Similar to proud parents, dog owners are typically boastful of the handsomeness of their animal and feel it stands above the rest.
Like those aforementioned dog owners, I typically feel that my six-year-old pug named Rudy is one of the cutest dogs on Earth, even if he could probably stand to lose a few pounds.
My main man Rudy
I wanted to put my theory to the test and evaluate my lovable, yet chubby pug against the world's best at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden this week.
On Monday morning I was ecstatic with the idea of seeing and petting a variety of pugs. I picked a good spot by the sixth ring of the Madison Square Garden Theater and began taking as many pictures as possible once the pugs began strutting their stuff on the green carpet. Twenty pugs competed during the breed competition and many were gorgeous, but I still felt pretty good about how my little, pudgy Rudy stacked up.
The pugs pranced around the small ring -- playful, yet attentive -- while making their signature heavy breathing noises. Their scrunched up faces make it difficult for them to breathe at times but add a certain discernible cuteness to them. After a few laps around the ring, and with an increased amount of heavy panting emulating from the dogs, Walter was crowned as the Best of Breed.
Walter was crowned the best pug.
Walter's owner was nowhere to be found so I settled on talking to the handler of Gibbs, a pug that won an Award of Merit. His handler told me that Gibbs comes from a bit of a pug dynasty and he fared well because he embodied the pug type. The apparent pug type, according to her, was a super square body, beautiful round eyes, and legs that are like little tree stumps.
Gibbs was one of the top pugs at Westminster.
Those all seem to apply to my little round mound of cute, but it's clear that there is more to becoming a champion show dog than just being a cute dog.
I decided to try to get some more intel on the pug dog show route when I saw Peaches, an stunning two-year-old female pug. Peaches didn't place during the breed competition, but seemed to have everything you'd be looking for in a pug -- square head, nice neck, dark eyes, etc.
Peaches was one of our favorites at Westminster.
Judy Schmidt, who was with Peaches and has been breeding pugs for 35 years, said she loves pugs because they are tough little dogs in a big package. She said the key to putting together a winning show pug is food and lots of love. Food is something that seems to guide all of the show dogs at Westminster -- handlers are constantly biting pieces of treat and feeding them to the dogs to keep them in line.
That strategy seems to be particularly effective for pugs, who are known as voracious eaters. At home, my dog Rudy would do anything necessary in order to get more food or a treat. In fact, he started hamming it up for me when I was taking his picture once he realized he was getting a treat out of it. After a few treats and a few photos, he gave up on being cooperative once he realized he wasn't getting a treat for every picture. Rudy, like most dogs, is smart -- especially when it comes to food.
Rudy showing off his chubby side for treats.
A few dog treats does not make a pug champion, though. The dog's looks and its temperament play a major party in how it fares in dog shows, but other factors can have a major impact. One of the most talked about factors this week at Westminster was the impact that advertising and campaigning has on how the dogs place. Some dog owners spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on having their dog's picture appear in different dog magazines and catalogues.
Unfortunately for my Rudy, I'm not quite ready to shell out a few thousand dollars to get him in magazines for a chance to win a ribbon or two. But I'd maintain that he'd have as good as a shot as any to win if he was just a few years younger and a few pounds lighter.
He'll always be a champion to me, though.