2019 Westminster Dog Show – A Closer Look

The 143rd Annual Westminster Dog Show is just two weeks away. And if you have ever wondered what goes on during the event, which dogs participate or how they determine the winners, I am about to give you a closer look.

In fact, if you have Netflix, there is a wonderful series entitled “7 Days Out” and their first episode focuses on the days leading up to last year’s contest. It gives an up close look at several of the furry competitors as well as their human owners and handlers. The show peaks inside the personal highs and lows of what it takes to bring a dog to the industry’s top event.

Among those profiled are relative newbies Mike and Phyllis Gowen from Marion Oaks, FL who are owner/handlers of their harrier, Champion Blythmoor’s Jump At The Chance, known as Emmy. Also covered are professionals like Hernan and Allison Pacheco, also from Florida, and their boxer named MBIS GCH Vixayo’s Golden Hammer, aka “Thor”.

Some of the participants who appear in the Netflix episode do make it past the first round and win their Best of Breed. Though, as you all know, it was a Bichon Frise named GCH Belle Creek’s All I Care About Is Love which eventually earned the ultimate prize for the week.

There are a little over 200 breeds that will be competing at this year’s event. In a previous post, I looked at the two newest AKC-approved breeds eligible to compete for Best in Show. The Nederlandse kooikerhondje (pronounced NAY-dehr-lahn-seh KOY-kehr-hahnd-jeh) originates in the Netherlands and is “a true sporting dog being keen, swift, tough, attentive and energetic.” The grand basset griffon Vendéen is a shaggy, low-eared hound originally from France and bred for duck-hunting.

The official Westminster website has some great educational resources to explain about many facets of both the competition itself and the industry. Their Dog Show 101 primer breaks down how it all works.  “At Westminster, males and females compete separately within their respective breeds, in three regular classes: Bred by Exhibitor, American-Bred, and Open. First place winners from each class compete in the Winners Dog or Winners Bitch classes. Males and females are judged separately. The winner of these classes receives the championship points. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then compete with the champions in the Best of Breed class. In this class there are three top awards:

— Best of Breed – The dog judged that is judge Best of Breed that day.
— Best of Winners – The dog judged as the better of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.
— Best of Opposite Sex – The best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.

Four placements are awarded in each group. Only the group winners advance to the Best in Show competition. From among these seven dogs the judge selects the Best in Show winner.”

This year,  the finals for the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups are scheduled for Monday at 7:30pm while the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups compete on Tuesday evening at the same time in Madison Square Garden.  The  event finale follows that night.  FS1 (Fox Sports 1) will once again broadcast the show and you can find a full TV schedule at westminsterkennelclub.org/tv-schedule.

Here’s a rundown of all the groups and their respective breeds: [source]

Herding Group :
These breeds move livestock. Herding dogs work closely with human shepherds, and their natural responsiveness makes them highly trainable.
» Official AKC Breed Standards for Herding Group (PDF)

Hound Group :
All hound breeds pursue warm-blooded quarry. The sleek, long-legged sighthounds use explosive speed and wide vision to chase swift prey, like jackrabbits and antelope. Tough, durable scenthounds rely on their powerful noses to trail anything from a raccoon to an escaped convict.
» Official AKC Breed Standards for Hound Group (PDF)

Non-Sporting Group:
These breeds have two things in common: wet noses and four legs. After that, this group is a patchwork of breeds whose job descriptions defy categorization in the six other groups.
» Official AKC Breed Standards for Non-Sporting Group (PDF)

Sporting Group:
Breeds in this group were created to assist hunters on feathered game. Retrievers, built for swimming, specialize on waterfowl. The hunting grounds of setters, spaniels, and pointing breeds are grasslands where quail, pheasant, and other tasty game birds nest.
» Official AKC Breed Standards for Sporting Group (PDF)

Terrier Group :
Short-legged terriers were created to go underground in pursuit of rodents. Long-legged terriers dig out varmints rather than burrowing in after them. The group’s “bull” breeds were created long ago for ghastly “sports” like bull baiting and dogfights but are today companion dogs.
» Official AKC Breed Standards for Terrier Group (PDF)

Toy Group :
They come in enough shapes and coat types to satisfy any preference, but all toy dogs are small enough to fit comfortably in the lap of their adored humans. In a way, toys are “working dogs”—they work at being attentive, affectionate companions.
» Official AKC Breed Standards for Toy Group (PDF)

These are dogkind’s punch-the-clock, blue-collar workers. They pull sleds and carts, do rescue work, guard flocks and homes, and protect their humans.
» Official AKC Breed Standards for Working Group (PDF)

Chihuahua breed standards juding pointsWhat is important to remember is that each canine is judged against a written standard describing the ideal dog – first of their breed or class and then of their group. Those standards are maintained and published by the governing body – in this case the American Kennel Club (AKC). As dogs were originally bred to do specific jobs like hunting, guarding, tracking, or companionship, the standard describes how a dog should look in order to carry out its job. General appearance, movement, and temperament along with specific physical traits such as height and weight, coat, colors, eye color and shape, ear shape and placement, feet and tail are all taken into consideration. [source]

You can find specific information for breed and group standards in the PDF links above as well as on the AKC website. For instance, with the Chihuahua (my personal favorite) the dog should be “graceful, alert, swift-moving… and have a saucy expression.” They should have “large, erect type ears, held more upright when alert, but flaring to the sides at a 45 degree angle when in repose, giving breadth between the ears.” And forget about discouraging fat-shaming! Chihuahuas can’t weigh more than 6 pounds (or 6.5 pounds if they are competing in England.) In fact there are variations in breed standards from the AKC and the United Kennel Club (UKC). You can read it here, but that is a topic for another day. Other points that will disqualify a Chihuahuas according to the AKC include a) broken down or cropped ears b)docked tail, bobtail c)in Long Coats, having too thin of a coat that resembles bareness.

Judges also have to have extensive knowledge of all the breed standards. If you are interested, you can read the AKC Measuring and Weighing Dogs Study Guide. Here is also a video discussing how they measure the height and weight of a dog properly.


Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Shepherd
Bearded Collie
Belgian Malinois
Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Tervuren
Berger Picard
Border Collie
Bouvier des Flandres
Canaan Dog
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Entlebucher Moutain Dog
Finnish Lapphund
German Shepherd Dog
Icelandic Sheepdog
Miniature American Shepherd
Norwegian Buhund
Old English Sheepdog
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Pyrenean Shepherd
Shetland Sheepdog
Spanish Water Dog
Swedish Vallhund
Cirneco Dell’Etna
English Foxhound
Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen
Ibizan Hound
Irish Wolfhound
Norwegian Elkhound
Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen
Pharaoh Hound
Portuguese Podengo
Redbone Coonhound
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Scottish Deerhound
Treeing Walker Coonhound
American Eskimo Dog
Bichon Frise
Boston Terrier
Chinese Shar-Pei
Chow Chow
Coton De Tulear
Finish Spitz
French Bulldog
Lhasa Apso
Norwegian Lundhund
Shiba Inu
Tibetan Spaniel
Tibetan Terrier
American Water Spaniel
Boykin Spaniel
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Clumber Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel
Curly-Coated Retriever
English Cocker Spaniel
English Setter
English Springer Spaniel
Field Spaniel
Flat-Coated Retriever
German Shorthaired Pointer
German Wirehaired Pointer
Golden Retriever
Gordon Setter
Irish Red and White Setter
Irish Setter
Irish Water Spaniel
Labrador Retriever
Lagotto Romagnolo
Nederlandse Kooikerhondje
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Spinone Italiano
Sussex Spaniel
Welsh Springer Spaniel
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Wirehaired Vizsla
Airedale Terrier
American Hairless Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier
Australian Terrier
Bedlington Terrier
Border Terrier
Bull Terrier
Cairn Terrier
Cesky Terrier
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Glen of Imaal Terrier
Irish Terrier
Kerry Blue Terrier
Lakeland Terrier
Manchester Terrier
Miniature Bull Terrier
Miniature Schnauzer
Norfolk Terrier
Norwich Terrier
Parson Russell Terrier
Rat Terrier
Russell Terrier
Scottish Terrier
Sealyham Terrier
Skye Terrier
Smooth Fox Terrier
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Welsh Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
Wire Fox Terrier
Brussels Griffon
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Chinese Crested
English Toy Spaniel
Italian Greyhound
Japanese Chin
Manchester Terrier
Miniature Pinscher
Poodle (Toy)
Shih Tzu
Silky Terrier
Toy Fox Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier
Alaskan Malamute
Anatolian Shepherd Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Black Russian Terrier
Cane Corso
Doberman Pinscher
Dogue de Bordeaux
German Pinscher
Giant Schnauzer
Great Dane
Great Pyrenees
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Neapolitan Mastiff
Portuguese Water Dog
Siberian Husky
Standard Schnauzer
Tibetan Mastiff
St. Bernard


Now, we have not even ventured into the arduous process it takes to actually be allowed to compete at Westminster. I will also save that for another article. But if you want to see a list of the top dogs to watch out for, you can review the list for each breed at http://infodog.com/show/westminster/breed.htm.

For now, I will conclude with a note about judging in the ring and answer a common question I hear. First, yes; personality, attitude and performance does matter. Some dogs have that something extra in their step. Others don’t shine so bright. And the ones that don’t like to perform in front of people never make it off the couch. Not all dogs, no matter how physically perfect, are meant to be show dogs. And secondly, what happens if a dog has an “accident” in the ring? Well don’t worry. You’ll be glad to know that judges are very understanding and won’t hold it against them.


How Are Dogs Invited to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? [thenest.com]
Dog Breeds (akc.org)
Dog Show 101 [westminsterkennelclub.org]
Westminster Breed Info [infodog.com]
AKC Judges Study Guides/ akc.org]
What does AKC Registered Mean? [dognition.com]
What is the difference between AKC and CKC registered dogs? [quora.com]
Westminster Breed Juding View [westminsterkennelclub.org]


2019 Westminster Kennel Club & Dog Show Primer
Slugger Ready to Take a Swing at Westminster