Your dog might be alright, but does he or she deserve to be considered for a blue ribbon at the world's most prestigious dog show?
Niagara mortgage agent Stephen Dainard knows for sure.
Tuesday morning Dainard will be one of the judges picking the best-in-breed dog at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show held every year in New York City since 1877.
The stakes are high, Dainard says, for the blue ribbon and you can't just arbitrarily place it on any dog.
"There's like x amount of people sitting right there, watching you go through your process," he says.
Dainard has been judging for past 15 years, but Tuesday will be his first time at the Westminster show.
'You really want to make sure that you're getting the right dog and you want to make sure you're not missing something.'- Stephen Dainard
He says the harshest critic will be the peanut gallery.
"You're judging a dog and then [in] this instance the world is watching," said Dainard.
He says if you just arbitrarily choose a dog, you're setting yourself up for failure, potentially degrading your reputation as a judge.
"I just really think that if judges are kind of mindful of that, I think a majority of us are, you're just going to pick the dog that is truly the best dog on the day," said Dainard.
How to judge a dog
When it comes to fairly judging dogs, Dainard says each kennel club has a recognized breed standard that describes what the ideal dog in that breed looks like.
"I just want to do the best job that I can and be as informed as I can," said Dainard.
He says the judges have to be well versed.
"The breed standard is obviously the bible for which describes how the ideal specimen should [be]," said Dainard. It describes things like temperament, weight, height, and colouring.
"You're really looking at the dog to shine [in] that moment," said Dainard.
How the dog is responding to their handler, their physical condition, how well they show, and if their heart is really in it also contribute to the decision says Dainard.
"Really when you think about it, regardless of whether you're at a smaller kennel club or something as large and prestigious as this, really you should be having a similar approach to your judging whether you have three of four dogs coming in or 34 dogs up, you really want to make sure that you're getting the right dog and you want to make sure you're not missing something," said Dainard.
Dainard has been asked to be a judge for the various Spaniel breeds. He's looking forward to the opportunity.
"Certainly I was thrilled and very honoured and extremely humbled to be able to be considered to judge a kennel club that's with this level of prestige," said Dainard.
What makes a show dog
The judge says the great thing about dogs is that they all can be trained, but what sets show dogs apart from a dog that isn't purebred is the years of thought-out breeding that breeders go through.
"Breeders that spend years and sometimes generations of families dedicate themselves to producing an overall dog that is of a quality that is also free of hereditary birth defects as best you can," said Dainard.
He says when you're looking for a purebred dog, you like to be able to build a relationship with someone who has been around for a while, understands not only the breed, but any birth defects that could potentially affect the dog as well.
The Westminster show is the second-oldest continuous sporting event in the United States, after the Kentucky Derby.
Dainard says dog competitions got their origins from evaluation of breeding stock whether going to a chicken show or a cattle show, the foundation and the principal is common across all livestock.
Dog competitions have evolved into a sport and family hobby.
According to Dainard, Canadian dogs have done extremely well in the past.
"Canadian dogs are very well represented and are an excellent quality comparatively speaking," said Dainard.