NEW YORK — Next year's Westminster Kennel Club show will showcase dogs on their very best behavior: It's adding an obedience competition.
The new event, announced Tuesday, will feature 35 competitors vying for top dog at sitting, heeling, jumping, retrieving and performing other exercises on cue. It marks the latest expansion of the nation's premier canine competition, which dates to 1877.
"We give people a taste of what you can do with your dog. Not every dog is a show dog, certainly, and if they can get involved in some other activity that the dog can enjoy and (the owner) can enjoy, it's a great part of our educational process here," said David Frei, Westminster spokesman and longtime TV host.
The show had some obedience exhibitions in the 1930s and '40s, but they weren't competitive, he said.
The show has grown since 2013, when some preliminary judging moved from Madison Square Garden to roomier space at piers on Manhattan's West Side.
An agility competition was added the next year, bringing mixed-breed dogs into the Westminster pack for the first time since the show's early years. The agility contest will be back next year, on Feb. 13.
Mixed breeds also are eligible for the Feb. 15 obedience contest.
The traditional breed competition will span two days, with the best-in-show judging at the Garden on Feb. 16. More than 180 breeds and varieties can vie for the title.
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