Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2012: Viewing tips

Which dog will win Best in Show and become an instant canine celebrity? NEW: Current results updates included. Photo: Associated Press

Best in Show UPDATE Feb 14, 10:25 p.m. EST: The stage is now set with all seven group winners chosen.

In tonight’s results, the final winner is another surprise, the Kerry Blue Terrier GCH Perrisblu Kennislain’s Chelsey, “Chelsey,” edging out the favorite Adam the Smooth Fox Terrier. Chelsey joins Doberman Pinscher GCH Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici, known as “Fifi” from the Working Group; and the Irish Setter “Emily,” GCH Shadagee Caught Red Handed, from the Sporting Group in tonight’s Group competition.

The three join Monday night’s winners, the Wire-Haired Dachshund, Dalmation, German Shepherd Dog and Pekingese for the Best in Show competition.

The predictions of oddsmakers and fans went right out the window with several favorites not even winning their breed competition, including Beckham the black Cocker Spaniel, and London the standard Poodle. BIS judge Cindy Vogel will have a tough job tonight.

The number two dog, Malachy the Peke, is likely leading the current oddsboard as favorite. Capi the German Shepherd is also a Top Ten Dog. The stage is set for a great finale for fans tonight.

SAN DIEGO, Feb 13, 2012Americans love their dogs. Four out of ten households in the U.S. own at least one dog, a total of 77.5 million dogs. The attention of many of them will turn toward Madison Square Garden in New York for the 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show. It is the second oldest continuously held sporting event in America, second only to the Kentucky Derby.

But to its fans and followers, it’s far more than a just a horse race. It’s the equivalent of the Oscars, Olympics, Miss America and the Nobel Prize all rolled into one.

For observers whose knowledge of conformation dog shows begins and ends with the movie “Best in Show,” the competition may seem a bit mystifying. How does someone judge a Shih Tzu against an Irish Wolfhound? Match a Miniature Pinscher against a Doberman Pinscher? Judge a Poodle, Pug, and Puli in the same field?

If you’ve never watched a dog show, here are a few tips to help you enjoy the event over the next few days.

All 176 different breeds of dogs entered in Westminster in seven different categories called “groups” have a written breed standard. Think of it as the blueprint for each breed of dog. This blueprint is based on what job or role the dog is intended to play. Is it a dog intended to herd sheep? Is the dog intended to burrow into a hole and kill rats? Is it a dog bred for a burst of speed to catch and kill small game? It is a dog used to intimidate bad guys? Or is it a dog intended to snuggle up to you and nestle in your lap to keep you company?

Every dog entered in Westminster has earned its Championship title. But the judge can only choose one for Best in Breed. Photo: Westminster Kennel Club.

All purebred dogs were originally designed to perform a specific task. When dogs are judged in the conformation show ring, the judge studies the breed standard, which describes the physical attributes, movement, and character traits that breed is supposed to possess based on the job humans asked it to do, even if that original job is lost to history.

Even the color can be important. A dog bred to guard sheep may need to be white or rough coated to blend in with the flock and catch predators who might approach by surprise. A dog’s coat might protect him from cold water, or allow him to withstand desert heat. Dogs are judged against their own standard, and not against each other like a beauty pageant.

Conformation show dogs compete in local, regional, national and international dog shows throughout the year. They earn points for different levels of wins. It is very similar to tennis players or golfers, who earn rankings within their sports based on their tournament results throughout the year. Factor in wins against tough competition head to head, like boxers who get in the ring with their toughest opponent rather than fighting inexperienced, subpar competitors. When you hear that a certain standard poodle is the “number one standard poodle” or “number one nonsporting group dog,” this is what it means.

The other critical variable that comes into play is the human variable. Individual judges have been competitors and breeders themselves. While they must know the standards of all the dogs they assess, they often know certain breeds much better than others. At times this is an advantage; but other times it can set up an especially tough standard based on their expertise. This year, the Best in Show judge, Cindy Vogel, is a long-time breeder of Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Brittanys, and Pekingese. She knows the terrier breeds exceptionally well. Judges also say that champions “ask” them for the win.

Fans track statistics in this sport just like people who follow fantasy football, or collect stats about baseball players. They know, for example, that the Terrier Group has produced the most winners over the years (45); or that newly introduced breeds rarely rise to the top. It took 27 years for the Bishon Frise to win Best in Show after being introduced. So the six new breeds introduced this year including the American English Coonhound, Cesky Terrier, Norwegian Lundehund, Xoloitzcuintlis (say “show-low”), Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and Finnish Lapphund don’t stand a chance.

Based on the statistics, rankings, and historical record, these are the dogs to watch for on Monday and Tuesday night:

Hound Group: Hounds are dogs bred to work as part of a team with humans or other dogs. Last year’s winner, the Scottish deerhound “Hickory,” was considered an upset winner over a smooth fox terrier. Like most Westminster winners, Hickory has retired. The top winning dogs in this group include the 2010 Group Winner, a whippet named Chanel who also won the Hound Group at the Eukanuba National Championship in December. An outside candidate is the Pharaoh hound Qing, but this is an unusual breed that many judges find difficult to assess. So look for Chanel to strut her stuff on the runway and make it to Best in Show. UPDATE: The winner of the group was a surprise, a Wire-Haired Dachshund named Raydachs Playing With Fire V Gleishorbach, known as “Cinders,” one of the biggest longshots in the entire competition. The Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen was second and the favored Whippet named Chanel placed third. No Wire-Haired Dachshund has ever won Best in Show at Westminster.

BISA, BISS Gr. Ch. Palacegarden Malachy is a crowd pleasing favorite who won the Toy Group in 2011 at Westminster. Photo: David Fitzpatrick/PEQuest.com

Toy Group: Toy breeds should be full of personality and charm, a big dog in a small body. It has been 13 years since a Toy breed won at Westminster (Kirby the Papillion). The winner of the group from 2011 is back, a Pekingese named Malachy, the number two winning dog in 2011. He will face a challenge from the top winning Toy breed from the previous year, an Affenpinscher named Joey. Joey is a crowd-pleaser and the lively personality of this breed outshines the laid back nature of the Pekingese. Bet on the Affenpinscher, and notice the monkey-like expression on its face. It’s considered crucial. UPDATE: Easy victory here for Malachy the Pekingese, with the Affenpinscher second, and Miniature Pinscher third.

Nonsporting Group: This group looks like a bit of a catch-all, but don’t let the name fool you. Many of these 16 breeds are active dogs. The standard poodle reigns supreme in this group, winning 12 out of the last 25 years. The top two competitors in this group also compete in the same breed, a white poodle named Ally and a black poodle named London. London recently won the AKC Eukanuba National Championship, which is like winning a warm-up tennis tournament going into a Grand Slam event. But London will have to beat Ally first to have a chance. UPDATE: Another big upset as the Dalmatian named Ch. Spotlights Ruffian called “Ian” takes first in this group, with the Chinese Shar-Pei second and the Lowchen third. In the 101 years Dalmations have competed at Westminster, none have ever won Best in Show. Neither Ally or London won their breed competition today.

Herding Group: This is the newest group, formed in 1993. These dogs are bred to be independent thinkers, taking direction well but also knowing when to make a decision on their own when working with livestock. Herding dogs are among the smartest breeds. Since its formation, German Shepherd Dogs have done extremely well and it is the only Herding breed ever to have won Best in Show. It should be no different this year. The top Herding dog in the U.S. is Capi, a German Shepherd with 27 AKC Best in Shows this year. UPDATE: It’s a win for Capi the German Shepherd Dog, Ch.Babheim Captain Crunch. Second was the Bouvier, and third the Old English Sheepdog.

Sporting Group: These dogs are athletes, and should project energy and be alert and attentive, ready to spring into action at any time. While this seems like an odd description for a cocker spaniel, these dogs were bred to flush small game in underbrush. A black Cocker Spaniel named Beckham is the Roger Federer of dogs, rated the number one show dog in the U.S. last year winning 68 Best in Shows. He won the Group at the Eukanuba National, and he should win again. He will be a favorite for Best in Show here. UPDATE: Complete shocker as odds-on favorite Beckham (Ch. Casablanca’s Thrilling Seduction) lost the Best of Breed to “Ace,” Ch. Mario N Beechwood’s Midnight Express, who has competed mostly in Canada. So Ace will be in the ring for the Sporting Group final.

GCh. Winfall Brookwood Styled Dream, known as Scarlett, is the number one Boxer and number one Working Group dog in the U.S.A. Her handler is Diego Garcia. Photo: Miguel Betancourt.

Working Group: These dogs originally served humans as service dogs, guard dogs, sled and draft dogs. They are made of muscle and should project confidence. The number one working dog in the nation is Scarlett, a Boxer that won her group at the Eukanuba National Championship and has won over 80 Best in Shows this year. She is the number three dog in the U.S. overall this year. She also boasts more Facebook followers than any other dog entered at Westminster (search “Scarlett TheBoxer”). Her handler Diego Garcia is considered among the best. Her big competition is a Doberman Pinscher named Fifi, who bested Scarlett for the group win last year. But in 2012, expect Scarlett to make it to Best in Show. Fif and Scarlett went one and two, just like in 2011. No surprises here at all.

Terrier Group: As mentioned a terrier has taken Best in Show 45 times. They are energetic, engaging dogs and they are known to “show well,” meaning that they are not at all shy or intimidated, present well to the judges and perform well for enthusiastic crowds. The Smooth Fox Terrier Adam with a distinctive black and white face won the group last year. But the up and coming Wire Fox Terrier Eira won the National Dog Show in Philadelphia and the group at the AKC Eukanuba National show. Only three dogs have ever won both the National and Westminster in the same year. Between the two varieties, fox terriers have won Best in Show 17 times at Westminster. If there is a lock on any group, it’s one of these two dogs. UPDATE: Westminster proves there’s never a sure thing. Eira the Wire Fox Terrier did not win the breed, bested by GCh Graycottage Santeric Fyrestorm, called “Jeff.” Adam did get his win, which set up big expectations. But he lost to the Kerry Blue Terrier “Chelsey.” If you want to win money gambling, play poker or blackjack instead.


Rufus the Colored Bull Terrier won Best in Show in 2006. Photo: Westminster Kennel Club.

It is the pursuit of something unattainable — matching perfection - that keeps fans in pursuit of the ultimate prize in the dog show world: Best in Show at Westminster. The dog that wins Westminster becomes a celebrity and seals its legacy forever: J.R, the Bichon Frise, or Stump the Sussex Spaniel; Rufus the Colored Bull Terrier, Uno the Beagle or Hickory the Scottish deerhound, who will relinquish her 2011 Best in Show title to his successor.

But no matter what the handicappers or the records dictate, there are often surprises, just like in any athletic competition. No one expected the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl, let alone twice. Hickory wasn’t among the top-10-ranked dogs when he won last year. In perhaps the biggest upset, Stump the Sussex Spaniel came out of retirement at age 10 to win, the equivalent of a 65 year old beating Michael Phelps to win an Olympic gold medal. So yes, there are underdogs at Westminster.

Which dog will you root for? Many of us have an affinity for a particular breed that we have owned and loved, perhaps a beloved childhood companion, a devoted playmate and protector to your children or a dog that works at your side every day. But even if you own a mixed breed or a rescue of unknown origin, pick a favorite and root them on with your own canine at your side. My rescued Boxer Mario and I will be cheering on Scarlett to win it all. When you write a boxing column for Communities, how could you not be a Boxer owner?

Westminster Fast Facts

Total number of entries: 2,077 dogs, representing all of the 185 breeds and varieties eligible.

Highest number of entries: Rhodesian Ridgebacks (40), French Bulldogs (39), Labrador Retrievers (38), Vizslas (29). There are also 60 entries for three varieties of Dachshunds, and 34 in three varieties of Poodles.

Lowest numbers of entries: American Water Spaniels, Harriers, Kuvaszok, Sealyham Terries, and Canaan Dogs, all with two. But this doesn’t necessarily matter. A Harrier won the Hound Group at the Eukanuba National.

Most common home state: New York (204), California (187) and Pennsylvania (167). Entries came from 47 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. There are 91 international entries, mostly from Canada (82) but also Brazil, China, Japan, Italy, Mexico, Peru and Russia.

Hound, Toy, Nonsporting and Herding Groups will be judged on Monday.

Sporting, Working, and Terrier Groups will be judged on Tuesday.

The seven Group winners will compete for Best in Show on Tuesday evening, February 14 as the final event in the show at approximately 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

The seven group competitions where you will see all the individual breed champions will be televised live on both Monday and Tuesday beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific. The first hour on Monday will be carried from 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern Time on the USA Network; the broadcast will then jump to CNBC from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern Time. On Tuesday, the entire three hours will air from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern Time on the USA Network. The Westminster Kennel Club website will show streaming video of each individual breed competition, judging results and photos all day Monday and Tuesday.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read her regular column Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities at WashingtonTimes.com” when quoting from or linking to this story.   

Copyright © 2012 by Falcon Valley Group

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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