Top Ten Westminster 2014 FAQs

Nope, it’s not Tuesday, but I needed to get this Top Ten list up in time for people to prepare for the upcoming granddaddy of all dog shows, the 2014 Westminster Kennel Club All-Breed Show.

You can catch the Finals of the Masters Agility Championship on Fox Sports 1 from 7 – 9 pm ET on Saturday, February 8th. The conformation show is on CNBC Monday, February 7th from 8 – 11 pm ET and on USA Network on Tuesday, February 8th from 8 – 11 pm ET.

If your television is glued to the Olympics, check back here often. I’ll be live-blogging both events – a little during the day, but a lot during the evening.

Here are the answers to some of the questions you might have about dog shows in general and Westminster in particular.

10. What’s the difference between a breed and a variety? Different breeds, such as the Afghan Hound and the Akita, have unique breed standards. Within a breed, there may be slight variations that are important enough to distinguish them as varieties. For example, a Chihuahua (breed) may be one of two varieties: Long Coat and Smooth Coat. Collies are the same way, but they are called Rough and Smooth. Dachshunds come in Short, Long, and Wire-Haired varieties. Fox Terriers may be Smooth or Wire-Coated.

9. How many dogs are competing in this year’s show? This is the biggest group since 1990, with 2,845 dogs entered for the conformation portion.

8. For how many years has the Westminster Kennel Club put on a show? This is the 138th show. The first was held in 1877, making the show the second longest continuously held sporting event in the US, just behind the Kentucky Derby, which first was run in 1875.

7. How many breeds and varieties are going to be shown? There are 187 breeds and varieties represented this year.

6. How does a dog get to Westminster? Any purebred dog theoretically could compete. Realistically, the dog must already have earned enough show points to be a Champion. The top five-ranked dogs in each breed are automatically invited, and other champions are entered by their owners.

5. Which dogs are entered the most? In this year’s group, there are 76 Labrador Retrievers, 58 Golden Retrievers, 52 French Bulldogs, 46 Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and 44 Australian Shepherds. In part, this reflects the popularity of these breeds, as Labs have ranked number one in AKC registrations every year since 1991.

4. Are there any new breeds this year? There are three breeds that have recently been recognized by the American Kennel Club, making this year’s Westminster show the first for which they’d be eligible. In the Hound Group, 8 Portuguese Podengo Pequeno dogs are entered. In the Working Group, 4 Chinooks debut, and in the Terrier Group, 20 Rat Terriers will compete.

3. Is there more to the show than what we see on TV? It’s tough to imagine the scope of this show if all you ever see is what’s on TV. (I have made a promise to myself that I will attend in person next year.) Breed judging takes place all day Monday and Tuesday at Piers 92 and 94 from 8 am to 6 pm. On Monday, the hound, toy, non-sporting, and herding groups are judged, one breed at a time. On Tuesday, the breeds from the sporting, working, and terrier groups take the stage.

2. What about non-purebred dogs? Although they cannot compete in conformation showing because there is no breed standard for a dog with unknown parentage, mutts are being included in the Westminster show for the first time this year. On Saturday, February 8th, they compete in an agility competition featuring 225 dogs, each dog running the course twice in the qualifiers. The qualifying rounds consist of a Standard Agility course and a Jumpers with Weaves course. The dogs with the highest combined scores from each height class then move on to the Championship round. The Championship course is a hybrid of the qualifying rounds, run as a ‘time to beat’ course, where the first dog will set the baseline time for the subsequent competitors.

1. How can I learn more? The Westminster Kennel Club has a very nice website, where you can learn everything you want to know about the big show. They also have videos of breed judging, which you won’t see on TV, and results from the Piers that are updated throughout the day. There is also a mobile app that you can download for your phone or tablet.

Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!

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