Gail Miller Bisher, the director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club, shares how animal lovers can enjoy the 2021 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Presented by Purina Pro Plan

By Kelli Bender
June 11, 2021 04:23 PM
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Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Presented by Purina Pro Plan is here, and things look a little different year.

Gail Miller Bisher, the Westminster Kennel Club's director of communications and Fox Sports' television analyst for the Westminster Dog Show, has the scoop on the changes pet lovers can expect this year and how to watch all the canine competition has to offer.

"Westminster is 145 years old. It's the oldest U.S. dog organization, even preceding the American Kennel Club, so we have had a long history of celebrating dogs," Bisher told PEOPLE.

Through that long history, the Westminster Kennel Club has always hosted their show in Manhattan, New York, but complications caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to a change in location for the first time in the show's history.

In 2021, instead of bringing hundreds of dogs to New York City's Madison Square Garden, the Westminster Kennel Club is letting the canines outside on the grounds of the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York. The famous dog show will occur outdoors without spectators and limited media as part of the competition's COVID-19 safety precautions.

westminster dog show
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While the scenery is slightly different this year - with Westminster's iconic green ring surrounded by real grass instead of stadium seats - Bisher is just "grateful" that the show is happening. In a year when many popular events had to be postponed or transformed into a virtual experience due to the pandemic, the Westminster Kennel Club escaped this fate. Usually hosted in February, the 2020 dog show occurred as planned, and the dates for the 2021 event were moved to June 11-13 to help ensure the show could go on.

"I am so excited to have the dog show. It is the second-longest continuous sporting event in the U.S, and we got in under the wire last year," Bisher said.

westminster dog show
Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

This year, there are more ways to see the show than ever before. On Friday, the show's Masters Agility Championship Preliminaries are streaming on westminsterkennelclub.org. The finals for this championship will air on FOX from 5:00 p.m - 7:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, June 12, and will be streaming for subscribers of the FOX NOW App and FOX Sports App.

FOX will also air the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show's main event, the Best in Show judging. Best in Show's canine winner will be announced on June 13 following the Best in Group judgings, which start airing on FOX on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. EST.

Last year, Siba the standard poodle won the coveted title of Best in Show, and this year hundreds of dogs are competing to claim the crown, including four breeds that will be competing at Westminster for the first time. It requires a lot of prep work to become a top dog. Every pup that enters the Westminster Dog Show spends some time getting meticulously groomed and pampered before entering the ring for judging.

westminster dog show
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"Their products are probably better than ours," Bisher said of the special shampoos, brushes, combs, dryers, and other supplies dog handlers bring to the event to get their pooch show ready. It may seem like tedious work to those watching from home, but Bisher shared that grooming becomes part of your lifestyle when you're a dog handler.

"Some people ride an exercise bike and watch TV. We sit on the ground and groom our dogs," Bisher, who grew up in a family that bred and showed bearded collies, said of dog show people.

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Bisher is looking forward to future Westminster Dog Shows, where fans will watch the event in person and go behind the scenes again to get an up-close look at the canines. But she thinks this year's unique event will be a treat to animal lovers all the same.

"This is our celebration," she said of the this year's show.

To learn more about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Presented by Purina Pro Plan, and how to watch all the show's happenings, visit the event's website.