She was teeny-tiny. All four paws fit in the palm of my hand – and I was only nine years old.
I thought my dad was joking when he said we could take her home. She was a motley mix of Llhasa Apso and Pekinese…in our minds, the very best of both breeds – but what did we know about breeding? (spoiler alert – nothing) We named her Patch for the patches of bright white bubbles and dark black spots that tic-tac-toed across her back and ears.
She was my very first case of puppy love, but far from my last. I’ve talked before about the moment our family heart was stolen by sweet Shortstop….he’s still running the family today.
Despite my love of dogs (and my children’s), we are amateurs when it comes to the true sport of showing dogs.
If you would like to see the highlights and the ultimate Best in Show from the AKC’s Championship Dog Show in Orlando, Florida – tune in to Animal Planet this New Year’s Day at 7 p.m. ET, with an encore airing at 11 p.m. ET.
Insider’s Guide to the American Kennel Dog Show
Best in Show competitions are one portion of the entire experience. (I explain in detail below).
Dock Diving is pure happy, wet-dog joy. The agility, speed and precision is amazing to witness.
Agility Courses…trust me when I tell you, there is both a talent and an art form that comes with showing a dog (so says the girl who *almost* fell while attempting)…but DIDN’T.
I was so interested to learn about the individual formulas and how they work to keep your puppies (and mine!) in top shape. Each is made not only with that breed’s nutrition in mind, but their age (there are different formulas specifically for puppies versus adult dogs) and their ability to bite and process a shape and size of kibble. There are more than 200 formulas!
There is only one winner. And that winner gets $50,000!
The Road to Best in Show
I had such an extraordinary time taking it all in and learning about this process. Here’s the breakdown: each breed competes against dogs within its specific breed based on age and gender. Imagine ALL Golden Retrievers being broken down into groups based on their age and whether or not they are male or female. They compete in categories until there is one Golden remaining.
- Toy Group – these are dogs that fit in the lap of their owners like Pomeranians , Pugs, Maltese and Yorkshire Terriers.
- Herding Group – as their name suggests, these breeds work with humans frequently to herd: German Shepherd, Collie, and Old English Sheepdog.
- Working Dog Group – these four-legged friends are the working kind. They pull sleds, protect their humans and and do rescue work. The Bernese Mountain Dog, Samoyed, Rottweiler and Siberian Husky all fall in to this group.
- Hound – this tough group goes after warm-blooded animals like jackrabbits and raccoons. They are scent-hounds known for speed: Beagles, Greyhounds and the small, but mighty Dachshunds.
- Terrier – this short-legged group was bred to head ‘underground’ after prey. They were, for a time, used for fighting, but today are mainly companions: West Highland Terrier, Scottish Terrier and Miniature Schnauzer.
- Sporting – these are the dogs that ultimately hunt. If they would pick up a bird, they fit in this group: Irish Setters, Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers (like Bree)
- Non-Sporting Dog Group – these dogs, while having four legs and a wet-nose, are those that fall outside of the previous categories: Dalmatians, Standard Poodles, Bulldogs, American Eskimo and (one of my favorites) the Bichon Frise.
And then a winner is crowned.
Dying to know who it is…easy….
Reminder: Tune in to Animal Planet this New Year’s Day at 7 p.m. ET, with an encore airing at 11 p.m. ET.
Disclosure: A million thanks to Royal Canin for hosting me for the American Kennel Club Championship Dog Show. I will happily be cuddled up on New Year’s Day watching it all unfold with my family (and Shortstop!). As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.