Perfectly Coiffed Pooches Vie for Best in Show

Beignet, a 1-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, sits at the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show at the Cow Palace on Jan. 28, 2018. Beignet has been competing since she was 6 months old. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)

Early on Sunday morning, Beignet, a 1-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, is waiting her turn to walk across the blue arena floor at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

Beignet is one of hundreds of canines who come together each year at the Cow Palace to compete for the honor of being named top dog at the Golden Gate Kennel Club’s Dog Show.

You might expect an enclosed place filled with hundreds of dogs to be a noisy mess, but it's actually very quiet. And that's exactly what Beignet's handler, Karen Cutler, is hoping for.

“We worked really hard to get her to stop barking this morning,” Cutler says. “We’re doing pretty good right now.”

The show, which began in 1901, is one of only three “benched” dog shows left in the country where spectators are able to have a more hands-on experience.

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“The value is that people can come out here and not only look at the dogs but also pet the dogs, talk to the breeders and talk to the owners,” says show chairman Mike Stone. “It’s really up-close and personal.”

Louis, a one-and-a-half year old black Labrador retriever, won the "Open Black Labrador" competition.
Louis, a black Labrador retriever, won the "Open Black Labrador" competition. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
Irish Wolfhound Phalen and his owner take a break from the competition at the concession stand.
Irish wolfhound Phalen and his owner take a break from the competition at the concession stand. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)
Kaylee, a Burmese Mountain Dog from Castro Valley, shows off some her tricks.
Kaylee, a Burmese Mountain Dog from Castro Valley, shows off some her tricks. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)

Stone says competitors mostly come from the western United States, and some go on to more prestigious shows like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.

“There have been a lot of dogs that participate here that at the end of the year are top winning dogs,” he says.

This year, more than 170 dog breeds were represented at the show, from tiny dachshunds to massive Irish wolfhounds. The show features seven groups of dogs: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting and herding. The winner of each group will then go on to compete for best in show.

Beignet is just a puppy, so she won't be in the running for best in show. But all her work with her handler Cutler to not bark paid off as she won a blue ribbon in her puppy class competition.

Judge Anne Bolus takes a look at several Dalmatians competing in their breed category.
Judge Anne Bolus (in orange) takes a look at several Dalmatians competing in their breed category. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)

As for deciding on best in show, judge Anne Bolus says finding that perfect pooch can be challenging. Judges make decisions based on breed standards that specify exactly how big dogs should be, how heavy they should be, coloring, behavior and how they move in the ring.

“We’re looking for the dog that best conforms to all of those things in the one package,” Bolus says. “It’s not easy sometimes.”

So which dog put it all together for the judges this time? A 4-year-old English springer spaniel named Chris.

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This post has been updated to include the best in show winner.

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