Westminster dog show: Bad news for Lab lovers

February 12, 2013

Dogs are shown with the Hound group during the Westminster Kennel Club dog show Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York.(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Every dog has its day. Unless that dog is a Labrador retriever in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Labradors — those lovable, floppy-eared canine companions — may be the top dog in America’s heart, but they receive little love from the judges at the oldest dog show in the nation. Never in the 136-year history of the show has a Labrador taken Best in Show. So what gives?

Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal spoke with a few Westminster judges about Labradors’ inability to win the big prize. As it turns out, the reason Labs may not do well in the show is one reason why America loves them so much: they are just too down-to-earth:

Their fans point to the bite of the Sporting group, which has produced 19 Best in Show winners, including the Sussex Spaniel in 2009, English Springer Spaniel in 2007 and German Shorthaired Pointer in 2005. Those dogs are what buffs call “flashy” breeds. “If I were to tell a Labrador person to have more flash and dash, they’d probably stone me,” said James Reynolds, the 2011 Sporting judge at Westminster.

Unlike their peers, Labradors lack the extravagance of a long coat or the grace of a fast gait, making it trickier to catch a judge’s eye. “There are lots of Labradors that have given me goose bumps,” said Cindy Vogels, last year’s Best in Show judge at Westminster, “but I think it’s an acquired taste.”

Labradors also go home empty for the same reason they are such reliable companions: their good temperament. Some dogs are divas. Labradors like to share the spotlight with their handlers. “Labs aren’t selfish enough,” Mr. Frei said.

Labrador fans, not taking too kindly to the injustice done to their four-legged counterparts, took to Twitter Monday to show support for their favorite breed:

Even cats are weighing in, apparently:

Fifty-four Labradors will trot across the stage Tuesday while competing in the Sporting Dogs category. Watch closely and you might even spot Mitch, the 5-year-old yellow Labrador retriever co-owned by New York Yankees President Randy Levine.

The show will be broadcast live on USA Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST.

Follow @HaleyCrum on Twitter.

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Cindy Boren · February 12, 2013