The Suffolk County Kennel Club's 2015 Canine Experience drew 101 dogs -- but only two Dalmatians -- to St. Johnland Nursing Center in Kings Park on Sunday.
There, owners new to dog shows as well as seasoned veterans offered their dogs for a handling class, a rally with an obedience test and a good-citizenship station, among other events.
Irene Viglass, of Huntington, and her 8-year-old Pomeranian, Panda, were among the newcomers.See alsoQuiz: Dog breed selector
Viglass didn't show Panda Sunday, but she wanted him to try the agility test: a course with bars to jump over, a tube to run through and a line of bars to zigzag around.
"He's bored to death at home and I need to get him interested in something other than just walking," she said. "I'd like him to learn and have something to do."
The main attraction Sunday was the match show, an informal competition separate from championship shows.
The matches give newcomers a low-pressure chance to experience dog shows firsthand, said Bob Eisele, show chairman of the kennel club.
"We got a large amount of beginners, which is what we are trying to do," Eisele said. "You try to give back to the sport."
Dog owners could visit the conformation station, where judges interpreted how closely each dog conformed to its breed standard -- giving newcomers a sense of where their dogs stand competitively.
The best-in-show adult title went to Louie, a 15-month-old beagle owned by Jennifer Gonzalez of Setauket, while the best-in-show puppy was Fortune, an 8-month-old papillon owned by Andrea Samuels, 38, of Westbury.
This year, the event also offered a separate "best sweeps" contest for champion dogs, which are usually excluded from the informal matches. That title went to Ella, a 7-year-old border collie.
"It always feels good to have a winner, but it feels best when you take the best dog home," said Ella's owner, Carolyn Biondi of Lindenhurst. "And you always take the best dog home when you put time into your dog."