Make the most of WKC as a spectator!
*all photos provided by Westminster Kennel Club*
As a child, I watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show every year with my father. I used to tell my dad while watching the competition that one day I would be there. The first year I attended was the 140th
annual show and Canadian Dr. Richard Meen was the Best in Show judge which was so special, and I have been every year since. The thrill of watching the best of the best compete in a city that also boasts the best of the best in many industries is very fitting. There’s a pulse to New York and that beat is felt at Westminster.
Because I have attended Westminster several times (and plan to attend Westminster for the rest of my Februarys), I thought I would share my tips on attending Westminster as a spectator. These tips are intended for someone simply going to watch the show – not showing or travelling with dogs.
When it comes to finding a great hotel to stay at for Westminster week – there are plenty of options. I recommend staying within walking distance to Madison Square Garden. Breed Judging happens during the day at Piers 92 and 94 along the Hudson River, and Group Judging happens Monday and Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Since Group judging happens during rush hour, I would rather take a cab in the morning to breed judging than be stuck in traffic in the early evening trying to get to Madison Square Garden for Group Judging. Also, it’s nice at the end of a long day of watching incredible dogs to just walk 5 minutes to the hotel (or hotel bar to grab a drink and talk about the show).
A major tip I can give to anyone attending Westminster for the first time is to wear comfortable shoes during the day for Breed Judging. Ringside seating is very limited and those seats fill up fast! You will be on your feet a lot so wear comfortable shoes with good soles. You can get dressed up and throw on those new hot heels at night for Group Judging as Madison Square Garden offers comfortable seats.
Breed judging is unassigned and fills up very fast which means if you really want a good seat – you need to get there ahead of time. Planning is key if you want to catch all the breed judging that interest you at Westminster. That means you must plan ahead. Breed judging is over three days this year. You can find the judging schedule here:
The way I figure out times at Westminster is to look at the ring time and then the number of entries and calculate 2 minutes per dog entered.
Why limit your Westminster experience? If you want to see thousands of dogs and get the most Westminster you can, buy tickets for all days and Group Judging. Trust me you don’t want to miss any of it. You can buy tickets ahead of time here: https://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/plan-your-visit/ticket-information
Meet some Breeds!
Since Westminster is a benched show, the dogs stay on the grounds for the full day of judging, the public can meet roughly 200 breeds during the conformation show. After they’ve been in the ring, it’s a great opportunity to speak with owners, handlers and breeders who know the breed well. A note on benching areas: professional handlers at Westminster have a separate benching area so they will have the breeds they show with them over there so if you can’t find a dog in the specified breed area, chances are they are with the handler. Again, that’s why you wear comfortable shoes. Get those steps in!
Ask before you touch
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a mix of the Oscars and the Super Bowl for the dog fancy. The competition is fierce and the pressure is high. Keep this in mind when you approach a benched dog and their handler, owners and/or breeder. Ask if you can pet the dog and if they have time to chat. If they are getting ready for the ring they probably don’t, but usually will tell you when to come back.
Get your shop on!
The vendors at Westminster are fantastic and every single year that I attend Westminster, there’s always one item I regret not buying so I say visit the vendors. They have so much cool stuff, plus it is fun to wear a Westminster hoodie to the gym! Just don’t do the exchange rate calculations until you get home – it will kill the fun!
Keep Charged and Bring the Kids!
With a show full of Champions the photo, Instagram, Tweeting and Snapchat opportunities are endless so make sure you have a full battery when you step on the Westminster scene!
If you have kids, they will love Westminster! It’s family friendly and educational so bring them along! Just make sure they know how to approach a dog safely and that they always ask before petting a pup.
At Madison Square Garden
Group Judging starts in the early evening (Group Judging starts at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m.) so make sure that you make dinner reservation time will give you enough time to make it to MSG on time. There are plenty of awesome restaurants within walking distance to the Garden.
Go backstage benching area before the judging begins and take a look. This is a once in a lifetime experience. This is where the Best of Breed winners are getting groomed for one of the largest stages in dogdom. Pressure is really on at this point, so it is best to simply admire the dogs without interrupting the handler’s process.
Use the facilities before going to your seat at MSG because you aren’t going to want to miss a minute of the action.
And take the advice of Westminster Kennel Club’s Director of Communications, Gail Miller Bisher “Soak in the electricity that fills the air when the dog’s hit the green carpet in Madison Square Garden. The crowd goes wild and the dogs look better than they ever have before. It’s show time. WESTMINSTER. There’s only one.”
See you in Manhattan!