Dogs begin march to fame in New York dog show

Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:15pm EST
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of America's best-kept and well-behaved dogs paraded before judges and an adoring public on Monday in the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where Labrador lovers longed for an upset victory for Best of Show.

Judges were picking the best in the hound, toy, non-sporting and herding groups on Monday. The best of the sporting, working and terrier groups were to be picked on Tuesday evening, before the winner of each of the seven groups goes forward to compete for Best in Show.

In all, more than 2,700 dogs were due to compete over two days, including at least 50 Labrador retrievers in the sporting group whose owners are hoping to make history and bring home the top prize.

Among the 100-plus breeds competing on Monday were papillons, dainty toy dogs known for their floppy butterfly-like ears.

Each dog was brought into the ring by a handler who periodically fed them nibbles of chicken meat or liver - known as 'bait' in dog show circles - and teased at their coats with combs and brushes.

One by one, they cantered about in a small circle before being lifted onto a table to be inspected and palpated by the judge.

"You judge against the standard," said Burton Yamada, who judged Westminster's Best in Show in 2004, as he watched from the crowded sidelines. "If it says it should have round eyes and they have almond eyes then that's a fault. The standard might say alert. Well, what's alert?"

The American Kennel Club sets the standard, and the process reminded Yamada of his work in missile engineering, which also requires following tight specifications, he said.   Continued...

Tazer, a Belgian Sheepdog is groomed in the benching area prior to the first night of Group judging during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar