Dog show

You can turn the Westminster dog show into fantasy football – and that’s kinda the rules

English Setter winning over Sporting Group at the 146th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2022.

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Rooting for your favorite breed at a TV dog show is one thing, but it’s even more fun when you have a few bucks on the line (in a family-friendly, non-addictive way, of course).

This is the idea I had for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this week. Our parents – mine and my fiancée’s – each pledged $10 and selected the dog breeds they thought would win Best in Show. Like fantasy football, but with dogs.

Even though I suck at fantasy football, I figured I could probably win this. I’ve learned a lot about dog shows over the past two years working at Daily Paws, when my relatives are just novices. But in this case, the key to winning would be… not to try.

It was ultimately a fun success, but I learned several important lessons: Dog shows are impossible to predict; there are so many dang dog breeds; and being just any fantasy sports commissioner is unenviable (you have my pity, Mike Trout).

Still, I will absolutely be running this dog-focused underground gaming operation again next year. Here’s how it went:


It quickly turned into small-scale chaos.

I listed the over 200 dog breeds in a Google document and randomly selected the preliminary order of 12 people. There were to be two rounds, in which each person chose six races at a time for a total of 12. To be practical, this would be something we could all do over several days. When it was your turn, simply go to the document and choose your six dog breeds.

Peaks arrived erratically. Bachelorette parties, church meetings, oversights and summer jobs delayed selections. None of the fathers had actually agreed to play – but they were dragged in anyway because it’s fatherhood – and asked others to choose for them. On Tuesday noon (the day of the show!), we were barely halfway through the selections, so the order was abandoned so that everyone could have their 12 breeds before the start of the show. Never mind.

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I offered limited draft advice, providing a list of the top-ranked show dogs this year and warning people not to pick ultra-rare breeds or those that haven’t won Best in Show before. . But we still couldn’t help but pick our favorites. My future mother-in-law took the golden retriever, which had never won Westminster. My spouse took the Labrador retriever, the former family dog. I chose the Newfoundland because it’s big and chewy and I like it.

My mother, who had scouted and made her own miniature dashboard, put her faith in the Lagotto Romagnolo. My sister, who turned out to be a fantasy football savant last year, chose the French Bulldog, the top-ranked dog this year.

But dog shows are anyone’s game. It all depends on the dog, the handler and the judge on the day in question.

The show

The $120 pot was in play. Each person who correctly picked a group winner would win $10. The Best in Show winner would take home all remaining money.

  • A bloodhound named Trumpet won the first group, the Hound Group, on Tuesday. That $10 went to my future father-in-law who, again, hadn’t made any selections himself. “I know my dogs,” he said sagely in our group chat.

  • My fiancée picked the next two winners – a Maltese and a German Shepherd from Toy and Herding – to win $20, which prompted her to brag. I point out that she never contributed her $10, but I still haven’t paid her half of the mortgage payment, so I’ll let it go.

  • Winston the Frenchie won the non-athletic group, earning my sister $10. I told her he’d probably win, and for some reason she didn’t like me jinxing her.

  • Belle, the English setter, won the Sporting Group on Wednesday, earning my dad $10, even though I picked the breed for him. Shit.

  • The same thing happened in the work party, when my aunt won $10 for “her” choice of Samoyed (yes, I picked it for her). Double shit.

  • Finally, hello. MM the Lakeland terrier won the Terrier group and brought me $10. My plan to scam everyone didn’t go well but at least I got my money back.

As of this writing, we all know that Judge Donald Sturtz chose Trumpet, earning my soon-to-be father-in-law $50 more. It just goes to show that sometimes your family puts you through silly games that end up funding a semi-fancy dinner party.