One of the first changes to take place at this year's 138th annual event is the addition of three breeds now eligilble to compete, including the Rat Terrier, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, and the Chinook. Another notable change is the reinstatement of the Award of Merit that judges can now give to noteworthy dogs that were not 'Select' dog in their division, but deserve recognition. Other changes taking place include more seating at the venue where breed judging and benching takes place, as well as big-screen television monitor at each breed ring, and some monitors at a designated food area. Group judging and Best in Show competitions will be held at Madison Square Garden.
Those changes, however, are nothing compared to the biggest change of all. Mixed breeds, who have not been allowed to compete at the purebred dog show since the 1800's, are now allowed to enter the new Agility competition. About 225 dogs will be chosen by random draw to compete in two qualifying rounds. Those with the highest scores will then go on to compete in The 1st Annual Masters Agility Championship at Westminster on Saturday, Feb. 8th from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show airs its first night on CNBC Feb. 10th from 8 – 11 p.m. EST, and then the second night airs on USA Feb. 11th from 8 – 11 p.m. EST. Live streaming of the event will also be available online at www.westminsterkennelclub.org and through the Westminster smartphone app.
For more on this story and the controversy behind this prestigious dog show, check out this ABC 7 News article.