Three Oddball Westminster Facts for Dog Show Virgins

Okay, I have to fess up. While I write about dogs for a big part of my living, and am news editor for one of...


Okay, I have to fess up. While I write about dogs for a big part of my living, and am news editor for one of the top dog websites in the world (that would be Dogster, in case you were wondering. Woot!), what I know about dog shows could fit in the palm of Jake’s scratchy paw.

To be totally honest, pretty much everything I know about dog shows I learned from the hilarious Christopher Guest mockumentary, Best in Show. I’ve just never gotten into the show ring thing, for some reason. In hindsight, I guess it always struck me as sort of a canine version of Toddlers & Tiaras.

But while perusing dog-related stories late last night, I came across this fun article from, of all places, Business Week. It’s about the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the big kahuna of U.S. dog shows, which runs today and tomorrow at Madison Square Garden. Something about the article’s title caught my eye:

“Westminster Judge Vets Ears, Tails, Testicles to Pick Best Dog”

Really? Wait, the judges don’t actually touch a dog’s nether regions, do they? That would be a little weird, not to mention embarrassing for the poor dog. Okay, the dog doesn’t care, I know. But I learned from this article that the judges do, indeed, have a feel down there. What they’re feeling for, I don’t know, but I am open to learning (just not “firsthand”), so please help educate me and other dog show virgins.

“Whats it like giving those intimate exams in the ring?” the story asks a revered judge.

‘Are you asking if I have my 10 favorite sets of testicles?’ she replied with a laugh. ‘We go over every inch of the dog.'”

Oh, wow. Got it. Every inch. We have our answer. But do they get to wear latex gloves at least?

Moving right along to Surprising Fact Two: The dog-show business is “graying,” according to the article. I have been to only one dog show, and I spent 95 percent of my time petting dogs outside the main arena and visiting vendors. The other 5 percent I was seated way high up in the show ring, and I couldn’t see the people in the ring very well because 1) I forgot my glasses and 2) they were running around and around to the point that they were almost a blur. Well, they were a blur, but that was because my glasses were in the glove compartment of my car, which I did not take to the dog show.

I was surprised, though, to learn that people involved in the dog-show world are skewing older. (Although the first photo in this post points to that.) That’s probably because all the cool people I work with are young and vivacious and hip and fun and are all about dogs, and are not generally of the “graying” persuasion. (Not to say, as one commenter mentioned, that “graying” people can’t be vivacious and hip. They’re some of my favorite vivacious and hip people! It’s just that I don’t work with them at Dogster.) In fact, even beyond my Dogster world, the dog people I deal with span the ages, but around here (San Francisco) I’d say they skew to younger.

So I wonder what the deal is with the dog show circuit getting older. Did Best in Show warp future generations of potential dog show participants? Does anyone have some insights?

Fact 3: Six breeds are making their debut at Westminster. A popular one is the Xoloitzcuintli, or Mexican hairless dog. As most of you probably know, they are small, pretty much bald except for a bedraggled mohawky bit atop their heads, and they tremble a lot. By the way, Xoloitzcuintli is pronounced “sho-lo-itz-queent-lee,” or so I have read.

And now you are set for the show because if you were a dog show virgin too, you now have triple the knowledge you did before you set eyes on this post. If you win any bar bets with your new-found knowledge, say a toast to the Xolos. If not, just say a prayer for all those boy dogs, and be grateful people are not generally judged for the same set of attributes.

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