Our editor's plan to swindle his family, however, was foiled.
English Setter that wins on Sporting Group in the 146th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2022.
Credit: Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Rooting for your favorite breed during a televised dog show is one thing, but it's even more fun when you have a few bucks on the line (in a family friendly, non-habit-forming way, of course).

That's the idea I had for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this week. Our relatives—mine and my fiancee's—each pledged $10 and drafted the dog breeds they thought would win Best in Show. Like fantasy football—but with dogs.

Even though I am utter garbage at fantasy football, I figured I could probably win this. I've learned plenty about dog shows over the past two years working at Daily Paws, while my relatives are mere novices. But as it happens, the key to winning would be ... not trying.  

It was ultimately a fun success, but I learned several important lessons: Dog shows are impossible to prognosticate; there are so many dang dog breeds; and being any kind of fantasy sports commissioner is unenviable (you have my pity, Mike Trout).

Yet I will absolutely run this dog-focused underground gambling operation again next year. Here's how it went: 

The Draft

This quickly turned into some low-scale mayhem. 

I listed all 200+ dog breeds in a Google doc and randomly selected the 12-person draft order. There were supposed to be two rounds, in which each person chose six breeds at a time for a total of 12. To be convenient, this would be something we could all do over several days. When it was your turn, just go into the document and pick your six dog breeds. 

The picks came in erratically. Bachelorette parties, church meetings, forgetfulness, and summer jobs delayed selections. Neither of the dads had actually agreed to play—but were dragged in anyway because that's fatherhood—and had others pick for them. By midday Tuesday (the day of the show!), we were barely halfway through the picks, so the order was abandoned so everyone could have their 12 breeds before the show began. Oh well. 

I offered limited draft guidance, supplying a list of the top-ranked show dogs this year and warning folks not to pick ultra-rare breeds or ones who hadn't won Best in Show before. But we still couldn't help picking our favorites. My to-be mother-in-law took the golden retriever, which had never won Westminster. My partner took the Labrador retriever, the family's former dog. I chose the Newfoundland because they're big and fluffy and I like them. 

My mom—who had done some scouting and made her own miniature draft board—put her faith in the Lagotto Romagnolo. My sister, who last year proved to be a fantasy football savant, picked the French bulldog, this year's top-ranked dog.  

But dog shows are anyone's game. So much depends on the dog, the handler, and the judge on the particular day

The Show

The $120 pot was at stake. Each person who correctly picked a group winner would win $10. The Best in Show winner would take home whatever money remained. 

  • A bloodhound named Trumpet won the first group, the Hound Group, on Tuesday. That $10 went to my future father-in-law, who, again, had not made any selections himself. "I know my dogs," he wise-assed in our group chat. 
  • My fiancee picked the next two winners—a Maltese and a German shepherd from the Toy and Herding groups—to win $20, prompting her to start bragging. I would point out that she never contributed her $10, but I still haven't reimbursed her with my half of the mortgage payment so I'll let it slide.  
  • Winston the Frenchie took home the Non-Sporting Group victory, netting $10 for my sister. I told her he would probably win, and she for some reason didn't appreciate me jinxing her. 
  • On Wednesday, Belle the English setter won the Sporting Group, netting $10 for my father, even though I picked the breed for him. Dammit. 
  • Same thing happened in the Working Group, when my aunt won $10 for "her" Samoyed pick (yes, I chose it for her). Double dammit. 
  • Finally, salvation. MM the Lakeland terrier won the Terrier Group and netted me $10. My plan to swindle everyone hadn't gone well but at least I had won my money back. 

By the time of this writing, we all know judge Donald Sturtz picked Trumpet, netting $50 more for my future father-in-law. It just goes to show that sometimes your family subjects you to silly games that in the end finance a semi-fancy dinner.