How they choose a champion


Counting down to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and wondering how the best show is determined? Wonder no more!

Each year, the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show is held in Madison Square Garden, New York, showcasing the best dogs in the world. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 145th event was moved to Lyndhurst, New Jersey, for a year before returning to the iconic venue; unfortunately, the event moved once more and temporarily postponed to 2022 until health and safety concerns diminish for competitors, owners, handlers, judges and spectators.

These purebred dogs are more than man’s best friend – they are trained specifically to compete in exhibition competitions and showcase their skills. While the Westminster Kennel Club predates the American Kennel Club, the competition uses standards established by each breed club and approved by the AKC. A group judging takes place and eventually the best dog is chosen in each category. But how exactly does Westminster Dog Show judging work?

Judgement The Westminster Dog Show

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The Westminster Kennel Club’s 146th annual dog show is set to be filled with champions only, according to the Westminster Kennel Club. This means that only dogs that have competed in previous AKC competitions will be allowed to compete and will have earned 15 points between approved shows. Therefore, there are no first-time visitors to this prestigious exhibition. Additionally, all breed groups are entered into the Best of Breed competition.

Breed judging is done by a jury. However, Best of Breed is not the only award given. The judges also award the following distinctions:

  • Best of Variety or Breed: Judges determine the best dog in its breed group or variety
  • The best of the opposite sex: Judges choose the best dog opposed to the winner of the best of breed
  • Select dog and select female dog: The champion dog and the female dog are chosen after BOB and BOS
  • Grand Championship Points: Points awarded by the breed judge which are applied to the title of the AKC Grand Championship
  • Merit Award: Given at the judge’s discretion for attributes that do not fit into the other categories

The AKC recognizes 209 dog breeds and the dogs are divided into seven categories:

  • group of dogs
  • Sports group
  • Work group
  • group of burrows
  • group of toys
  • Non-athletic group
  • Breeding group

Dogs are presented by their professional breeders, owners or handlers at three different levels, the Masters Agility Championship, Junior Showmanship Preliminaries, and Group and Breed Judges. The group judge examines all dogs in the category, ranging from one dog to more than 50 dogs. Then, applying AKC standards, the judge selects the first through fourth place winners in each group competition, and the group winner advances to Best in Show. One of the seven is chosen as the best of the best. Second place is named Reserve Best in Show and is announced before Best in Show.

Some of the past Best in Show winners have been Poodles, German Shepherds, Bichon Frizes, Beagles and Wire Fox Terriers. The winner of the 2021 Master Agility Championship was Verb the Border Collie.

Do you look forward to the Westminster Dog Show every year? Tell us about our Wide Open Pets Facebook page.

READ MORE: Beginner’s Guide to Canine Agility Training

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