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8 Things I Learned At Westminster Dog Show

A few weeks ago I attended the Dog Writers Association of America’s Awards Banquet AND the Westminster Dog Show in New York City. I attended the DWAA Banquet two years ago, but this was my very first dog show ever – unless watching The National Dog Show on Thanksgiving while doing 10 other things counts. Please note: it doesn’t count and also Westminster and the National Dog Show are totally different and those in the know (not me) get upset when you confuse the two.

Black and white dog at Westminster Dog Show 2019 in New York City

Westminster Dog Show Meet The Breeds & First Impressions

Although it’s no secret that I favor rescue dogs, I LOVE all dogs and attending the Westminster Dog Show was an amazing experience. To use a very bad art metaphor, it was kind of like seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel for the first time when you are used to more process-oriented, open to interpretation painters like Jackson Pollock. And while I personally prefer a little post-modern mystery and messiness in my dogs and art, there’s no denying the perfection of the masters.

As part of my new role as Secretary of DWAA, I received a media pass to Westminster so I was able to attend for free. Yay! I attended most events with my dear friends Bryn from A Dog Walks Into A Bar and Elizabeth from Chronicles of Cardigan. Bryn’s photos are AMAZING and you can check them out on her Facebook page here!

Read on for my mostly silly impressions of attending Westminster. Please note these ramblings are not meant to be a serious review of the show – I’ll leave that to the professionals!

Sharpei at Westminster Dog Show Meet The Breeds

First up, AKC Meet the Breeds, held on Saturday, February 9. Meet the Breeds is basically the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the nearly 200 participating breeds. The event was held at Pier 92-94, a huge waterfront venue in midtown Manhattan. Even with tons of space, the event is crazy crowded, but if you are patient and/or super tall (I’m neither) you can get pretty close and even pet some of these beauties.

Most of the dogs were perched on stands or pedestals and were almost always surrounded by adoring fans like doggie rock stars. The dogs were crazy beautiful – so beautiful I was almost afraid to touch them for fear of setting off some kind of alarm. In addition to the dogs, there was also a small section for fancy cats sponsored by The International Cat Association. The cat area was quieter and the cats were surprisingly chill and almost Zen-like. Some were even sporting leather jackets and kilts!

Sadly, I didn’t actually see any of the agility or obedience competitions because I was too busy trying to find the Yorkshire Terriers, which (spoiler alert) I didn’t find until Monday.

Persian cat in leather vest at Westminster

Breed Judging AKA Finding The Yorkshire Terriers

Sunday was the Dog Writers Association of America’s Banquet where I was fortunate to win an award for my post about Pip. To celebrate, I woke up early Monday morning and headed back to Westminster in search of the Yorkshire Terriers, which seemed like a fun way to honor Pip!

Monday’s events included breed judging across the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding groups. I watched both the Yorkshire Terriers and the Dachshunds compete and was even able to see some of the top competitors waiting in the wings beforehand.

Of course, I always suspected that Pip wasn’t 100% Yorkshire Terrier. But seeing real Yorkies made things crystal clear. My big guy definitely had some other stuff going on! For one thing, Pip was HUGE compared to these petite pretties and his fur was never so straight, silky or smooth. These beauties were also cool as cucumbers, totally comfortable, and confident with themselves and their surroundings. Pip was many things but confident was not one of them; he would have been shaking like a leaf in such a big crowd. But just between us, I will still take my big-hearted, scaredy-cat, pretend Yorkie any day!

Yorkshire Terrier at Westminster Breeding Judging at Pier 92

That moment you realize your Yorkshire Terrier is not really a Yorkshire Terrier!

The Big Finale: Group Judging At Madison Square Garden

Probably the most exciting part of the trip was attending the Group Judging (AKA the part they broadcast on primetime TV) across the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding groups at Madison Square Garden.  Our media pass allowed us to sit in the press area, which was practically on the field with the dogs. There were actual real journalists all around us and it was one of those “pretend you know what you are doing and try not to fall down the stairs and crush one of the fancy dogs” moments. I halfway expected a trap door to open and eject us like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and our nervous giggling didn’t give us away.

In addition to being so close to the field that we could practically touch the dogs, there was also a press snack room. I loaded up on free cookies in honor of Pip – because he was all about free food, his appetite and lack of self-control were probably more clues of his pretend Yorkie status.

I flew home Tuesday morning so I missed the final night and Best In Show. But truthfully, when we left Madison Square Garden Monday night we were pretty sure that Burns, the longhaired Dachshund had Best In Show in the bag. To my untrained eyes, Burns had the looks and the charm and was clearly the crowd favorite. When Burns is finished with the whole show dog thing, he should probably write a self-help book or start a Facebook group about how to be happy and love life – because this sunburst on short legs has clearly found the answers the rest of us are still searching for! You will always be Best in Show to me, Burns!


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The winner of the Hound group is Burns the Longhaired Dachshund! #WKCDogShow

A post shared by Westminster Kennel Club (@westminsterkennelclub) on

My Takeaway: 8 Things I Learned At Westminster Dog Show

1. Pip was not a real Yorkshire Terrier and that’s OK. The only thing he shared with these lovelies was his coloring, big brown eyes, and red bowtie. Pip was bigger, funnier and definitely not as confident as these pint-sized, Breck girl divas. He was kind of known for his Muppet dog, bar hair days and, true confession, his fur was never silky or smooth. Heck, my hair is never that silky smooth. Maybe there are products for this, but if there are, I’m pretty sure we can’t afford them.

2. Ruby may not be a real Yorkie-Poo. If Pip wasn’t a real Yorkie, I think it is safe to say Ruby is not real a Yorkie-Poo. More like a Yorkie-Poodle-Plus-100-Other-Things with an emphasis on the 100 other things. In her defense, she’s a total catch in the shelter world.

Yorkshire Terrier Being Groomed before breed judging at Westminster Dog Show 2019

3. I would never cut it as a real Yorkie mom (or handler). Real Yorkies have staff as fancy and put together as they are – all glitz and glam, no hat head or bad hair days to be found. I am kind of a jeans and basic black, earth tones on special occasions, non-sparkly kind of person. How these handlers run around the ring, all dolled up, and don’t trip is beyond me. I would probably wipe out, fall down and go boom with my pretend Yorkie, and it would not be pretty.

4. There are way more dog breeds than I ever imagined.  Many with names I can’t pronounce or remember. But gosh, they are pretty!

5. Sometimes cats wear leather. This was about as shocking as seeing real Yorkshire Terriers.

6. I still don’t like calling female dogs the B word.  I know this is a thing and not an insult, but it feels weird and yucky to me.

7, Boxer slobber is kind of like glue. I walked around for over an hour with Boxer slobber on my coat. A lovely Boxer gave me what I thought was a hug, but it turns out he just thought my coat was a napkin. Even the dogs knew I wasn’t fancy enough for Westminster.

8. Paris, Rome, Westminster, Oh My.  Traveling and experiencing different perspectives, history and beauty is incredibly important and sometimes life changing. But coming home to my pretend, but real to me Yorkie-Poo and non-leather wearing cats is just as nice and maybe even better. I love my dogs (and cats) a little messy and imperfect like me.

Bernese Mountain Dog at AKC Meet The Breeds at Westminster

Final thoughts: Would I attend Westminster again, YES! I had so much fun on this trip and definitely got caught up in the magic and pageantry of Westminster. And gosh, the dogs were pretty and certainly deserving of all the fanfare and praise.

But wouldn’t it be nice if all dogs received such adoration with thousands of admirers lining up just to love on them. Not the real world, I know (maybe kindergarten if you are lucky). But guess what? I never claimed to be a realist so I’m going to keep hoping that some day all dogs receive recognition just for showing up, doing their best, and being themselves – dogs.

P.S.: For more fancy dog photos, visit A Dog Walks Into A Bar.

8 Things I learned attending the Westminster Dog Show AKA that moment you realize your Yorkshire Terrier is not really a Yorkshire Terrier



  1. February 25, 2019 / 3:22 am

    A friend of mine has a non-show quality but nonetheless pure Yorkie, nicknamed Small Bad Dog, The Terrorist Terrier.

    SBD gets up every morning and prances over to the drawer that holds her dresses, and indicates by barking which one she wants to wear that day. Once she is dressed and brushed, she prances around the house to greet everyone and show how pretty she is (yes, she expects compliments, and gets them). She also runs off as often as possible, she likes to visit the neighbors (cows in the back pasture).

    Enjoy your Yorkie-Poo-Plus and your down to earth life with her!

  2. February 25, 2019 / 5:13 am

    thanks for sharing your adventure with us… we watched only some breeds via streaming, but I enjoyed the most of the presentations… just the new trend with baits in the mouth what they spat on the floor was a little disturbing… if you ever leave something apart from your dignity in a french show ring you will end skinned LOL

  3. February 25, 2019 / 5:23 am

    Hari OM
    What a wonderfurs event – I think I would just stand there ‘squeeing’ all the time and be totally useless to all around me! YAM xx

  4. February 25, 2019 / 5:44 am

    It would probably be fun to go there once to see it, but we are not into all the fancy showing stuff, and we don’t like that the winner is based on someone’s opinion. We do sports because they are fun, and no opinion matters, it is purely the skill of the dog and handler. Great experience for you!

  5. February 25, 2019 / 6:28 am

    Kristin you are in your element for sure. I can only imagine the fun and excitement you felt the entire time. I get exciting watching them on TV.

    Burns was without a doubt a very very very happy gorgeous pup. Too bad they don’t have a Congeniality category. He would have won.

    thank you for the wonderful post.
    Hugs Cecilia

  6. February 25, 2019 / 7:16 am

    Mom would love to go to Westminster and thank you for telling us all about it up close and personal! We thought Burns was going to win Best in Show too.

  7. February 25, 2019 / 9:15 am

    Re 7, that’s TOTALLY a boxer hug! We believe in full-contact affection, and that includes tongues. BOL! Momma says that it’s totally fine that Pip wasn’t a full Yorkie. I’m the most pawfectly exact picture of a boxer, while Casey was so different-looking that Momma always thought he was mixed with other stuff. But you know what? Momma couldn’t have loved Casey more!! And LOVE is the best measure of any dog.

  8. February 25, 2019 / 9:21 am

    I would love to attend the dog show! But I agree that all dogs should get this kind of love and attention. A show for reduce dogs would be awesome!

  9. February 25, 2019 / 11:14 am

    I think it’s delightful that they had cats there too! For some dog breeds, I understand that they crop ears and tails, and I don’t like that, as much as I don’t like declawing cats. Leave them all alone!

  10. February 25, 2019 / 11:30 am

    That sounds like such a fun time, even with the Boxer slobber! Congrats on the win for the Pip post!

  11. February 25, 2019 / 11:53 am

    What a fun, fun, fun time!! I would love to go just once and see all the Lhasas(Rosy) and Shih Tzus(Arty) with their long flowing hair….and then come home and enjoy my little non fluffed fluffies LOL!

  12. February 25, 2019 / 11:58 am

    What fun (and well done on the photos)! I always wondered if Westminster is anything like the movie “Best In Show” (meaning it’s NOT a parody). I’ve found local shows seem a lot like the movie and you probably would be wise to never touch any of the competitors-the owners/handlers will go into orbit if you do. Congrats for winning with the DWAA as well as scoring on the rescue front.

  13. bella, roxy and dui
    February 25, 2019 / 1:11 pm

    Only been to the State dog show….loved looking at the dogs, but always happy to get home to my ill-groomed, not so perfect specimens for a walk in the mud.

  14. The Swiss Cats
    February 25, 2019 / 1:43 pm

    That sounds like a wonderful and fun event ! Thank you for sharing with us ! Purrs

  15. February 25, 2019 / 1:51 pm

    de food servizz gurl wood lovez ta see westminster sum day; her wood be hard pressed ta leeve de
    non sporting group tho….bee coz oh de bulldogs !!!! 🙂 ♥♥☺☺ therz been 5 bullies in de land oh trout over de yeerz ♥♥☺☺

  16. February 25, 2019 / 2:16 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful share. We would just love to go to the Westminster Dog Show. It looks like such a beautiful and fun time to attend. Thanks for sharing the lovely photos. The kitty in leather was just too cute. Have a wonderful day.

  17. February 25, 2019 / 2:33 pm

    Mom totally agrees with so much of what you learned. We have to add that whatever manner of Yorkie Pip was, he was a special pup and one of our dearest and most cherished pals.

    Congrats on your award – very well-deserved for sure.

    Woos- Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  18. February 25, 2019 / 4:41 pm

    Aw, what a bunch of lovely pups. I wold have loved to see them in person.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

  19. February 25, 2019 / 6:16 pm

    What a great experience for you!! It’s fun to see how the other half lives, but so nice to get home to our own simple lives, right? ♥

  20. February 26, 2019 / 4:37 am

    We think the world of Ruby and she doesn’t fit any breed label. In fact, I’d say she rocks in her own way.

  21. February 26, 2019 / 10:12 am

    It sounds like you had a fun time. I would love to go to Westminster just once.

  22. February 26, 2019 / 1:59 pm

    I would love to go sometime and it is so cool that you were there! I would love to see the Shetland Sheepdogs in “pawson”

  23. March 1, 2019 / 8:55 am

    “Sometimes cats wear leather.” LOL – love it! Looks like a fun time at the show! I’ve never been do a dog show (or even a cat show), but I think it would be interesting!

  24. March 1, 2019 / 3:54 pm

    Sounds like you had a great time! Hoping Enzo and I will be showing at Westminster in a few years. His older half sister was there. If you saw the Siberian Huskies at meet the breeds, you probably saw her!

  25. Chelle
    March 1, 2019 / 6:18 pm

    I have to admit I’m a bit jealous. I’m in the NYC area and was hoping to make it to Westminster this year but in the end wasn’t able to attend. It must be interesting seeing all those different dogs all together in one place.

  26. Adriana Martin
    March 2, 2019 / 2:18 am

    What an amazing experience I have never been to the Westminster Dog Show, it is expensive to attend but hopefully one day I will make it. Would be a once in a lifetime experience as I watch it on TV.

  27. March 2, 2019 / 10:00 am

    Hahaha I never get used to calling them the B word either. Thank you for sharing. It’s a dream of mine to attend one day. I go to the local shows here and the show dog owners and their dogs like you said are so pretty you don’t want to touch them and so CALM omg lol. Congrats on DWA and can’t wait to read more from your blog.

  28. March 2, 2019 / 4:00 pm

    I have never watched the show on TV and not sure if I would be interested in going as I feel all dogs should be shown not only the ones with a label but that is my personal opinion. It was a great post though as it was great to see from someone who only rescues like me.

  29. Hindy Pearson
    March 3, 2019 / 8:37 am

    The pictures are so adorable!! I agree, I don’t like when they call females the B word either. Personally I’m a rescuer as well, and dog shows don’t sit well with me, although we did enter a local one in the park and Red won first prize in the senior NP category (non-pedigree) and I was very proud!!

  30. March 3, 2019 / 9:02 am

    I know that my Montecristo isn’t show perfect … and Pompadour is but for one thing… she’s too small. But I have their papers. Even so – I have no interest in the world of show I DO however really really like agility and the newer…DANCE!

  31. meowmeowmans
    March 3, 2019 / 9:56 am

    Congratulations on the award for your Pip post! That’s so awesome. 🙂

    We have never been to the Westminster Dog Show, but maybe someday. We don’t like that far away. I commute in to NYC for work, and have always loved seeing all the dogs walking around near the Waldorf Astoria when Westminster was in town.

  32. March 3, 2019 / 10:32 am

    What fun!!! I think Summer of sparklecat was one of the TICA cats at the parade of breeds. I know what you mean about your Yorkie vs the breed standard, I have it the same here there’s Persians and then there are PERSIANS. And my Treeno gets recognized as a Norwegian by judges (who laugh at his crazy tail fault), but compared to the ones I stalk in the showhall? Well they probably wouldn’t want to acknowledge him😸I love the show world, I’d love to go to a dog show like that someday.

  33. March 3, 2019 / 10:40 am

    “Boxer slobber is kinda like glue.” Haha! So true!

  34. March 3, 2019 / 3:01 pm

    How fun! We had a friend compete in the show, he is a GSP. I hope to attend Westminster some day (to watch of course).

  35. March 3, 2019 / 8:42 pm

    Congratulations on your DWAA award! There was a time when I would have loved to go to Westminster, but now I don’t think I would enjoy as much for many reasons. I’m with you that every dog should have fans and be adored, not just the ones that best represent one breed.

  36. Marjorie Dawson
    March 3, 2019 / 9:22 pm

    Cats in leather? This is totally epic. I just wish I could get my cats into cute stuff * sigh *

    You did good winning an award too. Well done Dog Writer person wooHOOOOOOO!!!

  37. March 4, 2019 / 5:04 am

    The cat in the hat cracked me up especially as it was Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2nd.

  38. March 4, 2019 / 10:00 am

    I’ve never attended a dog show, but have gone to several cat shows. Even though Truffle and Brûlée are registered silver shaded Persians, they don’t look like those in the shows. I love seeing the different breeds and talking to their owners.

  39. March 4, 2019 / 10:41 am

    What a lovely group of pups! I’ve attended a few dog shows and my favorite is definitely the agility courses. The pups always look like they’re having a grand time. I’m so glad you got to attend the big show – it must have been amazing!

  40. Sandy Weinstein
    March 15, 2019 / 4:03 pm

    congrats on your award. i would love to go to Westminster. i had several friends that showed Mini. Schnauzers and won. i go to the local and surrounding AKC dog shows but have never shown. i have 2 Min. Schnauzers that are show quality but was not in to showing. i used to show horses for over 30 yrs and i found that showing dogs is a real “dog eat dog” world. my dogs came from a top breeder and owner breeder show person. one day you may win, next day you could be judged by someone that was in the same class. i have seen “cat fights” among breeders. grooming takes forever. the owners really treat their dogs as babies, love them. i am looking to get 2 show dogs, a Min. Schnauzer female which i saw a dog from Europe that i would love to have one of his babies and the new Russell Terrier. this breed is fairly new. there are so many breeds of dogs. my breeder used to laugh at me when we walked around the show grounds because i would say i want one of those, one of those, etc. she would give me the pros and cons of all of the breeds that i liked. the days are long, you are getting up very early. it can be rather expensive. if anyone is interested in a show dog that did not make the grade, go to the AKC website and look for rescue groups. many breeders will donate their dogs that did not make the grade due to height, color, snow nose, teeth, etc. however, many dogs get braces, botox, etc. if you buy a show dog from a reliable breeder, they will make you sign a contract, no breeding, if you do not want the dog anymore, you have to give it back to them, you can sale the dog, even give it to a family member. if you want to show the dog, the breeder will still have some ownership most of the time. breeders work very hard to keep their line pure so they do not want you breeding their dogs with their linage.

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