What You Need to Know Before Tuning in to the Westminster Dog Show in 2018

If you know the answers to these three questions, you're a pro!

It’s no secret that I love attending dog shows. There’s something about watching all the different pups prance around a ring that makes the minutes just fly by. Still, I know there are many animal lovers that tune in for part of this event each year but aren't *quite* as obsessed as yours truly. Well, don't worry, I'm here for you with answers to the three most common questions I've been asked at my viewing parties over the years.

When can I see _________ breed?

If you've always loved giggling over the Bulldogs' waddle or wish you could have 101 Dalmatians at home, I get it. Chances are if you own a purebred dog, you know the group your dog belongs to, but otherwise, trying to figure out which group includes the dogs you want to see can be a total mystery. Especially when there are dogs that you may think would fall into one group based on their name — for, example, I own a Boston Terrier at home which falls under the Non-Sporting group and not the Terrier group as its name may imply.

I recommend the Westminster Breed Finder which can be searched by dog breed and by dog group so you can place your pup and size up his competition. On Monday, February 12, you can expect to see the breeds that are part of the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups. On February 13, you'll see the breeds that make up the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups. Tuesday is also when one pup will be awarded the coveted Best in Show title. Now, sit back, grab a drink and play our bingo game while you wait.

Do the dogs live with those people who walk them around the ring?

If you've seen even five minutes of a dog show, there's a very good chance you've heard the words breeder, owner and handler tossed around, sometimes in combination (e.g., "owner-handler" or "breeder-owner-handler"). Breeder is, as the name implies, the person who bred the dog. Show dogs can be very pricey and many times they'll have co-owners who each own a stake in the dog. The several owners may not be related yet all contribute to the pup's upkeep kind of like doggie benefactors. Lastly, the person you see in the ring is always the handler. Dogs that compete on this high level may live with the handler for part of the year and many experienced handlers also breed and own the dogs they show.

Why do all the dogs have crazy long names?

The seemingly over-the-top names are probably the most peculiar thing to regular pet owners. Chances are your pet has one name (but tons of nicknames) and that name is usually one or two words long. When you hear a dog's name while watching a dog show, the announcers usually say the dog's proper registered name and also the dog's call name, or the name he's referred to in the ring and around the house. If you're looking up these dogs only, the full name usually begins with a series of letters that shows how many championships he's won.

So, for a dog competing at Westminster you'll see "CH" before its name to mean champion (and usually GCH to mean Grand Champion). The levels can be listed out in more detail based on how many grand championship "points" the dog has earned; GCHB, GCHS, GCHG, and GCHP stand for bronze, silver, gold and platinum respectively.

There are also many more clues in the dog's name. For example, last year's Westminster winner, "Rumor," has the full name of GCH CH Lockenhaus' Rumor Has It V Kenlyn. Lockenhaus is the kennel of her mother and Kenlyn is the name of the kennel where she was born. In some cases the dog's call name is part of the registered name like Rumor; other times, it can be loosely related only. For example, my dog's official registered name is Cantrip's Puttin' on the Ritz, where Cantrip is the kennel of his mother. However, his name at home (and call name if he were to have competed) is simply "Beau." 

I hope you learned something — now you can impress your friends while watching the show and playing our bingo game tonight!

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