Miss P, a 15-inch Beagle, won the Best in Show title at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Tuesday.

America has a new top dog: Miss P, a 15-inch Beagle, surprised the crowd when she was crowned Best in Show at the prestigious 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York Tuesday night.

CH Tashtins Lookin’ for Trouble, who’s from Canada, was selected by Best in Show judge David Merriam, a retired California trial court judge who breeds Bull Terriers. He didn’t get a glimpse of any of the canine contenders during the two-day competition until he entered the ring at Madison Square Garden to choose from the seven Group winners. 

Miss P, who was slated to retire following the show regardless of the outcome, is just the second Beagle ever to win the coveted prize. The first Beagle, named Uno, won in 2008. Miss P pulled out an upset over the clear crowd favorite, the 3-year-old Old English Sheepdog Swagger, and Matisse, a 3-year-old Portuguese Water Dog who’s the top winning male dog of all time, with 238 Best in Show titles under his belt.

The audience at Madison Square Garden was wild for Swagger, a 3-year-old Old English Sheepdog.

Merriam smiled the whole time he was in the ring with the finalists. “These seven magnificent dogs are a testament to their breeders, their owners and their handlers,” he said as he prepared to announce the winner.

Miss P tried to capture her purple ribbon as her stunned handler, Will Alexander, was congratulated. 

“I’m speechless,” Alexander said, as he held the winner in his arms. “They’re all just so wonderful, it could have been any one of them.” Miss P’s win was her second surprise in two days. Bloodhound Nathan was expected to take the Hound Group title, but the energetic Beagle hunted it down it instead, sending her on to the Best in Show ring.

The Reserve Best in Show title, which is akin to the runner-up, went to Skye Terrier Charlie, whose official name is GCH Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie.

Miss P’s Path to the Win

Miss P succeeds Sky, the Wire Fox Terrier who stood in the prized Westminster silver bowl after her win in 2014. Following tradition, the 5-year-old dog from California retired after her win. Sky recently had her first litter of puppies and she made an appearance during the broadcast where she smothered veteran commentator David Frei with kisses.

The “big Beagle,” Miss P, was selected from 2,711 dogs making up 192 breeds and varieties in two days of competition. Two new breeds were introduced at Westminster this year: the Wirehaired Vizsla and the Coton de Tulear.

Each dog is judged against a breed standard rather than against each other.

A few of the dogs being closely watched going into the competition were Nathan, a Bloodhound who won the National Dog Show last fall; Matisse, the Portuguese Water Dog who’s a cousin to the Obama family dog Sunny; and Swagger, the Old English Sheepdog who came in second at Westminster in 2013. Those dog breeds were also given strong odds of winning Best in Show by oddsmaker Johnny Avello of the Wynn Las Vegas.

The dogs compete against members of their own breed to win the Best of Breed title at the Piers 92 and 94 in Manhattan before advancing to the Best of Group level. The seven Best of Group winners head to the Best in Show ring at the end of the competition.

2015 Group Winners

Best of Hound Group: Nathan, the Bloodhound who won the group last year, had a big fan club in the Garden — and online. “He’s a bit of a celebrity,” said Frei. But despite the clear support from the crowd, Nathan lost the Group prize to Miss P, a sprightly 15-inch Beagle from Canada. “It’s a very competitive group,” said Frei when asked if it was an upset victory. “The only surprise at Westminster is if there are no surprises.” The 4-year-old, who’s formally named CH Tashtins Lookin’ for Trouble, quickly won over fans as she hammed it up after her win, barking and biting her handler’s pocket to try to get the treats inside while he was being interviewed about her win. “It means everything; she’s done everything I’ve ever asked her,” said handler Will Alexander. “We battled it out, the two of us, all year long last year and Nathan is such a great competitor.”
Best of Toy Group: There were lots of “awws” from the enchanted audience as this Group entered the ring. A 2-year-old Shih Tzu with a flowing coat named Rocket won the Toy Group. GCH Hallmark Jolei Rocket Power is owned in part by famed heiress Patty Hearst. “He’s got such a big heart. He loves life, people and other dogs. His exuberance shows. Plus he’s a clown,” said handler and part owner Luke Ehricht, reported The New York Times. But a competitor’s performance really stole the show. While on her run around the ring, the Toy Manchester Terrier hopped right into a Toy Group box, much to the delight and amusement of the crowd. The tiny dog’s handler had to help her out of the box to continue her showing.

Best of Non-Sporting Group: This eclectic group featured a new breed this year, the fluffy white Coton de Tulear. The breed’s representative, Burberry from New Jersey, was spotlighted in the media before the big event. The audience loved the Bulldog, Dalmatian and a French Bulldog named Soulja Boy. The Non-Sporting Group title went to a statuesque black Standard Poodle named GCH Dawin Hearts on Fire. Flame, as she’s called, celebrated her 4th birthday on Valentine’s Day and follows a long line of 28 members of her breed to win the Group. 

Best of Herding Group: The first night of the competition was capped off with excitement as Swagger the Old English Sheepdog, a big crowd favorite (and one of ours as well), took the Herding Group title. Swagger triumphantly returned to the Best in Show ring Tuesday, two years after taking the Reserve title, when he was just a pup. “The Old English Sheepdog, no surprise there,” said Frei. “He’s a great dog. That’s the easiest pick all night, Swagger.” The pooch, GCH Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect, is the top winning Old English Sheepdog in the history of the breed, and he’s only 3 years old. “He’s going to be 4 in May, and going from a 17 month old puppy to a 4 year old dog is quite a change,” said Swagger’s handler, Colton Johnson of Colorado. “I couldn’t ask him to do any more than he did tonight. He was excellent. He gave me everything that he had. I thought he looked incredible, I’m very honored.”  

Best of Sporting Group: Many of the most popular breeds in the U.S. are members of the Sporting Group, which was the first Group to compete Tuesday night. The Golden Retriever, GCH Pebwin Hocus Pocus, was a big fan favorite, as was the happy Clumber Spaniel. And, there was a rousing welcome for the Wirehaired Vizsla, Izzy, whose breed is new to the show this year. Out of a number of beautiful Spaniels, it was an English Springer Spaniel who won the Group. GCH Wynmoor Sweetgrass White Diamonds, whose call name is Liz, is a 3-year-old from Virginia who’s handled by Janice Hayes.

Best of Working Group: Matisse, a 3-year-old Portuguese Water Dog, is among the all-time top-winning show dogs, and handily won his Group for the third straight year. GCH Claircreek Impression De Matisse is a Canadian who shares a grandfather with Sunny, one of the two Porties currently residing in the White House. The audience was excited to see Matisse, who stretched before trotting around the ring. Matisse is handled by Michael Scott and lives in Maryland. The crowd also showed its love for the massive, wrinkled Neapolitan Mastiff, the Bernese Mountain Dog and the smiley Samoyed. “It was a great group,” said Frei. “It could have gone a lot of different ways, but the guy at the top is the one that everybody was waiting for.”

Best of Terrier Group: The Terrier Group took Best in Show last year, and has the won the top prize more than any other Group. The judge gave the Best in Group title to the Skye Terrier, Good Time Charlie, whose handler is Larry Cornelius. The crowd loved so many of the Terriers that it couldn’t seem to decide who to throw its support to — but it was quite happy with the 3-year-old little dog with the big ears. The Bedlington Terrier had an adorable moment where she lived up to her name, GCH Lamz Strike A Pose RN CAA CGC. The 1 ½-year-old dog, whose call name is Vogue, isn’t one to be rushed. She slowly stretched her front and then her hind legs before continuing her trot around the ring, much to the audience’s delight.

Best in Show winner Miss P was already intending to retire at age 4 to become a mom. 

“She’s going to have babies next,” said her handler after the win. “We’re going to pick a husband for her and she’ll have some puppies and carry on the line.” 

First, though, Miss P has some celebrating to do. The Westminster winner traditionally dines at Sardi’s in New York following a day packed with media appearances on the day after the show.
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