Westminster Dog Show win can boost popularity of breeds

Based on the career of Malachy the Pekingese, now might be a good time to invest in some wire fox terrier futures.

Brenda Truss, an Averill Park, N.Y., breeder of the small, fluffy Pekingese breed, recalls a surge in business and consumer interest when Malachy took home the “best of breed” title at the 2012 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and said that this week’s victory by a sprightly wire fox terrier named Sky could produce a similar boom.


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“I just had one [Pekingese] puppy, and it sold so fast,” she said. “If I had more dogs, I would make a lot of money.”

Ms. Truss has been breeding Pekingeses since 1998, but recalls a golden age in business after Malachy won the 2012 dog show. “Everything is about marketing,” she said.

The boost for the terrier in the coming days could be more muted — the breed already holds the Westminster show record with 14 “best of breed” awards in the event’s 107-year history — and breeders and canine enthusiasts will be watching closely in the coming days to see if a similar Westminster bounce is in the works.

Supply and demand in the doggie world, however, don’t always follow the typical model of free-market capitalism: The increased visibility of the wire fox terrier may wag its tail into the hearts of Americans everywhere, but that doesn’t mean litters of pups will immediately spring up.

“Responsible breeders will not breed more puppies [just] because there is a demand,” Lisa Peterson, American Kennel Club spokeswoman, said. “They are going to stick with their ethics.”

Anything from television, commercials or movies can create a market boom in a particular breed. Although the wire fox terrier may attract more “oohs” and “aahs,” Ms. Peterson predicted the breed’s latest triumph won’t create a bubble in the puppy market, but could start a discussion into the commitment of owning a dog.

“Having this great visibility gives consumers … yet another breed to look at when they start doing research to what breed will fit their lifestyle,” she said.

Despite its multiple titles at Westminster, the wire fox terrier currently ranks as only the 96th most popular dog in America, according to the American Kennel Club. The Labrador retriever, by contrast, has never won a Westminster best of breed award but has been rated the country’s most popular breed the last 23 years in a row.

And Ms. Peterson noted that, even if demand shoots up for the charismatic terrier, there simply aren’t many puppies available to meet a major surge in demand.

The pet industry is $55.5 billion industry in the United States, according to the American Pet Products Association. Nearly 57 million American households own a dog, according to the APPA’s National Pet Owners Survey.

The Westminster Kennel Club welcomed three new breeds to the competition this year. The rat terrier, Portuguese Podengo Pequeno and Chinook were added to the pool of more than 2,800 dogs that compete in the show.

Lesser-known canines, too, have a chance of furthering their visibility to future dog owners, especially if they can hook up with a high-profile owner.

President Obama’s Portuguese water dog, Bo, has become his own canine celebrity. Bo’s visibility created a boom in the breed’s popularity, according to the American Kennel Club’s 2013 Dog Registration Statistics, climbing from 64th in 2008 to 49th in 2013.

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