- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - A bloodhound is on the trail at America’s top dog show.

A crowd pleaser at 135 pounds, Nathan won the hound group at the Westminster Kennel Club on Monday night.

“He’s a kissing hound,” handler Heather Helmer said.

Nathan proved that last week during a promotional visit to a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden when he smooched a couple of cheerleaders.

Back on the green carpet at the Garden, he got down to business. Nose alert and tail wagging, the 3-year-old walked his way into the best-of-seven final ring.

A seven-pound miniature pinscher took the toy group, a standard poodle with 115 career best in show victories won the nonsporting category and a Cardigan Welsh corgi earned the herding title.

Left out was Swagger, the old English sheepdog that nearly won the entire competition last February. A year after finishing second, he fell short in the herding group at the 138th Westminster.

Sporting, working and terrier dogs will compete Tuesday. The best in show will be chosen shortly before 11 p.m.

There were a total of 2,845 entries for America’s top dog show. They were eligible in 190 breeds and varieties, and all of them drew support.

“Basset!” shouted one fan during a break. “Pug!” another one yelled later.

Along with the four group winners, prime contenders to walk off with the prized silver bowl are Sky the wire fox terrier, Matisse the Portuguese water dog, Riley the Irish water spaniel and the Fifinator, a Doberman that has her own Facebook page.

A pet who lives with Tampa Bay Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan earned an early ribbon. Of the 44 Australian shepherds entered, his Copperridge What’s Your Dream was picked.

“It’s incredible that she went from my No. 1 bed buddy to best of breed at Westminster!!!” Hanigan wrote in a text message.

Three new breeds were welcomed to the show this year - the chinook, the Portuguese podengo pequeno and the rat terrier.

Plus, a mixed-breed dog made an appearance.

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