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What Is the Westminster Dog Show? Interesting Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on May 3, 2024 by Dogster Team

Wire Fox Terrier portrait in show pose

What Is the Westminster Dog Show? Interesting Facts & FAQ

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a prestigious event in the US that’s focused on dogs. It’s run by the AKC and is centered around an all-breed conformation show, where purebred dogs are judged based on how closely they match the ideal standard of their breed.

It’s the second-longest-run sporting event in the US. It was founded in 1877 and is only behind the Kentucky Derby in terms of longevity. To learn more about this dog show, keep reading below.

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How Does It Work?

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is held in the New York metropolitan area. It’s always been held here and since 1948, it has been televised. In fact, it is the longest nationally televised dog show.

This dog show is also a “benched” show. That means that dogs are assigned to certain locations throughout the show when they aren’t being judged or taken on potty breaks. This setup allows spectators to see all the participants.

Because there are so many dogs involved, this event currently takes place over several days. Breed-specific judging occurs during the day, and group competitions are typically in the evening. The prestigious event takes place over several days. There are so many dogs that the judging takes several days to complete.

Adorable grey Toy Poodle dog with a Scandinavian lion show clip
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

What Kind of Dog Show Is the Westminster Dog Show?

There are actually many types of dog shows out there. The Westminster Dog Show is a purebred conformation show, so dogs are judged based on how well they conform to their breed standard. These standards basically describe the ideal dog for that breed.

This standard consists of size, coat, and proportions. However, temperament and similar characteristics are also included. Some standards even mention factors like health.

Can I Attend the Westminster Dog Show?

You can attend the Westminster Dog Show by purchasing a spectator ticket. This event is really designed for spectators. Dogs are assigned to certain areas, allowing you to walk around and see the ones you’re interested in. Tickets are usually available to purchase on the Westminster Kennel Club website a few months in advance, so advanced tickets are recommended!

Poodle at the Dog Show
Image Credit: WildStrawberry, Shutterstock

How Do Dogs Qualify for the Westminster Dog Show?

Only top dogs qualify for the Westminster Dog Show. To be eligible, the dog must be a registered champion with the AKC. They must have already won lots of points from other dog shows, demonstrating that they’re one of the best dogs of their breed. Just qualifying for the Westminster Dog Show is a huge accomplishment.

Are There Mixed Breeds?

There are no mixed breeds in conformation shows, as there is no breed standard for them to conform to. Conformation shows aren’t about picking the “best” dog, as that would be a matter of opinion. The show is about picking the dog that is most like the “ideal” of their breed.

adorable mixed breed dog
Image Credit: Csanad Kiss, Shutterstock

What’s the Difference Between Benched and Non-Benched Shows?

The Westminster Dog Show is a benched show. This means that when dogs aren’t competing, being groomed, or on potty breaks, they are kept in designated areas called “benches.” These benches are essentially crates or enclosures where handlers can keep their dogs comfortable throughout the event. Spectators can visit the benching area to see all the breeds up close and interact with handlers.

Therefore, this event is much more spectator-friendly than others. At other dog shows, you may not get the chance to see your favorite dog up close!

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Facts About the Westminster Dog Show

1. A Long, Rich History

The very first Westminster Dog Show featured over 1,200 canine competitors, and it has only grown in popularity since then. Today, nearly 3,500 dogs compete during Westminster Week events. These events include the main dog show, which is the main attraction, as well as an agility competition.

The Westminster Dog Show predates the invention of the light bulb, the automobile, and even the establishment of the World Series! There have been 25 US presidents since the first show in 1877.

2. Not Just About Looks

While a dog’s appearance is a big part of the competition, judges also consider temperament, movement, and overall health. There have even been some underdogs who have won the hearts of the judges and the audience, such as Cinnar, a Siberian Husky who won Best in Show in 1980 despite missing part of his ear.

It’s more about good breeding than it is how the dog “looks” alone. Breed standards include temperament and health information alongside guidelines for appearance. How well the dog is taken care of also matters, which is why you see so many breeders grooming dogs before the show.

Siberian Husky at the dog show
Image Credit: Ihar Halavach, Shutterstock

3. No Cash Prizes

There is no actual prize money awarded to the Westminster Dog Show winner. However, winning the competition is a huge honor and can significantly increase a dog’s breeding value. The offspring of champions can fetch a high price.

That said, many people are still surprised to learn that champions don’t actually receive anything but a title!

4. Huge Dog Breed Variety

47 different breeds have taken home the Best in Show title throughout the history of the competition. Wire Fox Terriers hold the record for most wins with 14, followed by Scottish Terriers with eight wins and English Springer Spaniels with six.

There are even more breeds that are shown but have not won yet. The AKC is continually recognizing new breeds. Of course, it makes sense that it would take some breeds several decades to beat the others.

black Scottish terrier on grass
Image Credit: Plotitsyna NiNa, Shutterstock

5. Not Just for Purebreds

Yes, the dog show itself is only open to purebred dogs. After all, the dog needs to have a breed standard to participate.

However, this dog show also hosts an agility event that is open to mixed-breed dogs, too!

6. Humble Beginnings

While the Westminster Dog Show is a huge event now, it started very humbly. It began when a group of sportsmen met at the Westminster Hotel in New York City. Their love of hunting dogs led to them forming a breeding club. The prestigious dog show was born out of that.

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Final Thoughts

There is perhaps nothing as big in the dog world as the Westminster Dog Show! This 2-day event is one of the most prestigious dog shows around, and it is nationally televised, only adding more to its fame. It’s also very spectator-friendly. You can go view your favorite dogs at their assigned “benches” and talk with their handler.

While there is no cash prize, winning can increase a dog’s breeding value dramatically!

Featured Image Credit: Waldemar Dabrowski, Shutterstock

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