Westminster Dog Show 2021 Live Updates: Sporting Group Underway

If you’re wondering why no one is wearing masks in the tent, it’s because you had to provide proof of vaccination to attend the show this year. Once that was supplied, masks were optional. But at least two handlers have theirs on.

Question for our vet: If we eliminate shelter dogs with unknown parentage, what breed of dog has the most pleasant owners?

He says that dogs tend to match their owners. Owners with food allergies tend to have dogs with food allergies. The friendlier the dog usually comes with the friendlier owners.

We’ve brought in an outside expert for dog show commentary: Dr. Matthew Antkowiak, the owner of AtlasVet in Washington and the veterinarian for my dog, Nellie. He’s here to help us navigate tonight’s festivities and will give us a heads up if any of these dogs are injured — so long as Nellie stops licking his face.

Of course they picked the Golden for the slow-mo shot. Goldens are such a crowd pleaser. Will you all yell if I call them, well, kinda basic?

This is the brownest Irish setter I’ve ever seen. Prettier than I will be on my wedding day, but still — not what I look for in an Irish setter.

Every time I look at these setters I just wonder what the inside of the owner’s car must look like. That’s a lot of shedding.

Try to count how many dogs are described as “intelligent” or “a good companion.” I swear the dogs wrote every one of these bios.

I was wondering about the breed bios! Do they have to be rewritten every year? How often are they fact-checked? How do they decide what is standard?! Poll a bunch of vets? Search for mentions of the dogs in the written record going back as far as they can?

Fun fact, veterinarian training doesn’t distinguish between breeds. All dogs are basically the same inside and, Dr. Antkowiak says, they all do in fact go to heaven.

The standards are set and finely argued. But you do wonder if there’s a lot of hairsplitting when it comes to, say, the terriers. Since they are all terriers in the end.

Dog show bling.

Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Dr. Antkowiak says that brown Labrador is about 15 pounds overweight. “Maybe it’s bred to hunt seals in the Arctic,” he says.

I thought that was rude but then one of the announcers described another dog as having a “wedge-shaped head,” so I guess anything goes. I’d rather be 15 pounds overweight for sure.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is the official dog of the state of Maryland! I am learning so much already.

Thirteen states have official dog breeds, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Delaware claimed the Golden Retriever but it expired in 2017. I wonder if that’s risen to presidential attention yet….

You guys ever look at a dog and wonder if it’s a human that body-switched with a dog in some kind of Freaky Friday situation? I feel like that last bearded dog could have been a secret human, which in my opinion should be disqualifying. Something about the eyes.

Caity, the owner of the Portuguese water dog showing tonight, Blaze, told me she lives better than most humans. “They get everything they want, the best care,” she said as she brushed Blaze’s glorious black coat.

The vibe outside on the grounds between the breed judging and tonight’s finals was like a college football tailgate. Small tents, people in lawn chairs and rows and rows of cars and cars on the Lyndhurst grounds. “It feels like a normal show,” a handler told me after bagging up a pit stop. Very different from the usual Midtown bustle of Westminster. Of course, no one dares throw a football around an open field full of valuable — and bored — dogs.

We asked on Twitter for dog photos, and you answered. Here are a few of our favorites that came in via #nytdogshow, like Buster, a fellow New York Times dog:

Archie, a Labrador ready to go swimming:

Autumn, a Llewellin setter enjoying the mountains:

Charlie, a way-too-small toy poodle:

And Pepper, a very tall dog owned by our friends at The Washington Post:

These are the cleanest dogs I’ve ever seen. That is blinding white fur. Do you think the dogs have colorists?

I feel like some bleach must be involved.

The sporting group is on the floor and the judge, James Covey, sure looked like he was judging as he gave everyone the once over.

Hugs from tall dogs, flyaway hairballs, a mastiff’s mug and a convenient place to keep a comb: Here are scenes from the daytime competitions that led to tonight’s prime-time finale.

Martha Stewart is there!

Wait, there’s no prize money? Are there sponsorships? People spend hours blow-drying their dogs for … free???

It’s for the glory of dogdom, Lisa. And the right to roll up at any dog run in the world like a champ.

William, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, thinks blow drying is better than money.

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Mathew, a French bulldog who won the toy group, is ready for his close-up.

Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

There is definitely a different vibe in the tent this year than there usually is at Madison Square Garden. For one, the crowd numbers in the hundreds, and a couple people repeatedly screaming “Whoooooo!” in a tent cannot replace the vibe of 20,000 or so in an N.B.A. arena.

Among the nonwinners on Sunday was baseball’s career home-run leader, Barry Bonds. He was in town to cheer a miniature schnauzer he owns named Rocky. “We won because we got here,” Bonds told Fox Sports. “I’ve been to a lot of playoffs, and I’ve been to the World Series, and I’ve never won. But for 22 years, I kept trying.”

Barry Bonds watches Rocky from the good seats.

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Guys, the thing I want to see more than anything else tonight is an interview with one of the dogs. How can we make that happen?

I can try, Reid, but I probably shouldn’t get thrown out of this tent too early in the show.

Welcome to our live coverage of the final night of the Westminster Dog Show, the night when they separate the dogs from, well, the other dogs.

There are four new breeds at the show this year and three new voices in our coverage: Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein from the New York Times politics team, who are well versed in preening showboats, and Caity Weaver, whose last article was about the website for the 1996 movie “Space Jam,” which makes her an honorary sportswriter. But she writes for Styles, and if there’s anything we’ll need tonight, it’s a bit of style.

This pre-show is already better than the Oscars. A video about Lyndhurst mansion, the location of this year’s event, mentioned that one of the property’s neighbors was Madam C.J. Walker. She was the country’s first female self-made millionaire, who made her fortune developing beauty products for Black women. (The video didn’t mention any of that but … nice to see her name-checked.)

Russell terriers Annie and Polo are friendly now, but the competition was fierce.

Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The Fox “pre-show” has begun! It’s very “Downton Abbey” meets … well, dogs.

The top dogs are competing for these water bowls, er, trophies tonight.
Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Thousands of dogs compete against others from their breed: collie against collie, Saluki against Saluki. The 200 or so breed winners advance to compete against similar breeds in the group finals. The seven group winners then vie for the big prize: Best in Show, this year to be judged by Patricia Craige Trotter of Carmel, Calif. The decision is hers and hers alone.

  • The hounds are hunting dogs and include beagles and whippets. (Saturday’s winner: Bourbon, a whippet.)

  • The toys are small lap dogs like Shih Tzus and pugs. (Saturday’s winner: Wasabi, a Pekingese.)

  • The nonsporting group might well be called the miscellaneous group. It includes dogs that don’t fit elsewhere like Dalmatians and chow chows. (Saturday’s winner: Mathew, a French bulldog.)

  • The herding group was bred to herd and includes German shepherds and Border collies. (Saturday’s winner: Connor, an Old English sheepdog.)

  • The sporting dogs are retrievers and include Irish setters and various spaniels. (Winner chosen tonight.)

  • The working group consists of dogs bred to perform a task and includes Great Danes and Doberman pinschers. (Winner chosen tonight.)

  • The terriers include a host of varieties including fox terriers, Border terriers and many others. (Winner chosen tonight.)

This video from the American Kennel Club describes a typical dog show process in more detail:

From left, a barbet, Biewer terrier, Belgian Laekenois and Dogo Argentino made their debuts this week.
Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

More than 200 breeds are recognized by the American Kennel Club and are therefore eligible for the Westminster show. The four new entrants in 2021 are:

  • The barbet, a curly haired bearded dog;

  • the Belgian Laekenois, a shaggier shepherd;

  • the Biewer terrier, a longhaired, three-colored toy terrier;

  • and the Dogo Argentino, a white muscular dog with a smooth coat.

Here’s this year’s barbet competition:

The Belgian Laekenois round:

And the Biewer terrier judging:

For the first time, Westminster is being held at Lyndhurst, the Gothic Revival mansion and estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., once owned by the robber baron Jay Gould. Gould and his family loved dogs, though probably not having them hang out in tents and cars all over their lawn. Oh well. That’s what we have.

The 2019 Best in Show winner was a wire fox terrier named King.
Credit…Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

Handicapping a dog show field is a bit harder than picking the winner of the fourth race at Belmont. It is commonly said that terriers are the best bet, and the wire fox terrier does have the most wins, with 15. But terriers have won only two of the last 10 Westminsters, so prediction is difficult.

There may even be terrier fatigue: When King, a wire fox terrier, won best in show honors in 2019, not everyone was thrilled. “Boos and grumbles filled Madison Square Garden when the judge handed King the coveted pewter cup,” The New York Times wrote then.


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King, a wire fox terrier, won best in show at the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday. Wire fox terriers have won best in show more than any other breed in the competition’s history.CreditCredit…Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

There are show favorites and crowd favorites, and those are not always the same breeds. Golden retrievers and Labradors, for example, are two of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, but neither has ever won best in show at Westminster.

“If you had a popularity contest, we would win,” Christine Miele, the Eastern vice president of the Golden Retriever Club of America, told The Times in 2019.

There will be a whippet named Bourbon and a Pekingese named Wasabi. A French bulldog named Mathew — wait, shouldn’t that be Mathieu? — won the nonsporting group, and an Old English Sheepdog called Connor was judged the best of the herding entries. (He also looked big enough to eat a couple of rivals if the result had not gone his way.)

The Lyndhurst grounds have a long history as the host of dog shows, including dozens of events run by the Westchester Kennel Club.
Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The nation’s top dogs are getting a weekend in the country.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has been a midwinter tradition in New York City for more than a century, but this year the event moved from Madison Square Garden, its longtime home, to Lyndhurst, a riverside estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., north of the city, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The change to a warm-weather, outdoor show was necessary, organizers said, to ensure the event could take place and still comply with the “ever-changing government restrictions” brought on by the health crisis. The Lyndhurst grounds have a long history as the host of dog shows, including dozens of events run by the Westchester Kennel Club.

The Lyndhurst estate, once owned by the robber baron Jay Gould, is now maintained by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The vast collection of antique furniture inside its iconic Gothic Revival mansion will, presumably, remain off-limits, even to champions.

The change in venue, which was made possible when two other shows agreed to surrender the June dates, allowed the Westminster show to extend a continuous run that dates to 1877, and includes 100 years of shows at various iterations of Madison Square Garden. Only the Kentucky Derby, which was first run in 1875 and crowns a horse, not a dog, as its champion, has had a longer run among American sporting events.

Here’s a look at the setup for this weekend:

You’re in the right place: The New York Times will have live commentary from our, uh, experts, beginning tonight at 7:30 Eastern time.

But you’re probably wondering if you can catch the dogs on TV. There is a “pre-show” at 7 p.m. on Fox, followed by coverage of the actual event beginning at 7:30. First, there will be three group finals, for the sporting, working and terrier groups.

Then, the winners of those groups will join four other group winners — from the hound, toy, non-sporting and herding groups — to compete for Best in Show. The big winner will probably be announced toward the end of the broadcast at 11 p.m.

Fox will also stream the event in its Fox Now and Fox Sports apps.

You can also watch highlights from this weekend’s agility championships:

Those hoping to attend the competition in person are out of luck this year: Spectators not directly involved with a competing dog are prohibited because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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