Behind the Scenes at the Glamorous Westminster Dog Show

When compared to New York Fashion Week, one photographer says Westminster isn't all that different.

By Sarah Gibbens
photographs by Dina Litovsky
Published 16 Feb 2018, 07:40 GMT
Savannah, a three-year-old poodle from Minnesota, gets spritzed with hair spray at the 142nd Westminster Dog ...
Savannah, a three-year-old poodle from Minnesota, gets spritzed with hair spray at the 142nd Westminster Dog Show. Last year, she was named the Number 2 miniature poodle in her category.
Photograph by Dina Litovsky, National Geographic

Dina Litovsky likes photographing chaos. Whether it's Fashion Week or the Republican National Convention, she says she loves making sense of the bustle.

Recently she turned her eye on the Westminster Dog Show. Held at New York City's Madison Square Garden, it's the 142nd annual showing of dogs vying to be named the best in their breeds. Judges look at a dog's temperament, obedience, athletic ability, and physical standards to separate out the very good dogs from the very best dogs.

This is Litovsky's third year photographing the event and her images show owners, breeders, and groomers bustling around dousing dogs with hairspray or cuddling their prized pets.

"The dogs are like a centre of calmness and the people are running around nervously," says Litovsky.

For many dedicated breeders, the show is a culmination of a year's worth of training and dieting for dogs that have been selectively bred for their genetic traits.

On the floor of the show, dogs are surrounded by a barrage of people, noise, and excitement, and breeders are careful to try to select only the dogs which can handle the chaos of pageantry.

Take Glitter, for instance, a Chinese shar-pei bred by Deborah Camp.

"She's aloof with strangers," says Camp, who adds that's a characteristic of her breed and not a byproduct of being a champion—which Camp adds, she definitely is.

At five years old, Glitter has already won awards from the American Kennel Club and the International Kennel Club. When not showing, Glitter provides pet therapy at places like schools and hangs out with Camp's other dogs.

On a weekly basis, Glitter attends training classes, and on a daily basis, Glitter goes on walks to build up her muscles.

"She needs to look excellent," adds Camp.

As a breed, Chinese shar-peis are characterised by their rolls and rolls of wrinkles. But dogs large and small, long-haired and short-haired, all compete at the massive event.

The event is organised by the Westminster Kennel Club and held every year at Madison Square Garden. Thousands of dogs from around the world compete in various categories, but the top award will be awarded later Tuesday to the dog who wins "Best in Show."

Dogs wait to be examined by judges.

Last year, the coveted prize went to a German shepherd named Rumor.

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