About the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

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The Westminster Dog Show is one of the largest and most prestigious canine conformation events in the United States. The Westminster Kennel Club hosts the annual breed show in New York City. Up to 2500 purebred dogs and over 170 different breeds are entered to compete for the titles of Best of Breed, Best of Group and Best in Show.

About the Westminster Dog Show

The Westminster Dog Show is held over two days each February at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Each dog is judged based upon the official standard of that specific breed. Highest ranking dogs are those considered to be closest to the ideal embodiment of that breed. Judges are considered experts of one or more dog breeds. They examine each dog's overall appearance and temperament, as well as specifics such as eyes, ears, bite, tail and gait. Each dog breed is categorized into one of the following specific groups:

  • Sporting
  • Hound
  • Working
  • Terrier
  • Toy
  • Non-Sporting
  • Herding

The AKC also includes a Miscellaneous Class, all of which are enrolled in the AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS). These dogs are recognized by the AKC as "in development" but not eligible for AKC registration. FSS and Miscellaneous Class dogs are not recognized by the WKC and may not participate in Westminster Dog Show

History of the Westminster Dog Show

Around the year 1876, a group of men began to gather at a Manhattan hotel bar to discuss their sporting dogs. Soon, The Westminster Breeding Association was formed, named after their favorite hotel. That year, the Westminster Breeding Association helped organize a dog show in Philadelphia for America's centennial celebration. The show was a great success, and demand for more led to amazing growth in the years to come.

In 1877, the group changed their name to the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC). They hosted the First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs at Gilmore's Garden, the venue that would later be named Madison Square Garden. To this day, Madison Square Garden is the home of the Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

In 1884, the American Kennel Club was formed and the Westminster Kennel Club was elected as its first member club. Over 134 years and counting, the WKC and Westminster Dog Show have undergone much growth and change. Today, the Westminster Dog Show is one of the most celebrated canine conformation events in the world.

Westminster Dog Show Basic Info & Guidelines

  • All canine participants must be registered with the AKC and all must have earned their Breed Championship before appearing at Westminster.
  • A maximum of 2500 dogs are permitted to compete. Each year, registration closes on a specified date in December, or sooner if the maximum is reached.
  • Westminster is a benched show, meaning that each participating dog is required to be at an assigned location during specified hours. The only exceptions are when the dog is being prepared for showing, or is being transported for the purposes of showing or benching.
  • Part of the Westminster Dog Show also includes a Junior Showmanship Competition that offers scholarship awards to junior handlers.

Categories & Awards at the Westminster Dog Show

Prizes are awarded for each category and are as follows:

  • Best of Breed/Variety: Sterling Silver Medallion, Purple & Gold Rosette
  • Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed/Variety: Antique-Finished Medallion, Red & White Rosette
  • Best in Show: Hand-engraved Steuben Crystal Trophy, Silverplated Trophy, Purple & Gold Rosette (if American-bred, includes Perpetual Sterling Silver Challenge Cup and Sterling Silver Trophy)

Attending Westminster as a Spectator

If you are a dog breed enthusiast or simply a dog lover, seeing the Westminster Dog Show in person can be a wonderful experience. One of the best parts of attending is that all ticket holders have access to the benching area (backstage). There you can see the dogs up close and personal and learn more about the show.

Tickets can range from $75 to $130 (reserved seating). They can be purchased through the WKC website. If you are not in the New York area and wish to travel to attend the show, be aware that hotels in the area book up very early, so plan ahead.

Missed the deadline for tickets? Just can't make the trip? No worries, most of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is televised. Every year, the Best of Breed and Best in show competitions air live on USA Network and CNBC.