Judging the nation’s top dogs at Westminster

jholleman@thestate.comFebruary 10, 2013 

South Carolina dog lovers who watch the Westminster Kennel Club show and root for local dogs can have another provincial focus this year. Robert Vandiver of Simpsonville is among the seven group judges, his second stint at Westminister.

“It’s the ultimate assignment I’ve had,” said Vandiver, who breeds and shows Doberman pinschers in addition to judging contests throughout the country.

“It’s the show of shows. The general public knows about Westminster. They generally don’t know about the other shows.”

For instance, Vandiver and many of the dog breeders and owners will hurry from New York to a show in Greenville the week after Westminster. The Greenville show will have nearly 2,000 entries, nearly as many as the 2,721 entries at Westminster.

But the Greenville show won’t be shown live on national television. That’s one of the things that sets Westminster apart, for dog lovers as well as judges.

“The pressure (for a judge) is that it’s a live broadcast,” Vandiver said. “You have to look for red and green lights to know when you’re off the air and on. The difference (from other shows) is just the timing and the waiting.”

The other difference is the depth of high quality dogs at Westminster.

“At most shows, you usually have to decide between five or six really outstanding dogs,” Vandiver. “At Westminster, almost all of the dogs at group level are one of the top dogs in the country. You might have 20 great dogs but only four ribbons to give out.”

Vandiver will be judging in the working group, which will be televised Tuesday night. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Chances are Vandiver won’t be the only one with South Carolina connections to make the national broadcasts. There are 50 entries from South Carolina, according to the Westminster website.

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