The Westminster Dog Show is held each February at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY. It is commonly called America’s Dog Show, but it is the preeminent event for dogs worldwide. The Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports and Westminster is the most exciting two days for dog lovers. More than 9 million people will tune in as approximately 3,000 dogs, representing 187 breeds, compete for the honor of Best in Show.
Westminster created the title of Best in Show in 1907. Winners in each of the seven diverse groups (Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-sporting, and Herding) compete for Best in Show. Dogs compete against other champions within their own breed that are the same age range and gender, prior to advancing to the Best of Breed semifinals. Westminster is an American Kennel Club-sanctioned show and any breed recognized/registered by the AKC can compete.
Champions only rule change
The top five AKC-ranked dogs from each registered breed are automatically invited to compete. That leaves about 2,000 open spots available to applicants. In 1992, Westminster established itself as the first Champions Only AKC show. That meant dogs were required to be conformation champions prior to applying. They must have accumulated 15 points in AKC sanctioned competitions. Dogs could win up to 5 points at one show. Part of the 15 point wins had to be majors (at least 3 points) and under two different judges.
The 138th annual show on February 10-11, 2014 will be the first time since 1991 that Westminster has competitions in classes available for dogs that are not yet champions, according to The Westminster Kennel Club. These classes are available to dogs that have not yet reached the level of AKC champion: Bred By Exhibitor, American Bred, Open, Best of Breed (BOB) or Best of Variety (BOV), Best of Winners (BOW), Best of Opposite Sex (BOS), Grand Championship Points (GCH), and Awards of Merit (AOM).
Other AKC rules
Westminster is the premier AKC event. Exhibitors have to meet the same qualifications and rules that apply to any AKC sanctioned show.
In addition to the requirements of The Westminster Dog Show and the AKC, participants are bound by the laws of New York City and requirements from The Director of the Bureau of Animal Affairs of New York. All dogs entering the city of New York must have a Health Certificate that has been issued by a licensed veterinarian. The certificate has to be issued no more than seven days prior to entering the city.
Owners must clean up their dogs feces and dispose of it in a sanitary manner. The “Pooper-scooper” law is strictly enforced by The Department of Sanitation and punishable by $100 fines. Owners who do not properly clean up for their dog both inside and outside the competition building may be subject to an Event Committee hearing and possibly refused entry into any future club events.