2013 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show preview: Tips on how to watch

The Super Bowl of dog shows is this week at Madison Square Garden. If you're new to the dog show game, read our tips on what to watch. Photo: Bulldogs in the ring at Westminster 2012/Mary Bloom WKC

SAN DIEGO, February 9, 2013 –  The big dogs of the sports world weren’t all in New Orleans last weekend. They’re in New York City this week for the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show taking place on Monday and Tuesday, February 11 and 12.

UPDATE: Monday night group results

If you thought the competition was fierce beween the Ravens and 49ers, you haven’t seen a champion cocker spaniel and champion wire fox terrier battle it out for Best of Show.  And these fans may not paint their faces, but they are – well, rabid.

Americans love their dogs. Four out of ten households in the U.S. own at least one dog, a total of 77.5 million dogs. But it’s an elite few who rise to the top of the confirmation show dog ranks.

So what makes a dog like Fifi the Doberman Pincher or Oakley the German Wirehaired Pointer a winner? How do you match a monkey faced Affenpincher against an imposing Great Dane?

If you are new to watching dog shows, here’s what you need to know to keep up with the competion at Westminster right through Best in Show on  Monday and Tuesday night. 

Madison Square Garden plays host to the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Photo: AP.

There are 187 different breeds of dogs entered in Westminster for 2013. Each breed has a written breed standard that describes the physical specifications such as height, weight, coat, color, head, ears, tail, teeth, posture, and gait. The standard also calls for specifics in personality, character traits, and atttude.

Think of the standard as the blueprint for each breed of dog, based on the job or role the dog was originally intended to fill: herd sheep, kill rats, pull a cart, scare off intruders, or snuggle into a noblewoman’s lap and keep her company. This is the reason for the amazing variety of dog breeds we know today.  Each breed has its advocates and fans who have preserved it through the years. When you look at a purebred dog, you are looking into human history.

When dogs are judged in the competition 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.  Form and function go hand in hand, or paw in paw.

Take one very visible trait, a dog’s coat. It might be thick with an undercoat to protect him from cold weather or water. It might be short to allow him withstand heat.  Even color can be important: white to blend in with the flock, or black to blend in with the night.

Westminster Best in Show Champion Malachy the Pekingese. Who will win in 2013? Photo: AP/Seth Wenig.

Dogs are judged against their own standard. How close can one dog get to perfection as described by the standard? It’s not a beauty pageant where dogs are judged against each other. So when a push-faced, ambling Pekingese named Malachy beat the rest to win Best in Show in 2012, people who don’t undertand the sport wondered how a dog that looks like a mop head could win over a sleek Doberman or flashy Dalmation. It’s because the Peke came closest of all the competitors to his breed’s official description of perfection. 

Confirmation 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 won-loss record during the year. Factor in wins against tough competition head to head, like boxers who get in the ring with their toughest opponant rather than fighting inexperienced. subpar competitors. When you hear that a German Wirehaired Pointer is the “number one sporting dog” or “number one dog all breeds,” this is what it means.

So which dogs are the odds-on favorites? We’ll handicap the field in part two of our preview.

TV Schedule Monday and Tuesday, February 11-12: CNBC and USA Network

Monday: Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Group breeds will be judged during the day on Monday, February 11. Group competition takes place from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern and will be shown live on CNBC.

Tuesday: Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups will be judged during the day on Tuesday, February 12. Group judging will take place from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time followed by Best in Show at approximately 10:30 p.m. USA Network will broadcast the final groups and Best of Show.

Westminster, televised since 1948, is and always has been America’s most widely-watched live telecast of a dog show.

In 2013, also for the first time ever, Westminster will produce live coverage of all the breed judging during the days, posting live streaming video on its website of the competition in all 187 breeds and varieties. Since 2005, breed judging highlights have been carried on the website on a delayed basis, but this year, for the first time, this important part of the show will be covered live and in its entirety with real-time posting on the Westminster website. There is also a free downloadable phone app available for iPhone and Android.

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 +

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

Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group




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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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