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What do show dogs like to eat?

 


NEW YORK — Some dogs will eat anything.

Just as this author’s family once owned a dog that enjoyed Cap’n Crunch cereal for breakfast and cheeseburgers for dinner, certain competitors at the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show get excited by the prospect of practically anything edible.

Where many dog handlers tuck treats into pockets or bra straps or even their mouths during competitions — “bait,” in common dog-show parlance — others find their dogs simply love food too much to stay calm in its presence under the bright Madison Square Garden spotlight.

“I actually can’t use bait with him,” said Amanda Spencer, as her 175-pound Irish Wolfhound named Legion sprawled on the floor at Manhattan’s Pier 94 during the event’s early rounds on Monday. “He’s so food-motivated that his brain goes out the window. He has to wait until he’s out of the ring before he gets treats.”

Legion, a food-motivated Irish Wolfhound and very good boy. (USA TODAY Sports)

Legion, like many of the show dogs here and many of their human attendants, loves eating chicken — especially garlic-herb and fajita-style chicken. But where Legion, per Spencer, will still scarf down foods that aren’t his favorite, other Westminster dogs are far more particular.

“He’s a very picky eater,” said Cassidy Jackson of her Dalmatian, Hunter. “This week alone he has had duck, porterhouse and chicken breast.”

Many dogs munch on liver or cheese during competition, but Hunter’s handler uses roast beef. Elsewhere, handler Marian McShane explained that Dudley, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi she is showing at Westminster this year, will feast only on frankfurters — and not just any kind.

“Hot dogs — Ball Park Franks, and nothing else,” McShane said, nodding toward a package of wieners poking out of a dog crate. “I got one of those cheap brands one time, and it was not a good thing. He’ll spit it out.”

(USA TODAY Sports)

Bob Young preps London Broil, shaved and cut into small pieces, once a month for his Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Zack. Deborah Bean makes homemade fish muffins from oatmeal, sardines and eggs for Prima Donna, her Nederlandse Kooikerhondje — one of the two new breeds at Westminster this year.

Mercy, a Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen representing the other new breed at the competition, most appreciates food she finds herself.

“Her favorite thing are grubs that she digs up from the ground,” said co-owner Justin Rose. “But fajita chicken is the only thing she’ll show for. We’ve tried regular chicken breast, and she doesn’t really eat it.”

The Westminster event is sponsored by Purina, and many dog owners said their prized pets most often eat traditional dog food. But getting to an event like Westminster requires a whole lot of training, and sometimes that training is best reinforced with something extra special.

“His favorite treat is powdered doughnuts,” said handler David Daugherty of Conor, a Great Pyrenees. “Little Debbie powdered doughnuts. He’ll get a few of those before we show. That’s his happy thing.”

 





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