A two-disc special edition DVD of
a... dog show? I admit, that was my first thought about the 131st
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show DVD. My curiosity got the best of me
and I had to give it a spin. Don't tell my cats this... but it turned
out to be a pretty fun experience.
Disc 1 presents the first day of of
the two-day show, with four groups of dogs (working, terrier, toy,
non-sporting) being shown. Each of the dogs in the groups had
previously gone through a previous round of judging and was declared
the best in its breed; now, the dogs go against the other breed
champions in their "type" groups. The winner in each group
then goes on to the final round, for "best of show." Disc 2
picks up with the second day of judging, with the remaining three
groups (sporting, herding, and hounds) and the "best in show"
The program is well explained,
starting with a brief introduction from the television hosts that
explains the overall setup of the dog show. As each dog is brought
up, the overall announcer gives a brief overview of the breed. The
television commentators also provide commentary that focuses on the
characteristics of the breed as well as a few snippets of information
about the particular dog being shown. Before each group, there's also
a short montage of extra-show footage showing how the dogs of this
type behave in the "real world."
One interesting point that's made is
that seeing the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is useful for
prospective dog owners. While all puppies are small and cute, this
dog show allows viewers to see what the dogs will look like when
fully grown. (Yikes! The Great Dane is the size of a horse!) The
announcer makes a point of mentioning the dog's personality as well
as physical characteristics, making the point that not all dogs are
suited for all people. I was amused to hear one breed described as
"manipulative" with "obedience training recommended."
There's a tremendous amount of
variety here, from the 230-pound mastiff to the tiny toy dogs (who
have to be lifted up to be set on a table in order for the judge to
look at them without throwing his back out). One of the interesting
things about seeing this program was seeing not just the dog breeds
that I knew about already, but ones I never heard of, from all over
the world. For instance, the Komondor is a walking mop, with
naturally-forming dreadlocks of fur; the Basenji is called the
"barkless" dog (but it still chirps and yodels); the
Neapolitan is a massive and droopy dog made famous by being cast as
Fang in the Harry Potter movies; the Brittany is the smallest of the
"sporting" dogs and is now used as a service dog as well as
sporting dog. There's something new to learn about the "classic"
breeds as well: for instance, from the commentary, we learn a little
bit about the history of dog breeds, discovering that the Mastiff,
the Pointer, and the Rottweiler are among the oldest, "foundational"
breeds. The Afghan Hound tops them all, though: we learn that it's
been a recognizable breed for 4,000 years.
The program is actually fairly
fast-paced, since there are different cuts within each round, and
dogs progressing from round to round. It's surprisingly entertaining
even for someone who isn't a big fan of dogs. The menus are nicely
set up so that you can watch the entire program, or jump straight to
the group that you're interested in watching. The second DVD starts
off with a brief recap of the previous day's winners, but it's kept
very short so there's no need to skip over it even if you're watching
the whole program in one massive dog-viewing session.
The Westminster people sure know how
to make a dog show fun, I have to say: there's a lot of drama and
excitement in the way that the different rounds work, and the
audience is encouraged to cheer and root for their favorite dog. For
people who already own dogs, there's a fun element in rooting for the
representative of the breed that your dog happens to look like. I
admit that I definitely had some favorites when it came to the Best
in Show round - but I'm not going to spoil any surprises by revealing
who makes it to the finals or who ends up with the coveted Best in
Plus, the dogs look like they're
having a good time!
There's a total of about four hours
of footage here: two on each DVD.
The image appears in its original
television aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It looks clean and clear, with
good colors. There's quite a lot of edge enhancement, but it doesn't
get in the way too much.
The sound is clear and natural: both
the commentators and the announcer come across very well.
In addition to the groups that are
shown in the main program, the DVD also includes the breed judging
for selected breeds. (With 2500 dogs entered in the event from 165
different breeds, it'd be impossible to include footage of them all!)
On Disc 1, the bonus breed footage is for the Akita, the Dandi
Dinmont, the Toy Poodle, and the Standard Poodle; on Disc 2 these are
for the English Springer Spaniel, the PBGV, and the Bouvier des
Flandres. These are short montage-style segments, from about four to
eight minutes in length, set to music, without commentary. It's
interesting to see, but not as much as the full coverage with
On each disc we also get brief
interviews with the winners of each group (actually, with the owners
and handlers, not the winners themselves, who just sat around looking
On Disc 1, there's also a one-minute
behind-the-scenes look at the "benched" dogs: one of the
features of the Westminster Dog Show is that visitors to the show can
go "backstage" and not only see, but even pet and interact
with the dogs. Another minute-long featurette takes a look at the
grooming of one of the poodles (six or seven hours of grooming!
Disc 2 rounds out the special
features with several short pieces. The "Angel on a Leash
Feature and Award" is an interesting four-minute piece
explaining the Westminster Kennel Club's therapy dog program. The
"Vivi" featurette covers the tragic story of a whippet lost
at the airport. Finally, a brief segment covers the "Junior
Showmanship" award, in which young handlers are judged on how
well they can show their dogs.
Not only was the 131st Westminster
Kennel Club Dog Show program more entertaining than I expected (I'm a
cat person, myself), I found it surprisingly informative as well.
With excellent, well-explained coverage of the show and ample bonus
features, this DVD gets a solid "recommended" rating: it'll
be of interest not just to fans of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog
Show in particular, but also to dog lovers in general and anyone looking for something
different and interesting.