Boston may have cinched the World Series, but Houston has the monopoly on its canine namesake: the Houston World Series of Dog Shows, held every July at the sprawling NRG Center. If you didn’t brave the Texas summer heat to attend this year, don’t sweat it. On Sunday, November 11, at noon ET, you can watch all the best moments on AKC.TV.
The Houston event is a “cluster,” or group of dog shows held in one venue, which began in the 1970s to help mitigate the effects of the gasoline shortage. Everything is bigger in Texas, of course, and Houston does not disappoint. The five-day extravaganza draws approximately 40,000 spectators and participants, and more than 14,000 entries.
As you might expect, the heart of the World Series of Dog Shows is the conformation competition—a fancy way of saying traditional dog show. The super-long weekend compasses four “all-breed” shows, in which a full complement of canines competes for the honor of winning Best in Show.
Think of it like a pyramid. First, dogs compete against their own breed, with one lucky one emerging as Best of Breed. Next, those breed winners go on to compete in one of the seven Groups, divided by function—from the bird hunters of the Sporting Group to the lap-warming companions of the Toy Group. Those seven Group winners, in turn, go on to the final level to compete for Best in Show.
If you’re a little rusty on your breed identification, the AKC.TV coverage includes informative commentary by AKC staffers Gina DiNardo and Bill Ellis, both of whom have a lifetime of experience in the sport of dogs. It’s likely you’ll find every breed on your must-see list, and some you’ve never heard of, including the recently recognized Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (a scruffy scenthound from France), and the Dutch spaniel the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje. (Try saying either of those two times fast!) There’s even an impossibly rare Norwegian Lundehund, bred to scale sheer rock cliffs in Norway to hunt puffins.
Jargon alert: You’ll hear the commentators talk about how a dog is a “specialty” winner, referring to shows that are open only to dogs of that breed; the annual show put on by a breed’s main parent club is called a national specialty. There is arguably no greater achievement than winning this contest among your peers, making it aptly named. A “special” win, indeed.
You need only compare the massively elegant Great Dane and the pluckily diminutive Chihuahua to understand that dogs are among the world’s most versatile species. But that doesn’t just apply to their physical appearance, a fact the World Series of Dog Shows underscores by highlighting a number of other competitions. There’s canine musical freestyle—a tongue-tripping way of saying dancing with dogs—in which owners put an obedience routine to music with choreographed spins, leaps and leg weaves; and flyball, a fast-paced relay race featuring dogs of all breeds and mixes.
Watching these canine virtuosos may have you daydreaming about venturing in the ring yourself. The show features AKC’S My Dog Can Do That! event, designed to let newbies, both two- and four-legged, try out an agility course. With a helpful instructor at your side (and lots of treats in your pocket), getting your dog to navigate the jumps, tunnels and dog walks is a cinch. And it’s a powerful reminder that anyone with a dog and a little motivation can be a contender.
Did we mention the children’s art exhibit, the designer doghouse competition, the AKC Meet the Breeds and rescue dog booths, and the many vendors selling everything from grooming shears to blingy collars? It’s no wonder World Series of Dog Shows chairman Tom Pincus describes his popular cluster as “a circus and a flea market with a dog show on the side.”
It’s one time you do want to mess with Texas—and it’s there for the watching, right on the screen of your choice. See y’all there.
Experience the Houston World Series of Dog Shows on AKC.TV’s highlights special! Watch all of the action on Sunday Nov 11 at 12PM ET, with re-airings at 3PM, 6PM and 9PM ET, only on AKC.TV. Find it on AKC.TV, or our channels on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.