Westminster takes Manhattan

Xcetera and Meg, right, Treeing Walker Coonhounds, stand

Xcetera and Meg, right, Treeing Walker Coonhounds, stand by a Russell Terrier at a press conference kicking off the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. (Feb. 7, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

Time to get your woof on.

The dogs are trotting up for the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which will be a breed apart from previous years. For the first time, the festivities will take place at two locations (Madison Square Garden and Chelsea Piers), benching makes a return after two years and all the show info you need will be available on a new smartphone app.

And two new breeds have been added to the qualifying list this year: the treeing walker coonhound and, closer to home, the Russell terrier, commonly known as the Jack Russell terrier.

Among the 15 Russell terriers qualified for the competition are two females owned by Sue Sobel of Bohemia: Pepper, 1, and Madison, 2. Sobel has owned Russell terriers since 1980, and is thrilled the breed was approved by the American Kennel Club for entry into the dog show this year.

"It's the only breed I've ever had," Sobel says. "It's a privilege to be a part of AKC. They are very concerned with getting the gene pool correct for pedigree purposes."

Friends and family will be at Westminster to cheer on Sobel and her dogs. "A lot of them have the same kind of dogs and we are all very excited to see them in their first appearance at this prestigious show," she says.

Madison and Pepper will be with their handler both days. "This is a huge show and we'll leave it to the professionals," Sobel says.

Small in size (10 to 12 inches tall), the Russell terrier is known for its oval-shaped chest and its hunting abilities. Originally bred in 19th century England, Russell terriers can be shown in three types of coats: smooth, broken and rough, based on thickness and smoothness of the hair.

The treeing walker coonhound was bred to hunt wild raccoons. Its ancestors include the Virginia hounds, walker foxhound and earlier English foxhound that was brought to America, according to information provided by the Westminster Kennel Club.

There will be 2,721 dogs and 87 breeds and varieties of those breeds (differences in coats, color or size) at the show, making it the largest entry total in 15 years, according to the organization. Among the breeds most represented are golden retrievers (61), Labradors (54) and Rhodesian ridgebacks (50). Entries come from all 50 states, and 117 dogs are from foreign countries. Last year, a 4-year-old Pekingese named Malachy was named best in show.

New breeds are added each year, and must be approved by the American Kennel Club before they can compete in the historic show, said Sean W. McCarthy, president of the Westminster Kennel Club. Six new breeds were added last year.


A new location

For the first time, the show is at two venues. A portion of the show will move from the Garden to Piers 92 and 94, at West 55th Street and the West Side Highway, for best-of-breed judging Monday and Tuesday.

The piers offer more than 200,000 square feet of indoor exhibition space for breed judging and benching, where those attending can get a behind-the-scenes look at the dogs. The preliminary junior showmanship also will be at the piers.

"It's really an educational forum," show chairman Thomas H. Bradley III said about the return of benching. "It's for people who may want to buy a dog" to go visit the different breeds and ask questions of the owners or handlers, he said.

Monday and Tuesday nights, the group judging and the highly anticipated best in show judging will take place at Madison Square Garden.


New app for smartphones

The new app will list a map, directory and schedule for all breeds' rings; a comprehensive list and information on all the breeds participating in the event; directions and maps to both the Garden and the Piers; a list of vendors, and Westminster 101 -- a history of the show and a glossary of dog show terms.

There also will be live streaming from the competition.

Says Bradley, "This is not our father's dog show."

 

At the show

WHAT The Westminster Kennel Club 137th Annual Dog Show

WHEN | WHERE 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Piers 92 and 94, 55th Street and the West Side Highway for benching and breed judging; Monday night at 7 is group judging and 7 p.m. Tuesday are the remaining groups and best of show at Madison Square Garden.

TICKETS $25 for a day's ticket to the Piers, includes all benching and judging at the venue; $40-$50 per evening for reserved seating at Madison Square Garden and includes benching and judging of daily best of breed winners. Purchase tickets at westminsterkennelclub.org. Some may be available at the door for each day's events.

 

On TV

If you can't make it to Manhattan, watch the show at 8 Monday night on CNBC and 8 p.m. Tuesday on USA Network. (Encores of the previous nights air 8 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday on USA.)

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