The top show dogs of 2017 ran tight races and clocked thousands upon thousands of miles in the air and on the ground to compete at dog shows across the country. Every week, every step of the way, they were accompanied by their intrepid professional handlers, teams of assistants who kept the dogs fit and happy on the road, and devoted, single-minded owners. For keeping their collective eye on the prize, they triumphed in the toughest of competitions. So, who will win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Learn a bit about each of the top show dogs of 2017:
1. ‘Ty’ the Giant Schnauzer.
Grand Champion Ingebar’s Tynan Dances with Wildflowers and his handler, Katie Bernardin, ended 2017 as the No. 1 show dog in the country, with 69 all-breed Best in Show wins to his credit. What an elegant pair these two made, flying around the ring as one; young blonde Katie and athletic Ty, in his crisp, jet-black, wiry coat. The Giant Schnauzer is a powerhouse of a dog, combining strength and style. This is the largest of the three Schnauzer breeds, renowned in his native Germany as an agile police and service dog, as well as a fearless guardian of family and home.
2. ‘Striker’ the Cocker Spaniel.
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The chocolate brown ASCOB Cocker Spaniel Grand Champion Silverhall Strike Force was one of the top show dogs of the year. ASCOB is one of three varieties of Cockers, and stands for “any solid color other than black.” The other two varieties are Black and Parti-Color (white with markings of black or red). Striker is professionally handled by Michael Pitts, husband of Linda, who showed Preston the Puli (see below). The Pitts and their charges ended up competing in the same Best in Show ring on many occasions. Cocker Spaniels started out as a single breed in the United Kingdom, bred to hunt the Eurasian woodcock. When the breed was brought to the United States, it was bred to a different standard, to produce a slightly smaller dog than the English Cocker. The American Cocker was the most popular breed in America from 1936 through 1952, and regained that top spot from 1983 to 1990.
3. ‘Flynn’ the Bichon Frise.
Grand Champion Belle Creek’s All I Care About Is Love captured the No. 4 spot last year. A West Coast contender, Flynn the animated powder puff, charmed judges from coast to coast, professionally handled by Bill McFadden. The breed name translates from the French as “curly-haired lap dog,” although the family of diminutive white dogs known as the bichons is originally Spanish. Because of their jolly disposition, the dogs were used as barter by sailors as they traveled from continent to continent. They became popular with the Italian nobility and, in France, found favor doing tricks in circuses.
4. ‘Nik’ the Akita.
Grand Champion Mojo’s Continuation of a Myth rounds out the Top 5 show dogs of 2017. This imposing dog made his presence felt in Working Groups around the country in 2016 and 2017. The breed is considered a national treasure in Japan, a protector of the home and a symbol of good health. When a child is born in Japan the family often receives the gift of a small Akita statue, to represent health, happiness and long life. In times of illness an Akita statue is sent to wish the patient quick healing. Helen Keller is credited with bringing the first Akita to America in 1937. American servicemen of the occupational forces admired the breed’s intelligence and brought Akitas home to their families following World War II.
Honorable Mention: ‘Preston’ the Puli.
The No. 2 show dog of 2017 was Grand Champion Cordmaker Mister Blue Sky, the latest in a string of top Puli winners bred by Sue Huebner at her world-famous Cordmaker Kennels in Australia. This indomitable Puli was the No. 1 dog in the nation in 2016 and certainly thrilled his fans in a second year of campaigning, handled as always by Linda Pitts. This is the ancient sheepdog of Hungary, believed to have been working livestock as early as 4,500 BC. The amazing rope-like cords (or “dreadlocks”) that cover the dog protect him from the harsh elements, as well as marauding predators. Preston actually retired at the start of 2018 and will not be competing in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Thumbnail: Rumor, the German Shepherd Dog who won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last year. Photography courtesy Westminster Kennel Club.