It’s official. New Jersey really went to the dogs.
For the seventh consecutive year, a canine competitor from the Garden State has been named the winner of the Westminster Masters Obedience Championship.
Willie, a 5-year-old Australian Shepherd from Flemington, and his owner-handler Kathleen Keller, provided the laser-sharpness and strong bond needed for obedience excellence at the Westminster Kennel Club’s 146th Dog Show on Monday in Tarrytown, New York.
Willie’s victory in 2022 was also the first time in Westminster history that a dog has won both the obedience championship and trial top. The Jersey dog, whose registered name is OTCH Blue Skies At Dejavu UDX OM1, posted the highest combined score – 397.5 out of a possible 400 points.
New Jersey Dogs became Westminster’s Top Obedience Dogs after obedience was added to the show in 2016.
The sport requires dogs to follow all of their handlers’ directions – running, walking, turning, and jumping over obstacles on command, as well as retrieving objects and coming to a complete stop at all times. They must also excel in scent discrimination or detecting their owner’s scent on an object (see Willie and other competing dogs in the video below).
Heart, a Labrador retriever owned and managed by Linda Brennan of Columbia, Warren County – a longtime trainer at Top Dog Obedience School in Flanders, Morris County – was named Obedience Champion in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. When Heart and Brennan won a fifth time in 2020, they retired the trophy.
In 2021, a Labrador retriever named Grant and his owner-handler Mary Ann Flanagan of Glen Gardner won the obedience championship, keeping the competition a Jersey-dominated sport.
Obedience was just one part of the 2022 Westminster Dog Show underway on Monday, as most dogs competed for the best of breed on the grounds of the Lyndhurst estate. The prestigious dog show will name its best in show on Wednesday June 22 (see our watch guide).
Last year, the petite but very glamorous Wasabi, a puffy Pekingese, won best in show at Westminster.
The dog show, traditionally a winter affair in Manhattan (at the Piers and Madison Square Garden), has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns for the second year in a row. That’s why Westminster is once again a summer competition on the grass and in tents outside the stately Westchester County mansion.
While Westminster is strongly associated with purebred dogs due to its emphasis on conforming to breed standards, obedience is one of two Westminster events that allow mixed breed dogs. The Kennel Club calls them “All-American” dogs.
The other Westminster sport that allows mixed races is agility, added in 2014.
Like obedience, the high-flying sport has obstacles, but it’s a timed course where speed is judged alongside skill. In both competitions, the bond between the dog and the master is essential.
On Saturday, Bee, a Shetland Sheepdog handled by Jennifer Crank of Pickerington, Ohio, won the Westminster Masters Agility Championship by conquering a series of hurdles in just 29.81 seconds.
The 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show continues on Tuesday June 21 with competition for Toy, Terrier and Non-Sporting Breeds, followed by an evening group competition for Toy, Non-Sporting, Hound and Hound Groups. breeding.
Sporting and working breeds meet on Wednesday, June 22. Group competition is on Wednesday evenings for Sporting, Working and Terrier groups, followed by Best in Show.
Check out our comprehensive viewing guide on how to watch the Westminster Kennel Club dog show 2022, including airtime, channels and free streaming.
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Amy Kuperinsky can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AmyKup on Twitter.