Edmund Dziuk’s love of dogs began with a bike ride to his local grocery store in Hagerstown, Maryland.
As a teenager, Dziuk rode his bike and listened to promotions for the annual dog show at the county fairgrounds, a short bike ride from his childhood home.
His family started attending the shows every year, and what started as a curiosity for Dziuk grew into a fascination with dogs that lasted 40 years.
He has since become the owner and breeder of champions, and this week will return for the third time as a judge at the 146th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.
America’s oldest and perhaps most prestigious dog show was originally scheduled for January but had to be postponed due to the pandemic. It is postponed from June 20 to 22.
A breeder of award-winning beagles himself, will judge 15 breeds in the gun dog group, nearly 100 dogs in total. He is approved as a judge not only for hunting dogs, but also for several sporting, non-sporting and toy breeds, as well as best show and junior presentation.
A childhood with dogs
Throughout his childhood, Dziuk was always surrounded by an assortment of purebreds and mixed breeds. He attributes his love for dogs to the fact that he grew up in a family that shared that love.
“I grew up in a family where everyone was animal-mad, dog-mad, dog-loving, and we had a variety of different pets,” he said.
The family became members of the local kennel club, and Dziuk eventually learned enough to show dogs himself.
The first beagle joined the family in 1977, and Dziuk would take the dog to the top in American Kennel Club Junior Showmanship competition.
“I finished his championship and for two years was the number one AKC Westminster Junior Handler in the country showing the beagle,” he said.
To complete a Championship or Record Champion, the dog must complete a specified number of shows where judges analyze how well the dog matches its breed and standard qualities.
In 1981, Dziuk returned to fourth place in the Westminster Junior Showmanship Finals competition, his final year as a junior.
Always with beagles
Since then, he hasn’t gone a single day without a beagle by his side.
“I’ve been through different phases of my life where I’ve had quite a few or just a handful,” he said. “They weren’t my pets; they were my companions.
One of his dogs, a nationally known beagle named Uno, ranked best at Westminster in 2008. Uno would later visit the White House, meet George W. and Laura Bush, make several television appearances, and become a dog. certified therapy.
He spent his final years on a 200-acre farm in Texas, dying of cancer at age 13.
The dog’s great-niece, called Miss P, would also compete and win Westminster, another triumph for Dziuk and the dog’s co-owners.
But before Uno and Miss P, there was Judy, a dog who still holds the record for the tallest 13-inch beagle of all time, Dziuk said.
Westminster communications director David Frei told ABC News in 2015 that after winning best in show, there was nothing more to accomplish. Typically, the dog will retreat.
A pivot to judge
While Dziuk still shows dogs, he started focusing more on judging in 2009. Two years ago he was asked to be a judge at Westminster, not only for beagles but also for other breeds, especially dachshunds and Bassett hounds.
“It was really a full-loop moment to exhibit and win in 1980 and then 40 years later to come back and be able to judge beagles,” he said.
The Westminster Dog Show has three levels of competition where the judges must compare the competitor to the standard or ideal specimen of the breed.
These standards are maintained and owned by each breed’s national club, with the approval of the American Kennel Club.
Judges like Dziuk analyze each breed’s standards – overall appearance, movement, temperament and physical traits such as height, weight, eye color, coat type, color and more. The judge then decides which dog is the best of the breed that day.
After a judge selects the best in breed, the dogs move on to a group competition. The American Kennel Club now recognizes 209 dog breeds which are further divided into seven groups – hunting dogs, working dogs, terriers, toy dogs, and sporting, non-sporting and herding dogs.
Group winners move on to the Best in Show competition where one dog shines above the rest.
Improve breed health
“It comes full circle, and I’m very lucky that, wow, dog breeding and showing is my hobby, but it’s evolved into this position,” he said.
The foundation works directly with breeders to ensure that each litter is as healthy as possible by encouraging pre-breeding health testing. The aim is to improve the health and well-being of dogs by reducing the incidence of hereditary diseases.
“We have over 15,000 different test results coming in here every month, so even though it’s a nonprofit, it’s a heavy business operation,” Dziuk said.
The foundation recently pledged $1.5 million to the MU School of Veterinary Medicine to help fund the Small Animal Molecular Genetics Laboratory to continue laboratory work and research over the next decade.