Even the most prestigious pooches in the 142nd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where top dog will be crowned "Best of Show" on Tuesday, are still cuddly canines at heart.
"Biggie is a goof," said Esteban Farias, handler of a pug named Biggie, who won the toy group contest on Monday and will be among the seven group champions vying for the ultimate prize.
"He's funny. ... When my kids are playing, he grabs the toys and runs all over the house."
This year's Best in Show winner, picked from a pack of nearly 3,000 competitors, gets a trophy, a media tour and bragging rights that boost breeding fees. It is the reward for patiently withstanding the blasts of blow dryers and tugs of combs and brushes.
Dogs compete in seven groups — hound, toy, nonsporting, herding, working, sporting and terrier — with the winners then competing for Best in Show, in the competition at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan.
Four chosen on Monday included Biggie, a borzoi named Lucy from the hound group, a bichon frise named Flynn from the nonsporting group and a border collie named Slick from the herding group. The remaining three challengers will be from the working, sporting and terrier groups, whose winners were set to be picked on Tuesday.
More than 2,880 dogs from 201 breeds and varieties competed in the two-day event, according to organizers of the United States' second-oldest sporting event after the Kentucky Derby. They came from all 50 U.S. states and 16 other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Russia, Australia and China, the Westminster Kennel Club said in a statement.
Rumor, a female German shepherd, was named Best in Show at last year's competition.