If you follow the major dog shows, you will know that Banana Joe took top honors at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show . Banana Joe, a cute, gremlin-faced breed, is the first affenpinscher to win! Attending Madison Square Garden arena on Tuesday, February 12th, let me see all the action!
The Westminster Dog Show is the most competitive canine contest in the Western Hemisphere, and the second longest continuously held sporting event in the United States, second only to the Kentucky Derby. With over a century of tradition and the highest honor in dog showmanship at stake, each dog from the 177 breeds had to give its best performance.
With the judging broken up over two nights, I was able to watch three of the seven groups compete (Sporting, Working, and Terrier), and then watch the final judging for Best in Show- the overall winner of the entire show.
Who were my picks for winners of the Westminster Dog Show? I thought that the fluffiest dogs should win, partly because grooming them for a show seems like a lot of work, and partly because they seem so cuddly! The Golden Retriever gets my blue ribbon for the sporting group, the Samoyed and the Tibetan Mastiff win for the working group, and the Norwich Terrier for the terrier group. Although it’s not a conventional way to spend a night out in NYC, visiting a dog show is a new experience that any dog lover should try at least once.
At the beginning of each group, the announcer gave a brief introduction about how breeds are separated into groups. For example, terriers are grouped together because they were all originally used to hunt vermin with their exceptional digging skills. All the dogs of this group entered the ring and lined up. Each dog was then examined individually: handlers would “stack,” or pose their dog while the judge examined its bone and muscle structure, coat, and teeth. The dogs would then run down the ring and back in order for the judge to analyze its gait compared to breed standards.
The short version shown on television highlights the most notable breeds and crowd favorites, but watching the show in real life is much longer. Each judge (there’s a separate one for each group) makes sure to examine each breed closely so that he or she can make the fairest assessment. A judge is assisted by a steward: a person who doesn’t get much recognition, but is responsible for keeping each group judging running smoothly. Even though the audience had clear favorites—the golden retriever from the Working Group being one of them—the judges made their own decisions, and picked the dog that they preferred best to be the winner.
What did I observe while I was there? For one thing, watching a dog show can be a great drinking game, just ask the gentleman sitting in my section (he seemed to take a drink every time he heard the word “terrier!”). Seriously though, there is a giant following for dog shows. Those interested in the sport actively track a dog’s career, and will have a pretty good idea about how their favorite dogs will place, based on their performances throughout the year.
Many dogs took top honors as expected, but there were still surprises when the winners were chosen, even for the seasoned dog show aficionado. The Doberman “Fifi” was expected to easily win the Working Group, but was out-showed by the German Shorthaired Pointer.
Dog showing isn’t a cheap hobby that any pet lover can pick up, either. Handlers can spend upwards of $100,000 each year in the grooming, training, and competing of a show dog. The high costs of showing a dog makes a win all the more worthwhile, be it “Best in Breed,” “Best in Group,” or “Best in Show.”
It was an exciting Best in Show win for Banana Joe, since it was the first time an Affenpinscher has won top honors at Westminster, and also Banana Joe’s last time in the ring, as he will be retiring. Most dogs only show for a few years- the oldest dog to ever win a Best in Show at Westminster was ten years old, which is not common. Banana Joe beat out the likes of hometown hero the Portuguese Water Dog, and crowd favorite the Old English Sheepdog. Even though he’s finished in dog show business, Banana Joe has a bright future ahead of him.
Did you watch the Westminster Dog Show? Who were your favorites to win?
Madalena is a recent graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. By day, she works on the corporate side of the beauty industry in NYC, working for one of the largest beauty trade shows in North America. Madalena’s passion outside of work is fitness- she recently became licensed as a Zumba(R) instructor, and aims to compete in both a triathlon and half-marathon this year. Madalena loves animals and enjoys meeting dogs and their owners.