Dog show 101: What’s what at the Westminster Kennel Club

Jun 20, 2022, 5:15 AM | Updated: 5:24 pm
Scottish deerhounds are shown in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday...

Scottish deerhounds are shown in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

              Beagles wait in a pen before competing in the146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Mort, a chihuahua, front, and Emily, a Lotus, Ibizan hound, are seen in their enclosures during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Bruce, a Pyrenean shepherd, is groomed before competing in the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Creed, an Australian shepherd, is groomed before competing in the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Australian shepards are seen in their cages before competing during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              A saluki is shown in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Gyula a 9-year old puli, peeks through his handler Stacy Czekaj's leg as they wait to compete during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              An Afghan hound waits to compete during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              A couple of Pembroke Welsh Corgis and their handlers wait to compete in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Yuri, a standard wire haired dachshund, waits to compete in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Bergamasco shepherds Coco, left, and Saphire wait to compete in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Pucker, a petit basset griffon vendeen, uses a fan to cool off while waiting to compete in the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              A handler brushes his beagle's tail before competing during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Spectators watch Scottish deerhounds compete in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              A judge inspects a Pyrenean sheepdog during competition in the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Handler Willi Santiago and Afghan hound Saida wait to compete during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Mother and daughter handlers Vicki Venzen, right, with Bergamasco sheepdog Coco, and Tia Williams with Bergamasco sheepdog Sapphire wait to compete during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
            
              Scottish deerhounds are shown in the ring during the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Monday, June 20, 2022, in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Thousands of dogs started competing Monday toward the best in show prize at the illustrious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. To the casual viewer, the annual exhibition of dressed-up handlers leading well-mannered dogs around a ring might seem like a somewhat stilted walk in the park, but there’s more than that to choosing a champion. So here’s some show lowdown:

HOW MANY DOGS COMPETE?

More than 3,000 canines, as wee as Chihuahuas and as massive as mastiffs, signed up to vie for best in show. The contestants represent 209 breeds and varieties (a variety is a subset of a breed; think toy poodle vs. standard poodle).

Penny Allen and Bryson Allen each showed a mudi, a Hungarian herding breed appearing for the first time this year. The Hico, Texas, duo are mother and son, and he’s only 11, but “when we get in the ring, it’s gloves off – let the best mudi win,” Penny Allen said.

Another newly added breed, the Russian toy, competes Tuesday. Separately, about 350 dogs competed in agility and obedience.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

First, dogs go up against others of their breed – sometimes dozens of others, sometimes far fewer. Buzz the Norwegian buhund bested just one opponent, his half-sister, to win their breed Monday while 43 Rhodesian ridgebacks faced off one ring away.

Buzz’s breeder, owner and handler, Amie McLaughlin of Kent, Washington, was a little sad not to see more of the small, affectionate herders that she considers “the hidden gem of the dog world.” But Buzz won’t rest on his laurels — “we have a lot of up-and-comers,” she said.

The winner from each breed moves on to a semifinal round, where they’re judged against others in their “group” – such as hounds, herding dogs, or terriers. In the final round, the group winners compete for best in show, which will be awarded Wednesday night.

WHAT ARE THE JUDGES LOOKING FOR?

Judges are tasked with determining which dog best matches the ideal, or “standard,” for its breed.

“You see an Afghan and a beagle — they’re not saying which one is better. They’re saying which one more closely resembles its breed’s written standard,” Westminster spokesperson Gail Miller Bisher said. “It’s what dog will pass on the key features of that breed.”

The standard is derived from the breed’s original function and can speak to everything from teeth to tail to temperament. For example, a hound that was developed to hunt in rough terrain might be required to have thick paw pads, or a herding dog to have proportions that allow for quick, tight turns.

So a borzoi’s handler, for instance, needs to show the dog can “move like they can catch a wolf,” said handler Ron Williams of Wantage, New Jersey. Someone showing a miniature pinscher wants to showcase the high-stepping hackney gait that is a hallmark of the breed. A saluki will be examined for certain angles in its legs and feet that underlie the running speed and athleticism of these lanky, elegant-looking desert hunters.

So elegant-looking that owner Jennifer Rimerman, who was at Westminster on Monday with her saluki Haney, has heard would-be owners gush the likes of “they would drape on my furniture so lovely.”

Indeed, they would, but Rimerman’s show dog can also snag a bird in midair.

“A saluki’s form really needs to follow its function, and its function was not to look pretty on a couch,” said Rimerman, of Cape May, New Jersey.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO PREPARE?

Westminster’s canine competitors are well-trained to handle being handled in the ring. But getting ready can still take hours. Or longer.

Bergamasco sheepdogs Coco and Sapphire got their baths two days before their turn in the ring Monday — that’s because their dense, flocked coats take a day or so to dry. “It’s like a wet wool sweater that’s very thick,” explained breeder Yvonne Bunevich of Quaker Hill, Connecticut. “It’s not a wash-and-go dog.”

ARE THERE ANY MIXED-BREED DOGS AT WESTMINSTER?

Yes. They can compete in agility and obedience, but only purebreds are eligible for best in show.

WHAT ABOUT THAT FOCUS ON PUREBREDS?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals regularly stages protests outside the Westminster show to decry what the animal rights group sees as an irresponsible purebred pageant. The kennel club says the show highlights the preservation of the wide range of dog breeds.

WHAT DOES THE BEST IN SHOW WINNER GET?

Bragging rights and a trophy. There’s no cash prize.

SO WHAT’S THE POINT?

“Showcasing the dogs — letting people see a good dog,” says Vickie Venzen of Jarretsville, Maryland, who handled Coco on Monday while daughter Tia Williams squired Sapphire.

Many participants also prize the sense of community that comes with spending weekend after weekend at shows together, sharing tips, grooming space and their love of dogs.

“You develop this rapport because we are more like a family,” Robin Greenslade of Hudson, New Hampshire, said Monday as she helped look after her miniature pinscher, Adele, and a half-dozen other dogs under handler Kim Calvacca’s care.

“It’s truly a lifestyle,” Greenslade said. “And it’s a labor of love.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman watches during an NFL football practice, T...
Associated Press

Eagles GM Howie Roseman again shows his resilience

PHOENIX (AP) — The “Howie! Howie! Howie” chants at the team’s send-off party in Philadelphia followed Eagles general manager Howie Roseman to Super Bowl opening night. They were yelling obscenities at Roseman not too long ago. The once-exiled executive who was cast aside for Chip Kelly for a year and returned to lead the Eagles […]
15 hours ago
New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (19) aims a pass during the first half of an NFL football game...
Associated Press

Revolving door at QB ruined season for Jets, other NFL teams

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets’ season began with aging Joe Flacco starting at quarterback. It ended the same way. And that was the problem. Well, along with all of the other switching, struggling, injuries and inconsistency at QB in between. It sent what appeared to be a Jets squad on the […]
15 hours ago
Wrexham players look dejected after Sheffield's Billy Sharp scored his side's second goalduring the...
Associated Press

FA Cup dream over for Wrexham and its Hollywood owners

For Wrexham’s Hollywood owners, the sequel proved to be a heartbreaker. The Welsh soccer club owned by celebrities Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney lost its FA Cup replay with Sheffield United 3-1 on Tuesday, conceding two goals deep into stoppage time. A win for Wrexham, the lowest-ranked team remaining in the famous old competition, would […]
2 days ago
FILE -, Mat Ishbia, left, watches with his family during the second half of an NBA basketball game ...
Associated Press

Mat Ishbia to AP: Suns ‘will be one of best places to work’

Mat Ishbia said his first major project as owner of the Phoenix Suns will be to listen to employees and figure out what problems they’ve faced. After that, he’ll start fixing. The tenure of embattled Robert Sarver as owner of the NBA’s Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury officially ended Tuesday, when Ishbia — the chairman, […]
2 days ago
Diana Taurasi takes part in drills during a minicamp for the U.S women's national basketball team, ...
Associated Press

Diana Taurasi has sights set on playing at Paris Olympics

Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris. It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics. “It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the […]
2 days ago
This photo provided by Bud Light shows a scene from Bud Light 2023 Super Bowl NFL football spot. A ...
Associated Press

Here’s why this year’s Super Bowl beer ads go beyond Bud

NEW YORK (AP) — A bevy of booze brands will be in the Super Bowl ad lineup this year, now that Anheuser-Busch has ended its exclusive advertising sponsorship after more than 30 years. In addition to celebrities hawking Budweiser and Michelob Ultra, viewers will see some famous folks touting the qualities of Heineken and Coors, […]
2 days ago
Dog show 101: What’s what at the Westminster Kennel Club