What Makes a Westminster Dog?

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Banana Joe, Best in Show

Banana Joe, Best in Show, and his handler Ernesto Lara

Last night, Banana Joe the Affenpinscher took home the title of Best in Show at the 137th Westminster Dog Show.

For many of us, the yearly show may be the only time we get to see such unique dogs as the Scottish Deerhound or Chow Chow rubbing noses with America’s perennial favorites, the Golden Retriever and the German Shepherd.

Rocco, a Chow Chow

Rocco, a Chow Chow

Looking at all those glossy and combed coats, all those spirited steps and poised noses, you may wonder just how much goes into the care and training of a show dog.

We at PetCareRx went behind the scenes to the grooming stations and benching areas of this year’s show, and talked to the dogs’ handlers and owners to find out. It turns out, most days out of the year, these pooches probably live a lot like your dog. And some of the tricks of the trade may surprise you.

Diet and Exercise:

A beautiful coat, bright eyes, and glowing personality all get their start on the inside.

Silky Terrier 2Silky Terrier 1

A diet high in protein helps these Silky Terriers keep their silver and gold-colored hair so shiny.

Sherpa the Tibetan Terrier

Sherpa the Tibetan Terrier

Sherpa the Tibetan Terrier eats almond butter every morning, freshly made by his owner to help keep a healthy skin and coat. Aside from the special addition to his diet, Sherpa doesn’t get especially pampered — he’s always game for a hike in the woods, and the exercise encourages his natural energy and vitality.

Seaforth the Scottish Deerhound

Seaforth the Scottish Deerhound

Seaforth the Scottish Deerhound gives his mama a hug. When not at a show, Seaforth loves to run, and can get up to speeds of 35 mph. If you’re looking to raise a Scottish Deerhound, you’ll need a yard in which they can reach their top speed – one owner we met has a 1 1/2 acre plot.

Grooming:

Snapshot the Maltese

Snapshot the Maltese

Snapshot, a Maltese, gets wrappers in his long white hair while his groomer combs and straightens each layer. On a normal day, he may wear the wrappers to keep his coat from getting tangled.

Tigger the Pomeranian

Tigger the Pomeranian

Tigger the Pomeranian may look like a diva, but he actually gets bathed in plain old dish soap! Most days he doesn’t need any special grooming, although here he’s getting brushed and primped for the show.

Elmo the Chinese Crested

Elmo the Chinese Crested

Think the haircut on this Chinese Crested Dog takes all day? Think again! This breed naturally has short hair all over, with the long tufts at the feet, tail, and around the head.

Journey the American Eskimo Dog

Journey the American Eskimo Dog

You might be wondering how hard it is to keep a coat so perfectly white, but Journey is an American Eskimo Dog whose coat naturally resists grime, like stain-resistant fabrics! The work comes in when it’s time to get his coat so fluffy. His undercoat is trimmed to remove dead hair and make room for strong new hair, which makes the overcoat look so full and beautiful.

Poodle

Here a Standard Poodle sports the Continental cut, one of three cuts allowed at the show, and currently the most popular. While some critics of overly-fancy hairstyles on dogs may think these “pom-pom” cuts are silly, their origin is actually very utilitarian. These water dogs were shaved so they could move more freely in the water, but puffs of hair were left around the joints to keep them warm.

Training:

Teaching a dog to be obedient and attentive when surrounded by thousands of other dogs and crowds of people is of course an integral part of training a show dog. Standing in the preferred poses also takes training, but another factor the judges watch for is a dog’s natural energy, charisma, and personality.

Mr. Darcy the Wirehair Dachsund

Mr. Darcy the Wirehair Dachshund

Mr. Darcy the Wirehair Dachshund got lots of early socialization with other dogs, so the crowds don’t bother him. He’s competed nearly every other weekend in regional dog shows since he was 6 months old.

Promise the Keeshond

Promise the Keeshond

Promise is a Keeshond, or Smiling Dutchman, a dog known for their ever-smiling and photogenic faces. She doesn’t even have to try to look so adorable.

Thumper the Australian Shepherd

Thumper the Australian Shepherd

Thumper the Australian Shepherd didn’t have to drill long and hard to learn the expected gait for his run around the ring. The judges want to see the natural gait of each dog, which for the Aussie is a sort of relaxed trot.

The dedication and love of the handlers we met made it obvious that the Westminster Kennel Club is at heart about recognizing and celebrating the work that goes into caring for dogs, and the bonds that come from it all.

We saw it in every owner’s face as they prepared their dogs for the ring, and we all felt it when handler Ernesto Lara raised Banana Joe in a triumphant sweep as he was announced Best in Show.

Our hats off to all this week’s show dogs and to everyone who puts in the dedication to be a pet parent!