Westminster Kennel Club
Charlotte Wilder previews the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
Westminster Kennel Club

Charlotte Wilder previews the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Updated Jun. 14, 2021 12:44 a.m. ET

By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — When you drive down the winding road on the sloping hill of Lyndhurst Mansion — the estate in Tarrytown, NY, where the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is being held this year — you arrive at a magnificent stone castle on the banks of the Hudson River.

The greens up here are the shade of deep emerald you only read about in books or see in adaptations of Jane Austen novels. 

The tent is new for the WKC. The dog show usually takes place at Chelsea Piers and Madison Square Garden in New York City. But COVID-19 changed a lot of things, and this year, the show had to adapt.


This big white tent reminds me of the Great British Bake Off, which is the highest compliment I could pay anything. That television show has gotten me through some of my darkest days: I turn it on, the soothing music of the intro washes over me, and I forget my own worries as I watch other people agonize over whether their cakes rise or not. There are few things I love as much as GBBO. 

But I am here to report that even before it happens, I already know that I’m going to love the 2021 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show more. 

There are similarities. Both feel regal and British, even though the WKC is very American (so American, in fact, that it’s been around in this country since 1877, and the dog show is the second-longest, continuously held sporting event in the country after the Kentucky Derby).

Both the WKC and GBBO involve people doing things you do at home — baking, training dogs — much better than you ever could. 

On Thursday, the grounds were quiet. The wind rustled in the trees, and golden evening light washed over the tent and TV production trailers as cameras were focused and mics were checked. 

On Friday, the quiet will turn to barks and the light will shine not on empty fields but on the impeccably groomed coats of the best dogs in the country. 

Look, I haven’t even SEEN the dogs yet and I know this is going to be the best weekend of my professional career. On Thursday I met only two of the approximately 3,000 dogs who will be here (one sat in my lap, I melted) and even that was too much for my heart to handle. I am about to be absolutely surrounded by dogs, and I will try to take you with me for behind-the-scenes looks. I will show you, for example, how the dogs will be groomed out of trailers and cars parked in a nearby field rather than booths the way they usually are. 

It’s going to be a field of dreams. 

And then, on Sunday, we will all get to watch these beautiful breeds compete for the blue ribbon, signifying that they are the goodest of boys and girls. The best, in fact. But before that, on Saturday, we have the privilege of watching the best athletes the canine world has to offer as they complete the most difficult obstacle course in the known dog universe. 

Yes, folks, I’m talking about the agility competition. 

Not to brag, but I got a sneak peak of the course, and believe me when I tell you that I don’t think most of our nation’s elite athletes could do this course as quickly as these dogs do. The breeds must climb, balance, jump, slalom, and sprint their way through a series of obstacles — and they have never seen this specific course before. 

If the dogs and handlers make it through preliminaries, they move on to the group that will compete in front of America on primetime. 

The course is different for every dog show, but the equipment at this one is the same each year, and these specific obstacles are never used for any other show besides Westminster. A mere 45 minutes before the event begins, the handlers are allowed to walk the course for the first time without their dogs. The dogs don’t see it before they go in. Success depends entirely upon the communication between the handler and the dog.

The handlers are often the owners, but not always. Much like in horse racing, the highest level of agility competitions sometimes entail a trainer and a professional handler the owner hires to give their dog the best chance of winning. I also loved learning that dogs also stretch and get massages; they’re trained to do bows that make sure they give their muscles the rest and attention that all elite athletes receive. 

I could go on and on about these dogs and this show, but I’ll wait until I’ve actually met the animals so that I can show you pictures of them, because I know that’s what you actually want. Stay tuned across all of our social channels on FOX Sports — I’ll be putting content out from my accounts on Instagram and Twitter (@thewilderthings on both) and we’ll also be sharing videos and pictures from @peoplessports on Twitter and @peoplessportspodcast. 

Most importantly, please, please, please tweet, Instagram, or send carrier pigeons with pictures of your dog watching the dog show. 

And let me know what dogs you’d like to meet. Dog breeds are like sports teams — if you love one, it’s part of your identity, and you want to keep tabs on them. 

So I’ll try to take you behind the scenes as much as possible and show you what you would like to see for yourself. I’m here for you, the people, because if there’s anything we need in these trying times, it’s dogs. 

And more dogs. And even more dogs. 

Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and co-host of "The People's Sports Podcast" for FOX Sports. She's honored to represent the constantly neglected Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog in a ballpark or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.


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