Westminster Dog Show, Who Might Win It


Every dog may have its day, but only one can win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, coming up Monday-Tuesday, Feb.16-17, at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

All dogs competing in the prestigious show have earned the title of Champion for combinations of previous dog show successes. Each of the 2,711 entrants will compete first against their own breed. Labrador Retrievers compete against other Labs, and Scottish Terriers go up against other Scotties, etc. Eventually, one top dog is named Best in Breed for each of the participating breeds.

There are seven groups, and each breed falls into one of them. For example, Labradors are in the Sporting Group; Scotties in the Terrier Group. The other five groups are Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Toy and Working. Finally, comes the part of the competition that’s televised, as one dog is designated the winner for each of the seven groups. Those seven dogs compete for Best in Show.

“The Best in Show winner will be the best specimen of that breed on that day,” says dog show announcer David Frei. “The Best in Show judge is not comparing each of those seven dogs to one another, but each is being compared to a breed standard which the judge has in his head. The (Best in Show) judge is sequestered, and doesn’t know who those seven dogs are until he walks into the ring.”

This year’s Best in Show judge is a judge in more ways than one. The Hon. David Merriam, of Bonsall, CA, happens to be a retired trial judge in real life. Dog show losers serve no jail time, though their tails may be tucked between their legs.

Frei has seen 25 years of past Best in Show winners and says, “You bet they seem to at least know that something exciting has happened, even if they don’t know exactly what. After all, you have about 10,000 cheering spectators.”

Among the 192 breeds and varieties participating in the show, there’s a pair of newcomers this year:

*Coton de Tulear: “They look like a giant cotton ball,” says Frei, of the breed that typically weighs 8-15 pounds. “Their exotic history has been romanticized a bit,” he says. “They were the royal dogs of Madagascar (an island off the east coast of Africa). They were used by pirate outlaw traders who would steal the dogs out of the country.” Many people with allergies have no issues with the Coton, one explanation for their allure, as well as a their bubbly personality.

*Wire Haired Viszla: Like the smooth-coated Viszla, a longtime American Kennel Club breed, this is a hunting dog also developed in Hungary. “They have a bit more substance than the Viszla,” says Frei. “That’s probably because they were once crossed with the German Wire-Haired Pointer.”

Frei offers his views on four dogs to watch:

  • Grand Champion Clairecreek Impression de Matisse: Only a pawful of dogs ever have achieved over 200 Best in Shows wins, so this Portuguese Water Dog is clearly a superstar, and currently America’s top scoring show dog.”This dog has proved he can do anything,” says Frei, who says politics has nothing to do with success, referring to President Obama’s Portuguese Water Dogs. He says and laughs, not all dog show judges are Democrats.
  • Grand Champion Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect: This Old English Sheepdog has celebrated over 100 Best in Show wins in his short career, just three years. Only 30 to 40 dogs have ever done that well, and he’s now the No. 2 scoring dog in the country. “Clearly, this is a dog to contend with,” Frei says.
  • Grand Champion Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie: A dog with momentum, having earned Best in Show honors at the AKC National show in December. Also, he happens to be a Skye Terrier, representing the Terrier Group. A terrier has won Best in Show at Westminster 45 times, more than any other group.
  •  Grand Champion Flessner’s International S’Cess: This impressive Bloodhound won the Hound Group at Westminster last year, and Frei believes it’s possible he could go all the way this time.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be broadcast Feb. 16 on CNBC and Feb. 17 on the USA Network.

©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency