Welcome to Canine Celebration Day – ok, for many everyday is canine celebration day, but I’m referring to the official Saturday that launched the annual AKC Westminster Dog Show 2023. After a two-year mandatory move to a non-public location, the annual dog show with a 147 year history is back in New York City … sort of.
Not in Madison Square Gardens, where it’s been held as a public event since 1877, the 147th American Kennel Club (AKC) Westminster Dog Show is in Flushings Queens, specifically the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in the Corona Flushings Park.
Festivities started on Saturday, May 6, 2023 with the Canine Celebration Day, and it was a celebration thanks to several dog events including agility, obedience competitions, and dock diving and unseasonably warm sunny weather.
What’s great about these events, and by extension this day, is that ALL dogs can compete in these sports, not only purebreds. In an effort to expand its reach a bit beyond the list of approximately 300 recognized breeds, breed standards, and rigid show rings rules, the AKC added a day that includes mixed breeds as well – many dogs competing in events like agility are called ‘All American Dogs.’ Truth be told, however, border collies dominate the agility competitions.
Dog Agility Competition
A highlight of the Canine Celebration Day are the agility competitions – two rounds per category and each category includes jump heights appropriate to dog sizes. The largest dogs soaring over jumps like horses is a crowd pleaser. But the little ones leaping with all their hearts and little legs are equally endearing. Approximately, 350 dogs qualified (by placing in other events) in 2023.
A clean round over a variety of jumps and through obstacles like polls and tunnels means you move to round two. The 10th Annual Masters Agility Competition sponsored by ProPlan is the finals for those successful enough to run two clean rounds (no faults) in the fastest times. The Masters Agility Competition is such a big deal, it has it’s own day: Sunday, May 7th and it is televised on FOX Sports.
Dog Obedience Competitions
In a quiet section of the Flushing sports centre, surrounded by a white picket fence on artificial turf usually reserved for tennis balls, are the Obedience Competitions. Obedience matches a dog, a trainer, and a judge together to test a dog’s ability to respond to spoken and hand commands.
The Obedience Competition involves more than simple sit, stay, and come commands – although I wish my dog responded to those basic requests. Obedience competition add some jumps (over a hurdle), around (the handler), and go and come back. The judge calls out the next move, and dog and human comply.
Dog Dock Diving Competition
Speaking of a crowd pleaser, audience members sat for hours watching one dog after another leap off a dock after a toy thrown into a giant pool of water. The rules are easy to understand: each dog gets a practice jump, then jumps two more times and the longest jump counts. Furthest jump wins.
Again, the competitors are divided into groups by size, so even the little ones have a chance. Also again, breed mixed or otherwise doesn’t matter.
K9 Police Unit Demonstrations
During a lunch break in the agility competitions, four officers from the NYPD brought a special guest: Mia, the bomb sniffing black lab. At the age of 7, Mia is still actively serving in the NYPD, and she’s also the family pet of the officer she’s paired with.
The NYPD demonstrated Mia’s skill with a series of boxes – one containing the scent she’s trained to identify. (Fortunately, she has yet to find a real bomb while actually working). When she selects the right one, the ball-on-the-rope reward appears from the officer’s pocket, and she becomes as animated as any family pet at play.
Dogs like Mia are trained to support police units and make the job safer – when they retire, they remain with the police officer who trained them. That’s part of the deal.
Other Celebration of the Dog Day events include the following:
- Freestyle obedience (picture dancing with your dog)
- Scent work – similar to Mia the police dog’s skill
- Dog Show 101 Class for those who want to learn how dog show judging works.
A smaller than previous years Meet-the-Breed event was part of the festivities, designed to launch what the AKC Westminster Kennel Club is all about: Breed Specific Show Ring events during the day Monday and Tuesday leading to the evening judging of specifics groups… culminating with the Best In Show finale Tuesday evening. Stay tuned here.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria. All written content is original, written by a person, and based on experience and research.
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