Westminster Dog Show


The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the second oldest sporting event in America, celebrating their 140th year. Only the Kentucky Derby is older, beating out the prestigious dog show by a nose, or a year.

Pet expert Steve Dale writes about the Westminster dog show    Westminster is considered prestigious – even snooty by some. However, when sitting in a packed house at Madison Square Garden, hearing fans scream colorful advice to the judges (as only New Yorkers do) and root quite vocally for their favorite pups, the atmosphere is anything but stodgy.

Of course, you don’t need to be at the Garden to watch the show. Westminster will be broadcast February 15, 8 to 11 p.m. ET on CNBC and February 16 8 to 11 p.m. ET on the USA Network. Also, for $1.99 you can see additional competition on the Westminster dog show app.

“We’re very excited about making dog show history yet again,” says Gail Miller Bisher, spokesperson for Westminster.

In all, 3,000 dogs representing 197 breeds and varieties, including 12 foreign countries will compete. The competition falls into three buckets, or dog bowls.

The first, and most well known, is called conformation – that’s what’s seen on live TV in the evening. Before that happens during the day, dogs of each breed compete against all others in the same breed to determine Best of Breed. So, all the Labrador Retrievers compete against all the other Labs, and all Miniature Schnauzers compete against the other mini-Schnauzers, etc. Only one winner is chosen for each breed.Pet expert Steve Dale writes about the Westminster dog show


Handlers wear interesting outfits, sometimes

Handlers wear interesting outfits, sometimes

Televised live in the evening is the Group competition. Each of the breeds is a member of one of seven American Kennel Club Groups. So, Labradors are in the Sporting Group and Miniature Schnauzers are in the Terrier Group. The other groups are the Herding, Hound, Non- Sporting, Toy and Working Groups. Each Group judge will choose one dog, the “most perfect representation” of that breed within the group. It’s those final seven choices that partake in the at the edge of your seat Best in Show on Tuesday.


Dr. Richard Meen

Dr. Richard Meen

Dr. Richard Meen is this year’s Best in Show judge. Meen, who is based in Toronto, will be the sixth foreign judge and third Canadian to make the top dog selection at Westminster. Meen is past President and Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Kennel Club, and he happens to be  a psychiatrist. Perhaps he will ask the dogs to lay on a sofa and bark about their mother’s before he chooses Best in Show.

Asked to pick a favorite, Bisher laughs and says, “That’s impossible. I know I’m rooting for Dachshunds because I think they are so cute. And I personally have a special place in my heart for Bearded Collies.”

If you’re placing money the event, a member of the Terrier Group has won the big show 46 times (more than any other group). The breed with the most Best in Show honors belongs to the Wire Fox Terrier, taking home the top trophy 14 times.

 Sky, a Wire Fox Terrier won he 138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, 2014

Sky, a Wire Fox Terrier won he 138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, 2014

The second bucket at Westminster is the Masters Obedience Trial Championship, as 35 of America’s top obedience dogs will partake. “This is the first time we’re showcasing obedience at Westminster,” says Bisher. “The discipline these dogs have is amazing. And then we’re also trying something difference, a sort of freestyle obedience where owners will create their own obedience routines. It’s our obedience version of free-style ice-skating.”

Steve Dale writes about the Westminster Dog Show The third bucket will be the Masters Agility Competition. This canine sport sets dogs off to a race of beat the clock, going through, over and under obstacles on an agility course. Sometimes dogs on TV make mistakes, running in the wrong direction, or even wandering off to snatch a spectator’s hot dog. Fun as watching the “wanna’ be” dogs is, these are the best of the best. “No question, these are the masters among the top agility dogs in the nation,” says Bisher. “And watching them is exciting, and can take your breath away.”

Learn more about the Westminster Dog Show.

Here are six fun Westminster factoids:

  • The most popular dog breeds in America for many years, the Labrador Retriever, has never won Westminster.
  • The oldest dog to win Best in Show: Sussex Spaniel in 2009: 10-years old
  • The youngest dog to win Best in Show: Collie in 1929, 9-months old.
  • Individual dog to win the most Best in Shows: Warren Remedy, a Smooth Fox Terrier won in 1907, 1908, 1909.
  • In 1993, after capturing Best In Show the previous year, Ch. Registry’s Lonesome Dove, a Wire Fox Terrier, failed in an attempt to repeat when the dog was awarded third place in the Terrier Group. This was the last time that a BIS winner has tried to repeat.
  • Martha Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore are all among the long list of celebrities who have attended the show over the years.

©Steve Dale Pet World, LLC; Tribune Content Agency