How Do Dog Show Dogs Stay So Healthy

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is full of secrets: So Fidose of Reality visited the 140th edition of this second longest continuously held sporting event in this country, just one year behind the Kentucky Derby. Many of the folks who breed, own, handle, and groom the dogs have things to offer that many reporters skip over. I wondered how dog show dogs stay healthy.

I want to know what Westminster dogs eat…and what they do with their time off…and just how do these folks keep the white dogs so clean? In order to get the questions answered that you wanted us to ask, here are some of the actual queries posed of us on our Facebook page.

How to keep a dog healthy

Some Westminster Back Story

What exactly is a “dog show?” In a nutshell, a dog show is designed to facilitate the evaluation of breeding stock to be used in producing the next generations. The judges are mulling over, touching and assessing each movement, measurement, and line of the dogs that enter their ring.

Why can I touch the dogs at Westminster? Westminster is one of the few clubs that holds a “benched” dog show. Dogs are literally staged on benches by breed in order to compete over the course of two days every February. If you purchase a ticket to attend a benched show, you can talk to the folks who are the owners, breeders, and handlers of the dogs. This year, 199 breeds were shown at Westminster.

Westminster reporter
Third row Garden Green media seating means a happy Carol!

Has it really been 140 years? Indeed! In 1884, the American Kennel Club (AKC) was founded, and the Westminster Kennel Club became its first member club. As a proud Cocker mom and lover of the breed, the Cocker Spaniel was one of the AKC’s first registered breeds.

Who is the oldest dog to win at Westminster? A Sussex Spaniel, Stump, Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee, became the oldest dog to win Best in Show at Westminster in 2009. He was 10 years, 2 months, and 9 days of age, and we are proud to have met him:

Stump with Dexter
Meeting a legend.

And the youngest dog to win at Westminster? That would be a Rough Collie, Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, who in 1929, took the Best in Show title at age 9 months.

Keeshond at Westminster

Ruthann Seibert of Dover, Pennsylvania has been associated with the Keeshond breed for 9 years. I stopped by her benching area as her pooch was being coifed and brushed.

“I brush him according to the standard,” Seibert shared. “This breed makes the best companion, is a great therapy dog, and I have a lifelong love of the Keeshond.”

The Keeshond is in the non-sporting group and originated in Holland. He is a friendly, lively and outgoing medium-sized dog. He has a plush two-layer coat of silver and black fur with a ruff and a curled tail.

Keeshound at Westminster

Matthew Perry (not from Friends), says he keeps his show Keeshound, Rider, active back home in Franklin, Tennessee, by running him with a golf cart.

“We have five acres and since Rider isn’t into jogging on a treadmill, we exercise together with the golf cart,” he said. “He is allowed to run under supervision and he keeps in shape.”

Bichon Frise

A True Dog Artist

“This is artistry,” Marcel Bourgon beams and he grooms 5-year-old Bichon Frise, Armani, for the ring. He’s been doing this for 35 years and attributes his love of the breed dating back to the 1970s.

How does he keep the eye area clean and free of any tear staining?

“Tetracycline is an antibiotic that is great for the eyes,” he shares.

Bichon Frise at Westminster

Redford Rules

Jay and Taryn Ruffin of Nashville had perhaps the most kissable and wanting to give kisses dog I met at the show. I meandered into their Hound dog area where I went nose to snout with the handsome, Redford (GCH Cjs Ranch Sundance Kid Hpk Tropaco). Yes, he is oh so handsome like his movie star namesake, Robert Redford.

The Ruffins admit to feeding a raw, organic diet.

“He’s at the vet less and the diet is better for his teeth,” Taryn Ruffin remarked.

Rhodesian Ridgeback at Westminster
Redford melted my heart – can you tell?

A French Connection

Terri Marks is an approachable, friendly veterinarian who owns South Paw Animal Hospital in New Jersey. A fun and educational conversation ensued to dish about French Bulldogs and healthy eating.

Both now with her Frenchies and with her Mastiffs, Dr. Marks feeds a raw diet. She likes the fact that it is easily digestible, good for fussy dogs, and doesn’t produce diarrhea. She does not prepare the raw food herself, but buys it.

On teeth brushing, she is a firm believer in brushing a dog’s teeth every day. Her 17-month-old French Bulldog, Sierra, looked and showed famously in his group.

She recommends investigating the source of an allergy before trying to treat it: When you know the cause you can tackle it.

French Bulldog Westminster

Junior Handler

Arwen Whiteman caught my eye with her dainty presence and spotted companion. A junior handler at the ripe age of 11, Whiteman says she shows dogs because she loves animals so much. Archer, her gorgeous 3-year-old Dalmatian, waited patiently as the pre-teen answered questions.

Dalmatian at Westminster
Interview with a spotted champ

A Dark Knight

As a fan of spaniels, Blackfire Plaza Suite aka Hubbell, caught my eye. This 3-1/2 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is co-owned by Alyssa McLaughlin. She loves that this breed is smaller and a bit more mellow than the Cocker Spaniel.

“Cavaliers are either lazy or busy,” she mused. “I feed them Eagle Natural and it’s worked out for us.”

Teresa Bellman of San Antonio, Texas, firmly believes that dogs are stress relief. She is a breeder, owner, handler, and loves to work with the dogs.

“Cavaliers like to be active,” she said. Her GCH Stepamgar Glowing Ember loves to have kids read to her, and loves playing.

Cavalier King Charles at Westminster

Peke a Boo

The Pekingese gets a bad rap. Whenever I am seated at the dog show and the Peke takes to the floor, folks either laugh, smile, or wonder if a dog is somewhere under all that fur.

How apropos, then, to come upon Mark Stephen, proudly beaming from behind this tousled ball of cuteness.

When asked why he shows this breed he admitted this is his wife’s doing.

“The Peke also loves to play, be active, and our Scout is fast for a small dog.”

In terms of overall care of the Scout’s teeth, he uses a scraper to keep them clean.

Pekingnese at dog show

Pekingnese at Westminster
Just chillin’ out before he shows.

Poo Poo

You can’t be a dog blogger and not approach a Standard Poodle at a major dog show. Big Spender of Debra Ferguson-Jones met the criteria for show poodle to a “T.”

Ferguson-Jones admitted to using Dawn to get stains out of the dog’s coat and Ivory shampoo first before bathing with a pet shampoo on Big Spender’s coat. At almost 2 years of age, the soft, fluffy coat stood out.

Poodle at Westminster dog show

Dog Food

Several of the breeders I talked to throughout the day admitted feeding their dogs Purina Pro Plan. Some told me the food has worked for them over the years and they love the results in their high performing show canines. One handler told me that the dogs enjoy it and they get a clean bill of health at every vet visit.

Want to see our album of images from the 140th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Visit the Fidose of Reality Facebook Page Westminster 2016 Photo Album this weekend!

David Frei
Me with David Frei.

A Legend Moves On

One of the greatest voices and personalities to grace the Westminster Kennel Club over the years is Mr. David Frei. He is truly one of the nicest and most caring dog people you will meet. He takes the time to talk to everyone; he is very approachable, friendly, and warm; and he cares about dogs. David Frei is the former communications director for the American Kennel Club, and for more than two decades, he’s been the voice of Westminster — the one you hear calling the play-by-play (or wag-by-wag) on television. He also emceed the BlogPaws Conference in 2013 in Tysons Corner, Virginia, so he schmoozes with and embraces pet bloggers (like me, a Frei-natic), see?

David Frei with fans
I am a true Frei-natic (seen with Amy Jo Hanna Eckenrode on left)

I tried to go face to face with Frei for his final broadcast, but he was out and about at the show’s various rings with a New York Times reporter.

I’d always wondered what it took to make it to the famous “Garden Green,” where the top dogs are in the same place at the same time vying for the highly coveted Best in Show. Over the years, Mr. Frei has taught me so many things about dog breeds in his warm, quirky, and always entertaining way.

Regardless of one’s feelings about dog shows, there is one common thread on which we can agree: Dogs make our lives have more meaning. They allow us to laugh, smile, get out in the world, take solace in a bad day by the mere wag of a tail.

“The real best in show dog is the one that’s sitting beside you on the couch at home,” Frei often shared in his years of WKC Dog Show broadcasts. Wherever his road leads and what dog show he presides over, this Frei-natic will be glued to the tube and anchoring for media seating as he calls the shots at the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day.

David Frei tribute
An artist tribute to a true legend.

The Winner

A German Shorthaired Pointer took Best in Show at Westminster this week. The breed’s popularity will grow, but this is not the breed for everyone. The GSP has very special needs and those interested in this gorgeous dog should learn more.

Northern California GSP Rescue answers the questions if a German Shorthaired Pointer is the right dog for you. Please read it if you or someone you know is interested in this dog. And always talk to a rescue group and/or reputable breeder. Horrible puppy mills will pop up and start producing this breed with no regard for their well being.

German Shorthaired Pointer
From AKC.org

The dog mom in me wants to smooch the dogs in the benching area. Having followed dog breeds and their qualities for years, I enjoyed being able to ask questions about the breed, get honest answers from handlers, and see a genuine love of dogs in their eyes. That means a lot because on television the owners and handlers who truly are in it for the betterment and love of the breed often gets overshadowed with liver bait treats, stacking dogs, and traipsing the green.

Stay tuned for a report tomorrow with some fun, off-the-beaten path moments that I captured at Westminster including going to shoulder-to-shoulder with two pet-loving celebrities of the human variety.

Sounds of #wkcdogshow live from #newyorkcity ?????? #doglover #westminster #dogmom

A video posted by Dexter and Carol B. (@fidoseofreality) on

Thanks for the questions:  Kim Gauthier, Nichole Burke, Jen Reeder, Eileen Watson, Sharon Gilbert, Michele Kaveh, Jennifer Costello and everyone who chimed in. The questions I did not get answered, I will keep in mind for future blog articles.

Did you watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?


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  1. How interesting Carol. Always good to get a behind the scenes close-up view. I went 2 years ago and had such a great time. I met so many dogs and owners and they really seemed happy, healthy and loving, as well as beautiful, much to my relief. I found the grooming quite amazing in some cases but the dogs didn’t appear to mind.

  2. It looks like there was a lot to see at the dog show! I’m always amazed at how different each dog breed is. The dogs look like they had a pretty good time at the show too. It is great that the breeders there are so careful with diet and health. 🙂

  3. I would love to go to a dog show and check out all of the breeds. There are some beautiful dogs out there that I have never heard of. I would love to get a cocker spaniel but I hear they aren’t a good match for someone with allergies. 🙁

    1. That is true – it’s the dander and saliva on the dander that causes the allergies. Cockers rock but not for allergy sufferers who are truly allergic to dogs.

  4. I love all breeds, but I admit I’m partial to Keeshonds! It was so much fun to see one in this post. I haven’t ever been to a big dog show, and it is really interesting to see these behind the scenes momements.

  5. I really enjoy watching dog shows, but never really thought about all of the work that goes into preparing a dog for a show. This is such great informative insight.

  6. Thanks for a great and interesting read! I didn’t know any of this, so much info! All the doggies are so cute!
    My neighbor has a German Shorthaired Pointer. They are full of energy and sweet!

  7. We have been to a dog show…but we are cat people…so the shows are about the same just a different animal.
    Lots of interesting breeds to see…and lots of routines that people go through to make their animals look beautiful.

  8. Reading this post is truly humbling. I put a lot of time, work, and research into raising my dogs and this is a great reminder that I’m not alone. For the first time, I see the importance of this event. While several years ago, I thought this was a silly event for over indulged dog lovers – today, I think it’s a proof of the important place dogs have in our lives and HAVE had for a very long time.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. You make such a pivotal point, Kimberly. I used to giggle at the shows many years ago and really didn’t understand the fascination…until I did. The purebred breeder (and all dogs are a mixed breed in reality) is there to preserve the sanctity of the breed.

  9. Attending Westminster is on my Bucket List. I hope to be able to attend next year. ♥ I absolutely love dog shows and have for many years. I used to show my German Shepherd and it was so much fun. There are a lot of really great dog people associated with the AKC show circuit.

  10. What a wonderful post! Thanks for giving us this behind the scenes peek at the show. I loved getting to know the dogs you’ve spotlighted here. I love David Frei, he was one of the people who inspired me to become a Therapy Dog handler through his book Angel on a Leash. I was so moved & inspired by his book. I’m so bummed that I missed watching the show this year, but thanks for this post!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. Awww that is pawsome that you became a therapy dog handler because of David’s inspiration. I adore him, and I will miss him at the Garden.

  11. Thank you so much for reporting from the show and for posting this! I have going to Westminister on my bucket list and I was able to live vicariously through your posts. This was so interesting!

    1. This is my 4th or 5th time covering Westminster – and you must go. I feel like Christmas Day the whole time I am there.

  12. Great tips from the experts! I am very impressed with the eleven year old handler! Wow!. Also, interesting that the standard poodle uses Dawn as a pre-wash. I guess that makes sense since they also use Dawn to clean sea animals and birds after oil spills. It must be very gentle

  13. Great reporting, Carol. – that was a really fascinating read! There are only a handful of breeds that most of us see on a regular basis and it is so interesting to see and learn about more rare breeds.

    Seeing all the behind the scenes action and preparation makes me even more excited to watch next year!

    1. That is so true. I love getting to talk to the breeders, owners, and handlers along with groomers and ask questions. There are so many amazing dogs there: Heck, all of them are amazing.

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