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Journey to the Garden – Westminster Dog Show
This year marks the 142nd annual showing of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. This event is the second longest continually-running sporting event in the United States. Referred to as the “Garden” by those in the sport, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show draws nearly 3,000 entries annually.
Going to the “Garden” is a thrilling experience for those who come to show as well as those that come to observe. This year there are 201 different breeds entered and a total of 2,919 dogs! The entry numbers can vary per breed, from one English Foxhound to fifty-two Golden Retrievers. Each of the dogs participating has competed throughout the year to earn points, rankings, and titles in their individual breed or discipline.
Preparing for the Garden
Dogs and their people begin preparing for the “Garden” very early in the season. While Westminster is in February, the dogs are trained and shown all year round, with the goal of earning as many points as possible. Top dogs show almost every week of the year. Shows range from two to five days.
Throughout the season, handlers focus on several key things to ensure their dogs are ready for the ring:
- Behavior – like kids, dogs are taught to behave well, too! They must behave in the ring and do as instructed by their handler. While conformation dogs (dogs that are judged against a written standard, as defined by each dog breed) are given a little more leniency, agility and obedience dogs have to be spot-on with taking commands and responding to them.
- Conditioning – dogs need to be in tip-top shape for Westminster. This includes both physical and coat condition. Not only do they have to be healthy, they have to look good. Handlers with coated breeds spend hours grooming their dogs before entering the ring. While grooming is not quite as important for agility and sporting dogs, they still need to be clean and neat for show day.
- Time in the Ring – there is no substitution for time in the ring. Handlers can practice at home but it does not provide the same experience for the dog. The dogs need to be prepared for new environments, noise, crowds, and being handled by the judge.
- Exposure – it is really helpful for dogs to have exposure! Handlers want judges to know who they are and what they have done at shows. Social media and print advertising play a major role in marketing for the top winning dogs.
These are just a few things that go into preparing for the “Garden.” It takes a lot of hard work to be ready for the spotlight! Whether you are a participant or a bystander, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is an experience that you will never forget!
Submitted by Kimberly Noel, COSEQUIN® Product Manager &
Owner of a Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show participant