A young woman from Crawley Down is on her way to the world’s biggest dog show after being named as a finalist in the Young Kennel Club’s Outstanding Young Person Award.

Imogen Woodman is one of five finalists in the competition with the award set to be handed out at Crufts in Birmingham later this week.

The 20-year-old and her miniature Labradoodle Millie volunteer together at Francis Court care home in nearby Copthorne where she works as a therapy dog.

There they keep patients company and help relax the residents, including those who suffer with dementia.

Imogen decided to take Millie along after she began suffering with arthritis, meaning she was not able to do the tricks she would do as her favourite form of exercise.

“Millie will often go to people if they are distressed and likes getting a bit of fuss,” Imogen said.

“She helps calm the residents down. She’s a people dog. It’s lovely to see the difference she makes to people – plus she and they enjoy it.

“I’ve known about the idea of therapy dogs for years but I was not old enough to do it.

“When we started it, she had not been able to do as many tricks because she was suffering with arthritis.

“But she is still active and wants to work so doing pet therapy is not physically straining but allows her to go out and see people. She goes up to people and they want to stroke her, others call her over.”

After wanting a dog while she was growing up, Imogen finally got Millie when she was aged 11.

She took on her training from the earliest possible stage, attending East Grinstead and District Dog Training Club to help with her development.

Initially Millie was very naughty but she eventually managed to complete her Kennel Club Good Citizen gold award.

Imogen later found the type of training she enjoyed, which was doing tricks.

The nine-year-old miniature Labradoodle went on to appear on television with her owner, featuring on BBC shows Who Let the Dogs Out? and Officially Amazing, where they broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest ten metres travelled on a barrel by a dog.

“She was the worst puppy and nearly got kicked out of training classes but we carried on and she ended up getting her gold good citizens award,” Imogen said.

“I was able to teach her lots of tricks so she has been on a couple of BBC programmes.

“We kept on training her and she really liked learning the tricks. It got her to focus. She’s my best friend really and has been since I got her.”

Such was Imogen’s enjoyment with the club, she is now its secretary and helps with the training classes.

She has also started studying a course in canine behaviour and training, through distance learning at Bishop Burton College in Yorkshire – which she hopes will help launch a professional career in training dogs for films and TV.

All while looking after Millie and another dog, Rumpelstiltskin, a GSD cross she got as a rescue from Romania in November 2017.

Imogen added: “I enjoy taking the classes to see other people with puppies progress.

“I would like to do some kind of dog training but would like to train them for film and TV. I’ve done a bit of that with Millie and enjoyed it.”