Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: What’s To Like?

by Susan E. Davis, PT 

For me, there is just about everything to like about the WKC Dog show! It is a total celebration of all things dog! People’s love of dogs is evident everywhere: the ring, benching area, spectator seats in the Garden and in the neighboring hotels. The excitement in the air is palpable. People’s reaction to seeing these dogs up close is priceless.

The driving force here is the happiness and health of dogs.  

Some might argue that Purina Pro Plan, a major sponsor of the show and makers of sub-human grade dog food, might not be the best example of this (though their commercials are pretty awesome).  As well, excitement of potential dog owners desiring the pure breeds shown in “conformation” events has the potential to negatively drive puppy mills and breeders to mass produce unhealthy dogs.

It is a double-edged sword.  

On the other hand, Westminster provides an opportunity to educate interested spectators about health issues and to gain an appreciation of the importance of good breeding. 

A public announcement is made during the judging finals informing the spectators that no dogs in the event come from puppy mills and advising them to use responsible breeders only.

The American Kennel Club has formed a Foundation to promote consumer education and raise funds for this purpose.

Ultimately, it is consumer education that will (if slowly) turn the wheel and begin to reverse negative breeding practices as the demand for quality healthy dogs increases.

Now, about happiness: as I toured the benching areas I saw a lot of happy dogs awaiting their turn in the ring.  Honestly, none of them appeared stressed or in a state of dread.  Some looked bored and sleepy, despite all of the stimulation surrounding them, but all were attended by loving and generous handlers or owners. These folks are happy to talk about their dogs and let you meet them. 

Westminster, being one of the few benched shows in the country, requires dogs to stay in the facility all day, even after their ring time to allow the public to have access. I had some concern for long rest periods in crates and sustained standing on a grooming table, but I saw dogs given ample potty breaks and even some owners massaging and doing range of motion exercises during benching. 

One particular handler of a long-haired dachshund caught my eye as she appeared to be performing a type of manual stretch into hip extension. 

As I got closer, I saw that she was quite skilled at psoas releases, having been taught by her dog’s chiropractor. I applauded her for this level of dedication and handler expertise.

Finally, there is the aspect of why Westminster does not allow mixed breed dogs in their show?  

Well, this year Westminster held their first annual Master Agility event, open to mixed and pure breeds!

Though it was not mainstreamed in terms of television coverage, the event was very successful and may lead to major network coverage in the coming years. However, during night one of live television coverage of Westminster at Madison Square Garden, the mixed breed agility winner and her handler were presented to the audience at a key point during the show. The dog was ecstatic as she was introduced to the crowd, who reacted with great with enthusiasm and a warm welcome.
Westminster Dog Show is a great reason to visit NYC and will reignite your passion for canines of all shapes and sizes.  See you February 2015? 


Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website www.joycareonsite.com , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.

Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer.  

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.

Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Beat The Winter Blahs With Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!