(By Karin Brulliard, Washington Post )

A bichon frise named Flynn won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night, snagging what is essentially America’s top canine beauty prize…

Over the weekend, a border collie called Fame (watch video below) leaped and wove her way to dominance in the show’s agility championship, a feat of canine athletics.

But in between those moments, past the cacophonous rows and rings of breed contenders, at the chilly end of a warehouse, a judge in a tuxedo awarded a third title to what could be considered the best of all these very good dogs: The winner of the Masters Obedience Championship. It is Westminster’s newest and least glitzy honor, but it is one that enthusiasts insist is central to the whole show dog world.

“It’s really the foundation of all performance events,” said this year’s judge, John Cox, a retired toy train collector and broker who has been judging obedience competitions for 40 years. “You’ve got these two species out there, and they’re communicating back and forth.”

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Watch Fame win the agility championship:

Obedience title

In its third year at Westminster, the obedience title goes to the dog-handler team that best demonstrates the commands many ordinary pet owners have aspired, and perhaps failed, to get their pooches to heed: Sit, stay, heel, fetch.

Yet it is far more complicated than that. Dogs must follow hand signals, dart away from their handlers, drop to the ground while running, soar over jumps to retrieve dumbbells and sit perfectly, perfectly straight. Westminster, unlike other obedience events, also features a six-minute “freestyle” routine, many of which are like skits and involve costumes. This year, in an odd coincidence, three of 23 teams chose a “Wizard of Oz” theme.

Among the 23 contenders were Heart, a laser-focused black Labrador who won the previous two years, and Streak, a bouncy golden retriever who won the National Obedience Championship in 2016. Then there was the underdog: Sissy, a gray 9-pounder whose owner got her at a flea market. She was the competition’s first-ever mixed-breed, or what Westminster calls an “All-American” dog.

Heart won with 294 points:

Take a look at some of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show contenders below:

 

Author: ANA Newswire

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