136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

New York is going to the hounds, toys and terriers in this puppy paradise.

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  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


  • Photograph: Alex Strada

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


Photograph: Alex Strada

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


During the two-day Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, 2,077 dogs representing 185 breeds will prance around Madison Square Garden in hopes of being named the 136th Best in Show. For animal lovers, the main draw of the nation's oldest purebred showdown isn't the excitement of the competition, but cooing over the field of competitors. From backstage access to  advice from a doggie concierge, we've got your guide to meeting these pedigreed pups.

* Directly across the street from MSG, the Hotel Pennsylvania (401 Seventh Ave between 32nd and 33rd Sts; 212-736-5000, hotelpenn.com) is a puppy gawker's paradise. Jerry Grymek, the "doggie concierge," is on the job from Thursday 9 to Wednesday 15 to cater to all the canine superstars' needs. Between 600 and 800 of the four-legged participants are expected to stay at the Pennsylvania, and Grymek is happy to give you the heads-up on when your favorite competitor is heading for an appointment at the hotel's dogs-only salon, downstairs from the lobby.

* Preview the dogs before the crush at the Garden is in full swing and contribute to a good cause at a pair of fund-raising canine couture events. The Pre-Westminster Fashion Show at the Hotel Pennsylvania (pre-westminsterfashionshow.com, Fri 10 at 6pm, $25) will scare the bejesus out of Rick Santorum by marrying four dog couples in separate ceremonies representing each of the four seasons. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Animal Care & Control of NYC. Up the street, New Yorkie Runway (New Yorker Hotel, 481 Eighth Ave at 34th St; 212-971-0101, newyorkierunway.com; 5:30pm, tickets $25--55) showcases doggie outfits for smaller breeds and benefits Angel on a Leash, which trains therapy dogs.

* If you're on the lookout for cultured canines, head back to the Hotel Pennsylvania for a pets-and-owners "Yappy Hour" book reading (Sun 12 at 2pm; free). Children's author Maureen Sullivan will read from her 2010 picture book, Custard and Mustard: Carlos in Coney Island, about a Manhattan-dwelling French bulldog. Treats for both pups and people will be available.

* Grab a little fresh air—you may need some after spending hours indoors among furry coats—and make it a bella notte with a free screening of Disney's Lady and the Tramp. The classic animated film, also beloved by owners of malicious Siamese cats, will be showing as part of Citi Pond at Bryant Park's Winter Film Festival (Sixth Ave between 40th and 42nd Sts; 212-661-6640, citipondatbryantpark.com; Mon 13 at 5:30, 7pm; free). Consider it an amuse-bouche for the American cocker spaniel's turn in the sporting group the next day.

* Unlike most other shows, Westminster is "benched," meaning when the pooches aren't in the ring, they must be available at their crate areas for the judges—as well as curious fans. Due to ongoing renovations at MSG, spectators won't be able to sneak a peek at the grooming rituals of the toy and terrier groups, which will be stationed in the Theater at MSG. The other groups—hound, herding, working, sporting and nonsporting—will be on the main level, which is still open to visitors (enter through Tower B once you're in the building). A couple of breeds' grooming rituals really stand out. The Norwegian Lundehunds, one of this year's new entries, have at least six toes on each foot to help them hunt puffin birds on icy cliffs and keep pedicurists busy. But for sheer fluffiness, follow the sounds of blow-dryers to the Keeshonds, whose weather-resistant coats require tons of brushing, and even a dusting of cornstarch, to make sure they don't deflate before they hit the show floor.

GO FETCH! 136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza (Seventh Ave) between 31st and 33rd Sts (westminsterkennelclub.org). Mon 13, Tue 14 at 8:30am; $45--$140. TV coverage USA Network 8--11pm.

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