SAN DIEGO, Feb 11, 2012 – The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has 136 years’ worth of numbers: 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. The two new breeds introduced this year, the Russell Terrier and Treeing Walker Coonhound, are the longest of long shots to win Westminster this year.
So which among the record number of 2,721 dogs are the front runners for the title of Best in Show? 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. It will be tough to top Chet the Harrier (GCH CH Downhome Hi-Tech Innovator), the number one Hound in the U.S. He is fresh off an upset Best in Show win at the prestigious AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Chet’s only challenger is another rare Hound breed, American Foxhound Jewel (GCH CH Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box). If momentum counts, bet on Chet here as a nearly sure thing.
Toy Group: Toy breeds should be full of personality and charm, a big dog in a small body. The 2012 Best in Show came from this group, Malachy the Pekingese. Odds aren’t great for a repeat, but this year’s top winning Toy breed, an Affenpinscher named Joey, will try to beat the odds. Joey is a crowd-pleaser. Bet on the Affenpinscher, and notice the monkey-like expression on its face. It’s considered crucial.
Herding Group: These dogs rate as among the smartest of all dog breeds. They are bred to be independent thinkers, taking direction but also knowing when to make a decision on its own when working with livestock or as service or law enforcement dogs. The number one Herding dog in the U.S. for the second year and the prohibitive favorite is Capi the German Shepherd Dog (GCH CH Babheim’s Captain Crunch). Capi won his Group at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship and last year’s Herding Group at Westminster. Surprisingly, only one German Shepherd Dog has ever won Best in Show, in 1987, the only Herding Group winner in the show’s history.
Sporting Group: These dogs are energetic powerhouses. They should be alert and attentive, and seem ready to spring into action at any time. The number one dog in the country for 2012 is in this group, Hickory the German Wirehaired Pointer. It will be hard to bet against him. Hickory’s top competition may be a dog with a score to settle, a black American Cocker Spaniel named Beckham. He was rated the number one show dog in the U.S. in 2011 but aftr winning 68 Best in Shows all year, he didn’t even win his breed. If he’s as competitive as his namesame, Beckham will be back.
Working Group: These dogs originally served humans as service dogs, guard dogs, sled and draft dogs. They are athletic and should project confidence. This is the most competitive group of the entire show, with five of the top 15 dogs in the nation for 2012 in this group: two Boxers, two Doberman pinschers, and a Kuvasz. It should come down to the three breed winners among these guard dogs. Last year’s group winner, Fifi the Doberman, AKA “The Fifinator,” is back to try and win the group again and take another shot at winning Best in Show. She is the number one working dog in the country in 2012 and the number three dog overall. But the Boxers and Kuvasz will bring it on, and it will come down to the dog who’s at his or her best on this one night.
Nonsporting Group: Many of the 16 breeds in this group are active, athletic dogs despite the name. The name goes back to 19th century when dogs competed either as sporting dogs or non-sporting dogs. These are the dogs that remain from the original category. The Standard Poodle reigns supreme in this group, winning 12 out of the last 25 years. The top dog for the second year in a row is a black Standard Poodle named London. He was expected to do well in 2012 but didn’t make it to Best of Show. London will be looking for revenge this year, but once again he’ll have to hold off challengers in his breed competition to get to the Group.
Terrier Group: Terriers have taken Best in Show 45 times. Will it be 46? There’s always a good chance of it. Terriers are energetic, engaging dogs and they are known to “show well,” meaning that they are not at all shy or intimidated, but present well to the judges and perform well for enthusiastic crowds. Wire Fox Terrier Sky won the 2012 Eukanuba World Championship in December. But only three dogs have ever won both in the same year. Between the two varieties, Fox Terriers have won Best in Show 17 times at Westminster. If there is ever a lock at Westminster for a group, it’s this dog.
Best in Show Contenders: So which of the seven group winners has the best chance of winning? Westminster history favors Sky, the Wire Fox Terrier. Oakley the German Wirehaired Pointer is the number one dog in the nation in the points standards, and was the breed winner and second in the Sporting Group at Westminster in 2012. Standard Poodle London left early in a big surprise in 2012, and will have motivation to win. If London wins, he will be the first black standard Poodle to win Best in Show.
Whichever dog wins the Working Group will be formidable, whether it’s the Fifi the Doberman, Tanner the Kuvasz, Boxers Macey or Riley – or an upset winner.
Keep an eye on Joe the Affenpinscher if he gets into the final mix.
My Best In Show prediction: There hasn’t been a Working Group winner since 2004, and it’s time. Fifi the Doberman is a powerhouse and competes well. She isn’t called “The Fifinator” for nothing. She would make a popular winner. Her toughest competition will be in the group itself, so if she makes it to the final ring I’ll expect to hear her name called.
The dog that wins Westminster becomes a celebrity and seals its legacy forever: Uno the Beagle, JR the Bichon Frise, or Stump the Sussex Spaniel; and Malachy the Pekingese, who will relinquish his 2012 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. Three of last year’s favorites didn’t win their groups, and two didn’t even win their own breed competitions. So don’t count any dog out.
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 12 as the final event in the show at approximately 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Michael Dougherty of Escondido, California will shoulder the responsibility of naming one of seven wonderful dogs as Best in Show.
The seven group competitions will be televised live on both Monday and Tuesday beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. Monday night’s action will air on CNBC. On Tuesday, the entire three hours from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern will air on the USA Network. The Westminster website will show live streaming video of each individual breed competition, judging results and photos all day Monday and Tuesday. There is also a free iPhone and Android app available to let you follow the show on your mobile device.
Which dog will you root for? Most of us have an affinity for a particular breed that we have owned and loved, perhaps a beloved childhood companion, a devoted playmate for 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, it’s fun to pick a favorite and root them on with your own canine at your side. My rescued Boxer Mario and I will BOL (Bark Out Loud) if a Boxer manages to win the Working Group or even Best of Show.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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