Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

by Bruce W. Little, DVM

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

The 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be held on February 10-13, 2018 in New York City, parts of it at Pier 92-94 and some at Madison Square Garden. Portions of the show are televised on Fox Sports 1. There will be more than 150 different dog breeds participating throughout the show. The American Kennel Club lists 202 pure-bred breeds of dogs in their registry, and three-quarters of those breeds will be represented at the Westminster show. According to the Westminster web site, breeds are broken down into seven categories as follows:

  1. Hound Breeds - there are 33 different breeds in this group, including Dachshunds, Beagles and Greyhounds as examples
  2. The Toy Breeds - there are 23 different breeds in this group including Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers and Havenese as examples
  3. Non-Sporting Breeds - there are 20 different breeds in this group including Dalmatians, Miniature Poodles and American Eskimo Dogs as examples
  4. Herding Breeds - there are 31 different breeds in this group including Shetland Sheep Dogs (Shelties), Australian Cattle Dogs and German Shepherd Dogs as examples
  5. Sporting Breeds - there are 32 different breeds in this group including Brittany Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and German Short Haired Pointers as examples
  6. Working Breeds – there are 28 different breeds in this group including Great Danes, Standard Schnauzers and Doberman Pinschers as examples
  7. Terrier Breeds – there are 32 different breeds in this group including Rat Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers as examples

All these breeds will have the opportunity to perform in one or more of the Westminster Kennel Club events. The show is much more than just a dog show. On Saturday February 10 the Kennel Club features their Annual Masters Agility Championship. Agility is an athletic event that demonstrates a dog’s willingness and training to work with its handler in a variety of situations. This requires conditioning, concentration, training and teamwork between the dog and its handler as they operate on an obstacle course while racing against the clock. It is a fun event, both for the dogs, their handlers and spectators. Also, on Saturday, the show will feature the American Kennel Club (AKC) Meet the Breeds event. This event, held during the all-day Meet and Compete portion of the Westminster Week which is dedicated to breed education, encourages the attending public to meet the breeders in a relaxed and non-competitive format giving people the opportunity to learn about the various breeds before deciding to bring a dog into their own family.

On the February 12 agenda, there is scheduled a Masters Obedience Championship competition. The sport of dog obedience is an activity that demonstrates a handler and the dog’s ability to work as a team. This is a fun and exciting element for the dog, the handler and the audience. This event features dogs performing a freestyle routine, which may include costumes, tricks and dance moves. Obedience is a sport for all dogs including mixed breed dogs or Heinz-57 dogs. Obedience can help correct nuisance behaviors such as jumping on people, digging, barking, chewing and other bad habits that dogs may develop. It also provides necessary mental and physical activities for your dog, and the activity might just help the handler as well.

As do I, the Westminster Kennel Club believes very strongly in responsible pet ownership both in choosing a dog and giving it proper care after bringing it home. Owning a dog is a privilege, but the benefits of ownership come with responsibilities. Don’t purchase a dog of any kind without analyzing the situation regarding the time commitment, costs for preventive healthcare and food, energy required by all family members, living environment and willingness to provide responsible management for the animal. Keep only the type and number of dogs for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship daily. Dog ownership requires a substantial investment in time and money to provide preventive health care, such as vaccinations, parasite control, grooming, and feeding. You must budget for potential emergencies that will probably come at some point in time. Obey all local ordinances including licensing, odor control, and noise control. It is important to practice good manners and dog ownership. I think of it equally as important as any other standard in life that you might practice in maintaining relationships and interactions with others. Much like golf course etiquette where there are courtesies one does, and one does not do. Such as repairing divots on the green or not talking when other players are in their swinging motion. Train your dog to not jump on other people or chew on people’s clothing. Do not allow it to offend others due to lack of training or dog manners. Not only does that save neighborhood friendships and relationships, it might just save your dog from being harmed or being given up to a shelter or rescue facility. You should plan to place your pet with another family member or rescue organization if you find you can no longer provide care for it. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the health and well-being of your pet and rely on your veterinarian and their staff to guide you on responsible pet ownership. It will make life much easier for you and your family including the pets.

Westminster Kennel Club announces repeatedly during its television programming the following statement, “if you are planning to add a dog to your life and have come to the show to look over the best of the best, please note, no dog you have seen here came from a pet shop or was the product of a puppy mill breeder. If you want a dog, go to the people who care--the dedicated specialty breeders who have made dogs like those you see in here. Talk about dogs with dog people who care and understand.” While I agree wholeheartedly with the Westminster statement, I also believe great family dogs can be purchased from responsible retail pet stores, animal shelters and breed rescue organizations. Not all dogs meet the standards to become a show dog. I oppose the proposition that is being legislated in many municipalities across the country to prevent all retail pet shops from selling puppies or dogs because they might have originated in “puppy mills.” As a veterinarian who owned and operated a clinical veterinary practice for 21 years and spent another 23 years as an officer and CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), I have never seen a “puppy mill.” However, I have seen numerous licensed, inspected breeding establishments that sell puppies to retail pet stores that produced very fine puppies that became family members for a lifetime. These facilities are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are inspected periodically to ensure the breeding establishment is meeting the standards set down by law. In addition, all breeding establishments that I have encountered have their puppies inspected by a veterinarian before being transported to the pet store. I believe the efforts to close pet stores has been initiated by animal activist groups who prey on the public for financial support; however, the proceeds seldom reach the animals who need the help. If you give to one of these groups, check their validity on a charity grading company such as Charity Navigator. Many of them collect money, but very little, if any, goes to help the animals. It is usually best to donate to your local animal shelter where you can observe conditions and policies.

Treat yourself this week by going to Fox Sports 1 television and watching all or parts of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It will be entertaining, educational and gratifying to watch the best trained and best-groomed dogs in America going through their paces with their dedicated and committed handlers vying for the top prize which usually entails a ribbon and in some cases a trophy of some kind. However, they do it for themselves, both the dogs and the handlers.

For more information, go to:

Westminster Kennel Club at http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org

American Kennel Club at http://www.americankennelclub.com

Bruce W. Little, DVM