The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is February 9-10, 2009. This weekend, I'll focus my posting on dog shows, purebred dogs and of course, the main event.
A Brief History of Westminster
According the the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show website, the name ‘Westminster’ stems from a long gone New York Hotel by the same name, where a group of affluent dog enthusiasts gathered for drinks at the hotel bar and shared stories of their sporting dog’s accomplishments. The Westminster Kennel Club, was then established with the aim of increasing interest in dogs, improving breeds and the club sought to hold an annual dog show in New York City.
Originally held in Gilmore's Gardens on Madison Avenue, Westminster was a four day event featuring 1,201 dogs. In 1880, the show was first held at Madison Square Garden. The following two years it was held at the American Institute Fair Building, but in 1883 it returned to the Garden, the home of Westminster ever since. The coveted "Best in Show" title wasn't handed out until 1907. A smooth fox terrier named Warren Remedy was the first Best in Show winner and Warren took home the top prize for the following two years. The little terrier is the only dog in history with three Best in Show titles from Westminster.
Since then, six dogs have won two "Best in Show" titles: three wire fox terriers, one cocker spaniel, one English Springer Spaniel and one Doberman Pinscher.
Why so much interest in Westminster?
According to David Frei, the voice of the kennel club for the past 20 years, “The basic answer is, Westminster is great dog show. It’s all the greatest dogs in the same place at the same time, and that’s the only time that happens every year.”Of course, there are those who feel that dog shows are exorbitant contests for dogs who would likely be more content performing the duties for which they were originally bred. Like any sport, there are also egos and greedy participants to contend with who certainly do not have the dog’s best interest at heart.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, with its two day live telecast offers millions of viewers an opportunity for dog enthusiasts to learn about American Kennel Club recognized breeds and their origins. The club also uses this opportunity to educate about responsible dog ownership.That said, it is still a competition. Every dog who is ruled worthy to compete at Westminster has already earned numerous championship titles. For those who participate in dog showing, it is far more then a hobby, it is a lifestyle.
So, Is Your Dog Westminster Material?
First and foremost, dogs who are intended for showing are bred by serious breeders who have AKC registered dogs, most likely champions from past shows. In hopes of producing the next generation of champions, this lineage can play a large role in the potential of a litter.
Show dogs are kept ‘intact’ meaning they are not spayed or neutered so that as they earn championship titles, male dogs with prestige can be put up for stud and champion bitches can whelp more champions.
Breeding show dogs is truly a non profit endeavor and a labor of love, as the time, energy and cost of care it takes to produce champion purebred dogs far outweighs the fee a breeder will get when selling a puppy. More then likely, breeders financially find themselves ‘in the red’ when they are serious about improving the breed standard.
Show dogs must be socialized from an early age so that they are not overwhelmed by unfamiliar circumstances, loud noises and other distractions they would prevent success in the show ring.
They must be groomed to perfection, showcasing their conformation to the breed standard and have the personality that shines in a show ring. Dogs bred from championship lineage do not always have what it takes to make it to Westminster, but that’s why so many enthusiasts love them as pets or compete in agility or obedience trials rather then traditional dog shows.USA Network and CNBC will be home to The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show presented by Pedigree®, for the 26th consecutive year in 2009. USA Network and CNBC airs exclusive live coverage from Madison Square Garden on Monday, February 9, and USA Network airs exclusive live coverage on Tuesday, February 10.
Monday, February 9
Hound, Terrier, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups
8-9 p.m. (ET) live on USA Network
9-11 p.m. (ET) live on CNBC
Tuesday, February 10
Sporting, Working and Toy Groups, Best In Show
8-11 p.m. (ET) live on USA Network