Westminster's Hot Dogs

Canines Gather for the Renowned Kennel Club’s Annual Pageant to Battle for Top Spot

Photographer Ryan Pfluger captures some of the most notable faces, canine and otherwise, in this series of portraits from the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. Earlier this week some 2,077 pooches representing 185 different breeds descended on Madison Square Garden, all with the hope of taking home the title of “Best in Show.” The honor went to Malachy, a four-year-old Pekingese, who is now retiring from the show circuit to become a full-time house pet. “There’s an enormous communication barrier when shooting animals,” says Pfluger, whose portraiture work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, GQ, TIME, and The Guardian. “You can’t give them direction, but you can get beautiful, interesting shots just by letting them exist.” First held in 1877, Westminster is one of the oldest and most prestigious organized sporting events in America, with the dogs judged against strict ideal-breed guidelines that outline everything from color and texture of the coat to length between snout and tail. “These dogs are being primped and groomed and trained to the nines; the sense of competition in the air is fierce,” says Pfluger. “But the funny thing is, when it comes down to it they really just want to hang out and chill.”

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