NEW YORK — Three days of feverish competition came to an end Tuesday as the judges narrowed an original field of 2,500 worthy entrants to seven distinguished dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Brimming with anticipation, hundreds of spectators watched as canines from across the globe vied for the coveted title of best in show, which was first awarded in 1907.

On Tuesday night, the champion was crowned: Siba, a standard poodle, had exuded confidence throughout her performance.

Ahead of the final decision, the beautiful black dog beamed as she took one final lap around Madison Square Garden. The trot marked not only the end to a hard-fought contest, but also signaled the end of an era — Siba’s handler, Chrystal Clas, said before the victory that this would be the dog’s final show. Siba performed masterfully Tuesday — even as the crowd urged judge Robert H. Slay to crown the golden retriever, a breed that has never been named best in show.

“She just has this confidence in herself, this attitude. She keeps me on her toes,” Clas told reporters after Siba won best in her group Monday. “She’s so elegant and full of herself and funny.”

Now, Siba will be able to retire a Westminster champion.

Seven finalists head into best in show

  • Vinny the wire fox terrier (terrier group)
  • Wilma the boxer (working group)
  • Daniel the golden retriever (sporting group)
  • Bourbon the whippet (hound group)
  • Bono the Havanese (toy group)
  • Siba the standard poodle (non-sporting group)
  • Conrad the Shetland sheepdog (herding group)

Wire fox terrier wins group, advances to final seven

10:20 p.m.: Vinny, a wire fox terrier, was named top terrier — continuing the success of the breed at the Westminster competition. King, also a wire fox, won best in show last year.

All dogs presented in the terrier group — known for being small, cute animals — received strong applause from the crowd during their turns. While Vinny outlasted the 31 other terriers in his group, he received scattered boos from the crowd when he was crowned best of his group.

Boxer advances to the final seven two years in a row

9:20 p.m.: For the second year in a row, Wilma, a boxer, advances to the final seven.

Wilma beat out 28 other dogs in the working group to move on to the championship round. Michael Shepherd, Wilma’s handler, said the dog relishes the energy in this arena.

“She feels it,” Shepherd said.

Wilma is the second female dog to move onto the best of seven this year, along with Bourbon the whippet.

Golden retriever wins the sporting group

8:20 p.m.: History could be made tonight.

Daniel, a golden retriever, beat out 31 other breeds in the sporting group to advance to the final seven. Despite being one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, a golden retriever has never won best in show.

The crowd roared as Daniel — without question a fan favorite — leaped into his handler’s arms.

“Holy crap!” Karen Mammano said when asked about her reaction. “[Daniel] put on an amazing show tonight, thank you to everyone who cheered for him.”

Mammano called the event her Super Bowl.

Judge names top junior handler

7:30 p.m.: Ahead of the group competition Tuesday night, the eight finalists in Westminster’s Junior Showmanship competition performed for a crowd of thousands at Madison Square Garden. Johnathon Wehry and his cocker spaniel (ASCOB) came out on top.

Wehry won over those in attendance by demonstrating the tight connection he’d made with his dog. As The Washington Post’s Amy B Wang wrote about junior handlers last year, when these 9- to 18-year-old competitors perform, they are being judged even more than their dogs:

“When junior handlers step into the ring, the judge is evaluating them — again, the humans — more than the dogs. Does the kid know how to ‘free stack’ or ‘hand stack’ the dog, positioning its legs just so? How do they run with the dog? Are handler and dog on the same ‘wavelength?’ Can they anticipate each others’ moves?”

All eight finalists will receive a scholarship award of at least $500 depending on their placing. By coming in first place, Wehry will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

Monday’s four group winners

Here are the four dogs that won their groups Monday — they will join winners from the remaining three categories Tuesday night in the competition for best in show:

  • Bourbon the whippet (hound group)
  • Bono the Havanese (toy group)
  • Siba the standard poodle (non-sporting group)
  • Conrad the Shetland sheepdog (herding group)

In the evening, a judge will determine the top dog from the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups. A grand total of seven dogs will duke it out in the final competition.

Late Monday, Siba’s handler, Crystal Clas, told reporters that the dog would retire from performing after this week. With that news in mind, Murray-Clas said it was “special” to have the opportunity to show in Westminster’s final ring.

Conrad, the Shetland sheepdog, spun excitedly when he won the Herding group Monday, beating out a popular German shepherd in the process. The apparent upset was just as exciting for Conrad’s handler, Tyler Crady, who said his dog fed off the energy at Madison Square Garden.

Crady said all of Conrad’s preparation — including the dog’s diet and exercise — was designed to help him perform vibrantly on the world’s biggest stage. He didn’t disappoint.

“It’s all he wants to do,” Crady said of his pet.

Bono, the Havanese, will seek redemption after finishing in second place last year.

What happened last year?

King, a wire fox terrier, won best in show, becoming the 15th of its breed to take the title. But the championship didn’t come without a little drama.

Competitors and spectators alike were stunned when the handler for Colton the Schipperke, the winner of the sporting group in 2019, was determined ineligible to compete in best in show due to a conflict of interest, The Washington Post’s Amy B Wang reported at the time.

In a dramatic Facebook post, handler Christa Cook explained that one of Colton’s owners had a “distant working relationship” with the best in show judge last year, Peter Green.

“We do not wish to diminish or detract from this great event, in this amazing venue, on this very special evening, therefore we will not participate in this evening’s Best In Show to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” Cook wrote.

Despite the controversial elimination, Cook said she was still thrilled her dog had been the first Schipperke to win the non-sporting group at Westminster.

Read more:

The scene during the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

shareShare
Feb. 11, 2020 | A Standard Poodle named Siba wins Best in Show during the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show. (Stephanie Keith/AFP/Getty Images)