February is known for being the shortest month of the year, Valentines Day and The Westminster Dog Show. Along with all of the snow and ice, we can all look forward to seeing some of the most beautiful and elite canines in the nation. In the year 1877, The First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs, was held under the name of the Westminster Kennel Club. It took place in the Hippodrome of Gilmore’s Garden in New York City , bringing an entry of 1,201 dogs.
Today, dogs compete year round to acquire enough points to merit an invitation to the Westminster Show. It is the “Superbowl” of dog shows and one dog will walk away with the coveted title of “Best In Show.” Only titled champions are allowed to compete in the Westminster Show. Most dogs in competition, at conformation shows are competing for points toward their AKC championships. It takes fifteen points, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) awarded by at least three different judges, to become an American Kennel Club “Champion of Record.”
The number of championship points awarded at a show depends on the number of males (“dogs”) and females (“bitches”) of the breed actually in competition. The larger the entry, the greater the number of points a male or a female can win. The maximum number of points awarded to a dog at any show is 5 points. All-breed shows are conformation events that are held for all AKC recognized breeds to compete in, unless otherwise noted on the club’s premium list.
Also listed under all-breed are the Group Shows, or shows limited to one of the seven AKC Groups – Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-sporting and Herding. Approximately 1500 AKC All-breed conformation point shows are held throughout the United States each year. Specialty shows are events limited to a single breed and are sponsored by a national “parent” specialty club or local “regional” specialty clubs. Some specialty shows may be held in conjunction with an all-breed event and others are independent of all-breed shows.
There are about 2,000 independent national and regional specialty point shows held every year. Any dog registered with the American Kennel Club that is 6 months or older on the day of the show and of a breed for which classes are offered in the premium list is eligible to be entered at a dog show.
The Westminster Show is the “who’s who” of canines, handlers and breeders. It is an honor to be asked to handle a dog at the Westminster Show. A professional handler is someone who actually presents the dog in the ring. Most breeders will hire handlers for this service, as they are too close to their animal and won’t get the desired performance.
The American Kennel Club Registered Handlers Program establishes criteria and standards for responsible, knowledgeable, professional handlers. All handlers enrolled in the program have made the commitment to follow the guidelines and Code of Ethics, as set forth by the AKC.
Whether you prefer Dalmatians or Pomeranian one thing is for sure, there will be no shortage of amazing canines for you to see at this year’s event. Will “Rufus” the Bull Terrier hold his crown for one more year, or will “Wendy” the English Bulldog (and crowd favorite) take it away?
USA Network will be home to The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show presented by Pedigree®, for the 24th consecutive year in 2007. USA Network airs exclusive live coverage from Madison Square Garden on Monday, February 12, and Tuesday, February 13.