The fifth time was the charm. Though not unlike the first, second, third, or fourth times.
On Monday, a black Labrador Retriever named “Heart” won the Westminster Masters Obedience Championship at the world-famous Manhattan dog show for the fifth consecutive year, with a combined score of 397.5. The fifth straight win resulted in the retiring of the competition’s original gleaming sterling-silver championship trophy.
Heart, owned and handled by Linda Brennan of Columbia, New Jersey, has earned the title of Masters Obedience Champion every single year since Westminster debuted the competition in 2016.
The show’s High in Trial winner was another Sporting Group dog, Golden Retriever OTCH High Times Quiet Riot UDX2 PCD OM3 BN, who snagged a near-perfect score of 199. Long, acronym-studded names are plentiful among such accomplished obedience dogs. Heart’s official moniker, for example, is OTCH18 Rhumbline’s Once in a Blue Moon UDX12 OGM BN GN VER RE JH ACT1 SWN CGC TK.
While all dogs, purebred or not, are eligible to compete in the sport of obedience, the Masters Obedience Championship is open to the top 250 dogs in the country. Rankings are based on Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) points earned at local trials. Judged by John D. Landis, the entry was limited to 30 dogs, representing the best of the best in this intense, precision-focused sport, where handlers are prohibited from dispensing treats or even verbal praise during the formal exercises.
Because of their responsiveness to human instruction, sometimes called “biddability,” popular obedience breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, and German Shepherd Dogs.
You Gotta Have Heart
The Westminster Masters Obedience Championship consists of two rounds, each with AKC-approved advanced obedience exercises such as scent discrimination and directed retrieves. The winner is determined by the combined individual qualifying scores from both rounds.
In interviews, Brennan said this is the last time her 7-year-old Lab will compete at the high-profile show. However, Heart will continue her obedience career at other trials. And Brennan is open to the possibility of returning with her umpteen-time Westminster Masters Obedience Champion to perform demonstrations of freestyle obedience routines, which include dance steps and other creative choreography.
Heart and Brennan were presented with their antique silver trophy again on Monday night, when the first evening of conformation competition at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was telecast from Madison Square Garden. Sporting a red collar, Heart was put through her paces, gleefully heeling and retrieving on the show’s iconic green carpet. She was joined by P!nk, a Border Collie who was crowned the 2020 Masters Agility Champion.
In addition to the trophy and a rosette in Westminster’s signature purple and gold, Brennan and Heart will have a $5,000 donation made in their name to either an AKC-recognized obedience club of their choice or the AKC Humane Fund, which educates the public about the value of responsible pet ownership.