Westminster Dog Show

Kelly Roper
Westminster

The Westminster dog show is still the greatest dog show on earth!

Welcome to Westminster Dog Show

Although a few corporate sponsored shows have tried to usurp the Westminster Kennel Club dog show of it's pride of place in recent years, for true dog show aficionados, this show is, and always will be, the Holy Grail of all dog shows. Every February, thousands of AKC dogs and their exhibitors make their way into Madison Square Garden for two intensive days of showing that, when all the barking is over, will crown the best dog in the country.

History

You may be interested to know that the Westminster dog show is one of the oldest annual sporting events in the USA, second only to the Kentucky Derby. Back in 1877, a group of gentleman dog breeders who had been meeting regularly in New York's Westminster Hotel to talk dogs, decided they would organize a show and invite the public. The event was such a smash that it has been repeated annually for the last 130 years.

Until 1992, this event was a full show, meaning all classes were included from dog and bitch competition for Winners, to Best of Breed, Group, and Best In Show. As the show continued to grow in popularity and prestige, so did the number of entries, and gaining entry became quite a feat with a limited number of spaces available. In earlier days, exhibitors would rush their entry forms to the post office the day it arrived and hoped for the best. Then came the fax machine and a new era in show entries. Now, online entries are your only hope of making the exclusive cut.

From 1992 onward, only the creme de la creme of the dog world was deemed eligible for the greatest show in the country, and entries were limited to finished champions. Currently, the show is limited to a total entry of 2,622 champions in all from over 165 AKC recognized dog breeds. It's literally a living Encyclopedia Brittanica of dogs.

Benching

This event is also one of the few true benched shows left in the country. When not being groomed, exercised or shown, all dogs are to be displayed in their assigned bench spot. This gives the public aisle upon aisle of the best purebred dogs in the country to view. It also gives the public the chance to connect with breeders, most of whom are only too happy to share their knowledge of all things dog, and in particular, the wonderful attributes of their breed.

Competition

In the past, this show was extended to a four day event due to it's immense popularity with the public and exhibitors alike, but currently the show has been packed into two full days of dog showing. All the entries in each individual breed compete for Best of Breed. Then each of the Best of Breed winners moves on to compete in their respective groups.

Currently, all dog breeds are divided into one of seven groups, including:

  • Toys
  • Non-Sporting
  • Sporting
  • Working
  • Herding
  • Terrier
  • Hound

Although it may appear that dogs of different breeds are competing with each other at this point, it is actually the judge's job to choose which of the dogs is the best representative of their breed standard.

All things being equal, the choice often comes down to pure showmanship. The dog who is the most turned on, moving energetically and totally in tune with his handler can't help but catch the judges eye, and usually winds up with a Group first placement. A second, third and fourth placement are also awarded and are considered very prestigious.

With the awarding of the Group 1 placements, the field of over 2,500 deserving champions is narrowed down to the top 7, and from this elite company the highly coveted Best In Show dog is selected.

Scoring

If you've ever watched the TV coverage of this event presented on USA Network each February, you may have wondered what the judges are writing in those little books. There is actually a scoring standard to help the judges sort out each dog and help them keep track of their preferences. The scoring goes something like this:

WKC Scoring
Overall appearance 30 points
Head 20 points
Body 20 points
Gait 20 points
Coat texture and color 10 points
Total 100 points

The public never actually gets to know the scores, but the winner is obvious. After a few moments of excruciating suspense, the judge presents the winning dog/handler team with a huge BIS rosette ribbon, and the Westminster show trophy. BIS for 2006? Ch. Rocky Top's Sundance Kid, a superb Colored Bull Terrier and the first of his breed ever to win the grand prize at Westminster.

Interesting BIS Facts

  • Only one dog has ever received three Best In Show awards at this show; Ch. Warren Remedy, Wire Fox Terrier.
  • Wire Fox Terriers have been chosen Best In Show More than any other breed.
  • Terriers have taken home the BIS trophy 44 times.
  • Only 7 other dogs have chalked up two BIS awards at this prestigious event.
  • The exceedingly popular Golden Retriever has never been a Best In Show winner at Westminster.

Ringside Seats

Thinking of watching the Westminster Kennel Club show in person next year? Better make your hotel reservations now and save up your pennies, because ringside seats run about $100 for both days. But when you think about it, that's a bargain for two days of the greatest dog show on earth.

Westminster Dog Show