Weird at WestminsterPublished February 14, 2011
Westminster Dog Show: Wendy Toth
Westminster dog show rituals can be confusing to a dog show newbie. I found out what's really behind some of the seemingly weird happenings at Westminster.
I spent my morning behind-the-scenes at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and I realized that for people who don't spend a lot of time up close and personal with show dogs and their handlers -- this can seem like a weird world, with plenty of puzzling actions and odd dogs, if you will.
I pried at some of the peculiar rituals going on around me, and came up with my Top 5 Weird Things at Westminster list:
5. Westminster Doggie Under-Eye Masks are De Rigueurs
Just before they hit the ring, lots of dogs who normally get tear stains, like Yorkies and Maltese, sport a bit of cotton, fastened just under to eye, to keep any last-minute tears from staining their pristine little faces.
4. Westminster Handlers Eat Treats
Lots of handlers keep "bait" treats tucked in a sleeve or directly in their mouth while showing, then bite off a little bit to get the dog's attention.
I asked our dog show expert, Charlotte Reed, why they did it and she said keeping the treats moist and smelling familiar (like their handler's mouth) helps the dogs stay calm and interested in food. It's a little like a mother bird feeding regurgitated food to her babies, she explains.
3. Westminster Yorkies All Wear a Show Bow
There is nothing to brighten up a Monday morning quite like a row of Yorkies being groomed. I grabbed a quick second with a handler to ask why every single one had a red bow in it's hair and she told me the red show bow is tradition for all Yorkies.
2. At Westminster, Damp Towels Are Mini Oases
Lots of toy breeds chill out on a dampened towel their handler spreads out next to the show ring just before taking their turn. Charlotte Reed told me it's because a lot of small dogs can overheat quickly so the dampness keeps them cool and calm, while the towel keeps their belly clean and silky hair from tangling.
1. Westminster Poodle's Tufts Serve a Purpose
The uninititiated seem to thinks Poodles are just these big, fluffy divas, running around with their pom-pom haircuts, thinking how they'd look better in Paris.
It turns out that Poodles, Reed says, were bred as great water retrievers. Their owners would shave them to help them swim fast, but keep tufts of hair over any part that should be protected, such as their kidneys and joints.