Is the westminster dog show biased?

Are judges in the world’s largest dog show biased?  The dog world is about to turn its eyes (and paws) to Madison Square Garden for the annual Westminster Kennel Club show.

And yet, the dog show has come under attack in the past for bias and favoritism.  The NY Times reported:

“money will quietly play a role in determining the winner, just as money quietly shaped the field of contenders — and just as money shapes almost every nook and cranny of the dog show business.”

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The show is not about the best breed winning. It’s about the success of a campaign – similar to the movie studies promoting their films to win an Oscar – that revolves around money.

It’s not about a dog showing about and becoming “best in show”. It’s about a sophisticated campaign spending lots of money on ads in dog magazines promoting specific dogs.  If you don’t spend the money, you have almost no chance of becoming a contender.

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“The cost of a campaign can add up fast. You need a professional handler and cash for plane tickets and road trips to roughly 150 dog shows a year. (Yes, about three shows a week.) And you need to spend as much as $100,000 annually on ads.

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Altogether, a top-notch campaign can easily cost more than $300,000 a year, and because it takes time to build momentum and a reputation, a typical campaign lasts for two or three years. Kathy Kirk, who handled Rufus, a colored bull terrier who won best in show at Westminster in 2006, estimates that the dog’s three-year campaign cost about $700,000.”

Continue reading here. The dream of the dedicated hobbyist walking off with a top honor is as remote as one of the breeds singing the Star Spangled Banner.

Owners claim Westminster judges are biased in favor of particular handlers thinking, “If Joe is handling that dog, I should vote for it.”  The judges, of course, deny favoritism claiming to judge based on the strict standards set for each breed.

But the simple facts show that in recent history – not a single dog that was not backed by a marketing campaign has won big at Westminster.

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So when you sit down and watch the competition this year on television you should understand you are watching the best dog money can buy.

Harlan Kilstein is the “Top Dog” and Publisher of the Dogington Post. He is currently being trained by his 7 month old Pomeranian, Kalba.

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