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For 143 years, dogs from around the world have ventured to New York City every February. They’re all there to compete for the coveted title of Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, presented by Purina Pro Plan.

How does the champion make his way to the winner’s circle, though? Keep reading to learn more about how the WKC dog show works.

A Conformation Dog Show

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a “conformation dog show.” This means judges evaluate the dogs based on how they compare—or “conform”—to their official breed standards.

The breeds’ parent clubs establish these standards. The standards describe ideal features like structure, movement and temperament.

Dog Show Groups

The competition starts with over 2,800 dogs across 204 breeds. All the American Kennel Club (AKC)-recognized breeds fall into one of seven Groups.

Breeds in the same Group share similar purposes. Learn more about each of the seven Groups below.

  • Hound: Breeds in this Group are either sight or scent hounds. The Hound Group includes popular dogs like the Basset Hound, Beagle and Dachshund.
  • Toy: The Toy Group is comprised of small lap dogs, such as the Pomeranian, Papillion, Chihuahua and Toy Poodle.
  • Non-Sporting: The Non-Sporting Group was one of AKC’s original Groups. It consists of a wide range of breeds, like the French Bulldog, Chow Chow and Boston Terrier.
  • Herding: Dogs in the Herding Group will herd animals and even their human companions. These breeds include the Australian Shepherd, Border Collie and the German Shepherd Dog.
  • Sporting: The Sporting Group was the other original AKC Group. It now consists of hunting dogs like the Cocker Spaniel, Irish Setter and Golden Retriever.
  • Working: The Working Group includes large dogs like the Mastiff, Great Dane and Siberian Husky. These breeds perform tasks like pulling sleds, water rescues or guarding property.
  • Terrier: This feisty Group includes popular breeds like the Miniature Schnauzer, Bull Terrier and Parson Russell Terrier.

The Dog Show Competition

First, all dogs compete against the other dogs in their breed. The “Best of Breed” winners head to Madison Square Garden for the two-day Group competition.

In the Group competition, the Best of Breed winners compete against other dogs in their AKC Group. On the first night, dogs in the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups take the ring. The judges name one dog from each Group the “Group Winner.”

On the second night, dogs in the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups take the ring for their AKC Group competitions. At the end of the second night, the Group winners all compete for the Best In Show title.

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 101

Watch the video below to learn more about how the WKC Dog Show works.

Download PDF

In 2018, Purina® Pro Plan® fueled all seven Group winners, including the Best In Show champion, at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.† Eleven of the last twelve Best In Show champions broke through to victory with help from the advanced nutrition of Purina Pro Plan.†

Put Your Dog Breed Group Knowledge to the Test

Who will take home the Best In Show title at this year’s WKC dog show? Test your dog breed Group knowledge by filling out a dog show bracket by 5:00 p.m. ET. Choose the seven Group winners and the Best In Show champion. If all of your picks exactly match the actual winners, you could win $1 Million!* Plus, you could also win our daily prize of a year’s supply of Purina Pro Plan!**

Make Your Picks

†The handler or owner of these champions may have received Purina Pro Plan dog food as Purina ambassadors.
*$1 Million prize will be split evenly among verified winners.
**Awarded as 14 coupons for Purina Pro Plan brand dog food, any formula (up to $41.99/ea) or 8 coupons for Purina Pro Plan brand cat food, any formula (up to $23.99/ea).  Terms and conditions apply; coupons expire 6/30/20. 
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.), 18 years or older. Promotion consists of a Contest and a Sweepstakes; enter both by 2/11/19 at 5:00pm ET. To enter and for Official Rules, including prize descriptions and Sweepstakes odds disclosures and all details, visit dogshowbracket.com. Void where prohibited.