Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show - Why is it so Special
Even if you are not an active member of the canine community, you might have heard about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Even the famous actor, Ryan Reynolds, made a business arrangement with the show to make his brand of gin the official drink of the show in 2020. Westminster Show even has parodies and skits included in the Saturday Night Live (SNL) program. This is arguably the most prestigious dog show in the world.
Ambitious dog breeders want to be included in this show. This is probably the only televised dog show in the world, and each year, it draws industry-leading sponsors. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the show to move from its home location in New York City to Tarrytown in 2021.
The thing that makes Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show so prestigious is its history. The Show started in 1877, and only the Kentucky Derby is a longer continuously held sporting event in the United States. The Westminster Show endured the Great Depression, both World Wars, pandemics, and everything the world had to throw at it.
The first Westminster Dog Show happened on May 8, 1877, when a group of hunters decided to organize the Westminster Kennel Club. The only goal of the club was to hold a dog show. The first show was held at Gilmore's Garden, and there were 1.200 entries. It was primarily for gun dogs, mostly Pointers and Setters.
FUN FACT: The Westminster Kennel Club got its name because the hunters regularly met at the Westminster Hotel at Irving Place and Sixteenth Street in Manhattan.
If you’re interested in competing at Westminster, you should know that they only invite the best of the best.
Only pureblooded dogs of breeds can participate at the show. There are 199 breeds that are allowed to compete. Crossbreeds can compete in the Westminster agility competition. Due to Westminster’s popularity, they limited the number of entries by asking the dog to earn the breed championship before they are allowed to appear in the show. Westminster Kennel Club amended that rule and asked only one of the two major wins to become eligible to compete in the show.
However, in 2020, they reinstated the rule the dog has to be a finished Champion to compete at the show. They limited the number of entries to 2.500. Many breeders and exhibitors weren’t too happy with that, but the show retained its status.
Such an impressive dog sporting event with a long tradition and history has plenty of fun facts you might not know about them. We started digging a bit deeper and prepared 5 of our favorite Westminster Dog Show fun facts.
If you ever visited a dog show, you might have noticed how slightly chaotic everything is. There are tents everywhere. Some people are in groups, some dogs are sleeping, some are running, and others are in crates. That doesn’t fly at Westminster. This is a benched show, which means all dogs that aren’t in the ring have to stay at their designated space. This will allow breeders and spectators to see dogs even outside of the ring.
You might think that such a dog show would have impressive prize money, right? Well, there is no prize money at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. All the earnings go to establishing shelters, animal welfare, and community outreach. The main goal of the exhibitors is not actually the prize money, but what comes after winning or competing in such a show. The offspring of Westminster winners will go for quite a big price. In fact, even mating will cost a lot.
One of the things that you will undoubtedly notice if you ever visit this dog show is the amount of grooming products exhibitors use. Show grooming is serious business, but Westminster show grooming is in a league of its own. Some breeds can take up to 5 hours to get ready for the show. They require a bath, multiple brushings, ironing, rollers, and blow-drying. Exhibitors even use high-quality human products for their dogs.
Handlers are a crucial part of any dog show. They can be the difference between a win or a loss. With such competition, the judges will look at the tiniest details about dogs, but they will also focus on the presentation. Handlers usually take the dog months before the show. They need to get to know the dog’s character and bond with them. Only then can the dog be confident, comfortable, and attentive inside the ring.
Dogs are highly motivated by food, and some dog shows don’t allow treats inside the ring. However, the judges at Westminster allow treats, and the handler needs to be precise and pick a treat that will motivate the dog to perform. One of the interesting things to look at is where the handler keeps the treats. They don’t want to keep it in their pocket because the dog’s focus will move away from the handler’s face. Many handlers use hot dogs or ham as treats, and they keep it in their mouth. That way, the dog’s face is focused on the handler’s face, which is something judges appreciate.
World Dog Finder team