2013 Westminster Dog Show: Biggest Takeaways from Prestigious Event

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 13, 2013

Over 2,700 dogs competed in the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and the 2013 edition didn't disappoint.

With new breeds in the competition and a new breed taking home top prize, it was a landmark two-day event in Madison Square Garden. Banana Joe became the first affenpinscher to win Best in Show, and other new trends were set to increase the buzz surrounding this renowned showcase.

Here is a breakdown of the biggest takeaways from this year's spectacle in New York City.


What Banana Joe's Best in Show means

Not only was Banana Joe the first of his breed to win the show's most distinguished honor, but he also was the second consecutive dog from the toy group to take home the accolade. Last year's Malachy, who is a Pekingese, snagged the silver bowl.

Whether toy dogs will continue their recent domination remains to be seen, but this was certainly an unexpected winner despite the affenpinscher's 85 previous Best in Show awards.

Banana Joe captivated the crowds with his cute appearance. He is essentially a charming, little black fur ball with what has been universally described as a monkey face.

This is a big breakthrough for breeds that are similar to the affenpinscher and gives hope to those who are dreaming of emerging victorious amongst the sea of dogs in this competition.

As it turns out, there was even more "new" this year. The Russell terrier and treeing walker coonhound were accepted by the American Kennel Club, which signals that more diversity in both the show and its winners should be on the horizon.


Runner-up award is a big hit

A lovable Old English sheepdog named Swagger took home the Reserve Best in Show award, and was thought to have deserved first place. Unlike previous years, the establishment of a second-place award makes the contenders a little more clear-cut.

While it somewhat takes away from the winner-take-all mentality of the gigantic competition, it is a potential new source for debate when determining which dog deserves this particular distinction.

After pulling through the herding group against more experienced show dogs, Swagger pulled the nearly unimaginable upset when it was narrowed down to the final seven on Tuesday.

Had there not been a runner-up, the eye-opening performance by Swagger might not have been as big of a story. However, with this addition, it opens up one more opportunity for this event to reach a wider audience—and a larger pool of interest in entering the competition.


Increased accessibility bodes well for show's future

The Westminster Dog Show is likely to go on forever—well, at least until this potentially happens.

Nevertheless, the Kennel Club chose not to simply ride its reputation, and in the process, made a lot of positive strides this year.

Los Angeles Times reporter Tina Susman explains the specific rules change that the Club made this year, which not only allowed Swagger to thrive, but also gave other less experienced dogs a chance to hang with the bigger names:

Swagger’s success is due to the Westminster show being opened this year to so-called “class” dogs, which lack the points scored in competition to earn the label “championship” dogs. The rules change meant that Swagger, who had appeared in only three shows before entering the ring for the herding group competition Monday, could go head-to-head against dogs with years of experience and rooms full of trophies and ribbons.

Allowing more so-called "class" dogs in clearly paid off this year, as Swagger emerged as the crowd favorite. Plus, everyone loves an underdog story, and if it weren't up to judge Michael J. Dougherty, the champion could have been a true Cinderella story.

The Best in Show may not have been the fans' consensus pick, but the increased leniency of the Club created more buzz around the show and will serve it well in 2014 and beyond.