruz again but to also explore her passion for heelwork to music—a discipline that combines the precision of obedience with the flair of choreographed performance, and her declared “favourite thing in the world.” 

For Eliza, the journey has just begun, and if her early success is any indication, the agility world can expect great things from her in the years to come. As she prepares for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, her story serves as a reminder of the joy and fulfilment that come from pursuing one’s passions. With the support of her family, particularly her mother Lauren, Eliza is not just following in her footsteps but carving her own path in the competitive world of dog agility.