Behind the scenes

at Westminster

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show narrator Roger Caras said years ago what you see on television is not what goes on at Westminster during the day. All day long, dogs are judged, breed by breed. The club for each breed of dog has determined what the breed should look like and act like. The dog that conforms closest with the standards set forth by the breed club is considered to be the best of the breed.

At night, for the televised portion, the "best of breeds" are grouped together in seven categories: herding, sporting, working, hounds, terriers, toys and non-sporting.

It's a bit harder for the judges of these groups, because they are not comparing dogs of the same breed against each other. The judge needs to know in his or her mind the "template" of each of the breeds in that particular group of dogs. So these judges need to be experts on all those breeds. If they are looking at the poodle, for instance, they are comparing that individual dog to the ideal poodle.

The dog in the ring that comes closest to the ideal dog of its breed is the winner of the group. Even though it may look like they are comparing the dogs to each other, that is not what is happening.

For best in show, those seven dogs are judged against their individual standard, as well. And, at most shows, especially high-profile ones such as Westminster, those that make it to the end are presumably the top representatives of their breed. Other factors, including a flawless performance, are taken into account when choosing among the final seven. So the judges on the televised broadcast really are experts in all things dog.

Care for pets dents

February is pet dental health month, and monitoring your pets' teeth is one of the most important things you can do to prevent major problems in your pets' senior years.

It is so simple to brush a pet's teeth. Or just rub your finger with a bit of gauze wrapped around it all over its teeth to reduce plaque that can build up into tartar and gingivitis. The array of toothbrushes available for pets these days is amazing. Some are even shaped perfectly to fit the pointed teeth of pets.

But even if you do all this at-home dental care, none of it is a substitute for taking your pet for a proper tooth cleaning.

- Marc Marrone