NEW YORK—Even people who would not watch a dog show 364 days of the year may make an exception on Feb. 8. The Westminster Kennel Club’s (WKC) dog show will, for the first time in its 138 year history, include an “agility trial” and invite mixed breeds.
The event will showcase dogs weaving through poles, leaping through hoops, jumping over bars, and dashing through tunnels, all while being timed and rated for accuracy.
“Agility is the fastest growing area of the dog world,” said Sean McCarthy, president of the Westminster Kennel Club, “and we are particularly proud that its umbrella embraces not only all breeds eligible under the AKC [American Kennel Club] standards, but also [that] all American breeds, or mixed breeds, can participate.”
Sixty-three dog breeds make up the 228 contestants in the WKC’s first agility event, randomly selected from 553 entry submissions.
Also new at this year’s show will be three breeds that were recently recognized by the American Kennel Club, the largest not-for-profit purebred dog registry in the country.
The Chinook, the Portuguese podengo poqueno, and the rat terrier will all be joining WKC’s dog show for the first time this year.
Perry Richards, the owner of two Chinooks, Talis and Tagluk, has a personal history with the breed. His great-grandfather acquired the entire breed from a man in 1940, making him the sole producer for many years. Now there are about 1,000 of them, mostly in North America.
In 2009, the Chinook was named New Hampshire’s state dog. Initially, it was bred there as a sled dog.
Big-boned, with sandy-colored, mid-length hair, it stands in stark contrast to the rat terrier, which is black and white with small and short fur. The Portuguese podengo pequeno could be a mix of the two, with short- to mid-length sandy brown fur and about the same size as the rat terrier.
This year’s show will be separated into three days. On Saturday, Feb. 8, the Master’s Agility Championship will be held at noon on Pier 92. On Feb. 10 and 11 the dog show will take place at Madison Square Garden. Night two of the dog show (including crowning Best In Show) will air live on USA Network, February 11 from 8-11 p.m. ET / 5-8 p.m. PT.
Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.