A MUCH-LOVED family dog from Suffolk could be on the verge of making Crufts history - as he attempts to win the first ever crossbreed-specific event at the prestigious show.

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Four-year-old Barley was one of the winners at last year’s Scruffts - the country’s biggest show for non-pedigree hounds - but now, for the first time ever, the grand Scruffts final will take place at the world-famous Crufts this week.

It is the only time since Crufts was formed in 1891 that there has been a specific class for crossbreed dogs.

Barley belongs to proud Annabelle Shemming, 14, of Ashcroft Road, Ipswich, and the pair truly are best friends.

“It would be the highlight of his career if he won at Crufts, he couldn’t do any better than that,” said Annabelle, who goes to Northgate High School.

“He’s just always there for me - he loves cuddles and likes to be fussed over. He’s just lovable and is a big bear.”

Crufts 2013, which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham, has changed its rules to allow Barley and three other Scruffts champions to be finalists in the Family Crossbreed Dog of the Year category.

Crossbreed dogs aren’t new to Crufts - they have taken part in the show in activities such as agility and flyball in the past. However, this is the first time a crossbreed-only event will be taking place.

Annabelle said the reason that Barley seemed so popular with competition judges - and virtually everyone he meets - is not only his endearing personality but that he is a very unusual-looking dog due to his Pyrenean mountain dog and retriever cross heritage and most people have never seen a dog like him before.

She added: “It’s all of the breeds in him mixed together which makes him who he is. If we win the competition at Crufts we can get a free DNA test and find out exactly what breeds he comes from.”

Barley won the Child’s Best Friend category (for handlers aged up to 16) in Scruffts, and will now contest the final against three other dogs.

Annabelle’s mother Gill, 50, said that Barley had joined the family at just the right time as Annabelle had been having a tough time at her previous school.

She said: “She was being bullied at school and we ummed and ahhed about having a dog. She’s just taken to him and she would come in from school after having a bit of a rough time and he’s brought her on in all sorts of ways. He’s very protective of her.

“He will do nearly anything that she wants him to do, he’s so docile.”

The final will be televised live on Friday on More4.

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