Purebred Parade


The 141st annual Westminster Dog Show barks back

2016 Best In Show was awarded to GCH Vjk-Myst Garbonita’s California Journey. (Photos courtesy of Westminster Kennel Club WKC)

Madison Square Garden is going to the dogs. The 141st annual Westminster Dog Show will track thousands of paw prints as 2,800 dogs from around the country compete for various titles, including the ultimate honor: best in show.

“I grew up showing bearded collies. You definitely put a lot of time and effort into starting a young dog showing and help them as they mature,” said Gail Miller Bisher, director of communications for the big event on Feb. 13 and 14. An American Kennel Club-licensed judge, she will also be an analyst for this year’s show, which is excited for its new partnership with Fox Sports.

“We’re excited because the daytime judging will be broadcast live for the first time from Piers 92 and 94,” she said. “There’s a benching area where all of the dogs have to stay and they can’t leave after they compete. We’re one of the last few in the country to have a bench show.”

As for the dogs, they are grouped by breeds so people can maneuver through the show and see all of the dogs as a public education offering.

“The selection process is invitational and dogs can be invited if they’re in the top five rank of their breed,” said Bisher. “We also invite the national specialty winner of each breed and have dogs that are champions.”

Greyhound dog at the 2016 Westminster Dog Show

If dogs don’t receive an invitation, they can still register. However, if a dog is not a champion, they must have a major win to qualify for the show.

“We have three different types of events: speed, obedience and showing,” said Bisher, adding that judging is broken down by sporting, non-sporting, working, terrier, hound, toy and herding groups.

Agility begins on Feb. 11, with a fun, fast paced obstacle course where dog and owner have to beat the clock together. Next is the precision-based obedience championship, where dogs demonstrate their understanding of commands. The showmanship part of the competition measures holding the dog’s attention and maintaining a steady stance while being judged and at the end, the title of best in show, judged from the seven breed group winners.

“The owner and dog receive points towards national rankings, and the badge of honor of the 141st best of show winner of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show,” said Bisher.

The events are presented by Purina Pro Plan, which gives out goodie bags to the dogs at the show, however, it’s up to each owner to bring their own treats for their furry friends. Several hotels are pet friendly for the event and welcome the four-legged stars.

“The Westminster Kennel Club is just a celebration of dogs,” said Bisher. “We’re a family event and if you’re a dog lover, you should tune in or come to the show if you can because it’s a surreal experience to see that many dogs in one place.”

The 141st annual Westminster Dog Show is broadcast on NatGeo Wild from 2-4 p.m. ET. For tickets and more information, visit www.westminsterkennelclub.org.

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