And the Winner Is… Which Dog Breed Dominates Best in Show


Dog shows have become incredibly popular over the past century, with prestigious competitions like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show attracting millions of viewers every year. The Westminster Dog Show, which began in 1877, is considered the second longest continuously held sporting event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby. With such a long and storied history, Westminster in particular has become known as the preeminent dog show for determining the year’s top canine competitors.

Breeds that Often Win

A small number of breeds have historically dominated the Best in Show winners circle at Westminster. According to the Westminster Kennel Club’s records, the top winning breeds are Smooth Fox Terriers, Wire Fox Terriers, Poodles, Scottish Terriers, and Cairn Terriers.

Smooth Fox Terriers have won Best in Show at Westminster 15 times, more than any other breed. Wire Fox Terriers have won 14 times, Standard Poodles have won 7 times, Scottish Terriers have won 8 times, and Cairn Terriers have won 4 times. Together, these 5 breeds account for nearly half of the Best in Show winners at Westminster since 1907.

the smooth fox terrier, one of the top best in show winning breeds

These terrier and poodle breeds tend to do well because they have the combination of good looks, lively personalities, and athleticism that judges look for in picking the Best in Show winner. Their medium size and robust build allows them to stand out in the ring. These breeds also tend to be intelligent and highly trainable, meaning handlers can showcase them at their very best.

Why Certain Breeds Dominate

When judging dogs, there are certain characteristics and traits that tend to help breeds excel in dog shows and regularly win top honors like Best in Show. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), judges focus on evaluating each dog against the written breed standard, which describes ideal features, temperament, structure and movement [1]. For example,:

  • Grooming – A dog’s coat should be clean and well-maintained. Judges look for healthy skin and coat, proper trimming and styling for the breed. Attention to grooming details can give dogs an advantage.
  • Structure and Stance – The dog’s overall balance, proportion and size relative to the breed standard is assessed. Proper structure enhances the dog’s movement and carriage.
  • Gait – The dog’s natural movement and gait is observed going around the ring. Efficiency, drive and proper foot timing are desirable.

Breeds that are consistently well put-together and demonstrate these ideal qualities in the ring tend to regularly reach the final Best in Show round. Professional presentation and conditioning also help certain breeds excel.

Profile of Recent Winners

In the past 5 years, there have been some especially noteworthy Best in Show winners at Westminster.

In 2023, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen named CH Soletrader Buddy Holly took the top prize (AKC). Nicknamed “Buddy Holly”, this happy-go-lucky dog delighted the crowd with his silly antics in the ring. At 4 years old, Buddy Holly was the oldest winner since 2013.

the petit basset griffon vendéen ch buddy holly, 2023 westminster best in show winner

The Havanese CH Stone Run Afternoon Tea prevailed in 2022, becoming the first of her breed ever to win Best in Show (People). Her handler, Gabriel Rangel, was overcome with emotion when the judge pointed to them.

In 2021, the Standard Poodle CH Pouch Cove’s Winter Wonderland “Wasabi” took the top honor. At 3 years old, he was the second youngest Best in Show winner in Westminster history (Wikipedia). Wasabi delighted spectators by waving his paw on command in the ring.

Winning Pedigrees

Many of the top winning show dogs come from an extensive pedigree of champions. Having champion parents or grandparents greatly increases a dog’s chances of becoming a top winner themselves. For example, the Pekingese named Malachy who won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2012 was sired by CH Yakee Ooh Aah Cantona who was also a Westminster Best in Show winner. His dam, CH Pequest General Tso, was a top show dog who won multiple Best in Shows (The Road to Best in Show). This impressive pedigree gave Malachy the genetics and early training needed to continue the family legacy.

Similarly, the Wire Fox Terrier named King who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2019 was sired by former Westminster winner CH Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box and his dam was also a champion show dog. King’s breeder, Gabriel Rangel, focuses on carefully selecting and matching champion dogs to produce the highest caliber puppies with the potential for show careers (Dog Breeder | Best In Show | North Carolina). The result is dogs like King who possess both sound structure and temperament from proven lineages.

For breeds that are well-established in the show world, an outstanding pedigree spanning several generations of winners is often necessary to stay competitive at the highest levels. Breeders of top show dogs carefully select pairings to concentrate and enhance desirable traits while minimizing flaws.

Preparing to Compete

Preparing a dog for conformation showing requires significant training and handling. According to the American Kennel Club, most dogs begin training between 6-12 months old once their physical characteristics are identifiable [1]. The dog must become comfortable being touched and examined by strangers, as judges will inspect the dog’s bite, coat, musculature, and structure in the ring.

The handler must teach the dog to walk properly on a lead and bait, which is using treats to get the dog’s attention and guide its head and body position [2]. Extensive grooming, conditioning, and coat care is also essential. Show dogs must become accustomed to long grooming sessions. Additionally, attendance at handling classes helps prepare the dog and handler work as a team in the ring.

Getting a dog ready for conformation showing requires a significant time commitment over many months. The handler must dedicate consistent daily practice to have a competitive show dog. Proper socialization, training, conditioning, and grooming is an intensive process. However, the bond formed through preparing together can be very rewarding.

a handler training a dog for conformation showing

Competition Details

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has a rigorous judging process across different categories and groups. Dogs first compete in their specific breed competition, where judges assess how closely each dog matches the established breed standard. Breed winners then advance to the group competition, where they are judged against other breeds in one of seven groups – Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, or Herding.

Within each group competition, judges evaluate the dogs based on specific criteria like structure, gait, temperament, and presence. They select one winner from each group to advance to the final Best in Show round. The Best in Show judge examines the seven group winners and picks the dog that most closely represents the total package of characteristics that exemplify its own breed. This culminates with the crowning of the Westminster Best in Show winner.

Throughout the competition, judges use a hands-on approach to evaluate each dog. This includes examining their teeth, muscles, and coat. For gait evaluation, handlers walk the dogs around the ring so judges can assess their movement and athleticism. Westminster judges undergo thorough training and certification to ensure they have an expert eye for breed standards.

The Westminster Dog Show also includes additional competitions like agility trials and the Masters Obedience Championship. But the primary focus remains on conformation showing and selecting the dog that comes closest to perfection for its individual breed (

Other Top Dog Shows

The most prestigious dog shows in the world are the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the Crufts Dog Show1. The Westminster Dog Show is one of the oldest dog shows, dating back to 1877. It’s held annually in February at Madison Square Garden in New York City2. Westminster is considered the premier dog show in the United States. The Best in Show winner receives national media coverage and publicity. The Crufts Dog Show, held annually in Birmingham, England, is the largest dog show in the world, with around 27,000 dogs competing. Crufts dates back to 1891 and showcases top dogs from around the world. The Best in Show winner at Crufts gains worldwide fame and attention. Both Westminster and Crufts attract elite dog handlers, breeders, and canine competitors from across the globe.

Future Trends

Predicting future trends in top winning dog breeds is challenging, but there are some clues we can look to. Certain breeds like the Poodle and Golden Retriever have remained popular winners for years, so they are likely to continue being top contenders. The French Bulldog’s meteoric rise in popularity over the past decade also suggests it could be a breed to watch at future shows. Some experts predict the Whippet may gain traction and start winning more often as its popularity grows. On the other hand, breeds that have dominated in the past like the Scottish Terrier may decline as their numbers dwindle. The Doberman Pinscher is one breed that could potentially make a comeback thanks to its resurgence in popularity in recent years. Ultimately, shifts in breed popularity and judging preferences will shape which dogs take top honors in the future. But the breeds that possess ideal conformation, trainability, and showmanship are likely to remain strong contenders year after year.



The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of the oldest and most prestigious dog shows in the world. While many breeds compete each year, only a select few consistently take home the coveted Best in Show title. Breeds like the Poodle, Wire Fox Terrier, Scottish Terrier, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have proven to be top contenders thanks to their good looks, personality, and confirmation to the breed standard. Winning Best in Show takes careful breeding, expert handling, and a bit of luck on competition day. As dog shows continue to evolve, it will be interesting to see if new breeds can break through and end the dominance of the tried-and-true Best in Show breeds. For dog lovers everywhere, the Westminster Dog Show offers an exciting glimpse into the world of show dogs and an opportunity to see some of the world’s most prized canines compete for glory.

the cavalier king charles spaniel, a frequent top contender at westminster

Scroll to Top