The Margin: ‘The golden retriever was robbed!’ Many dog lovers disappointed that a poodle won Westminster — again

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Golden retriever “Daniel” at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on February 11, 2020.

A golden retriever failed to fetch Best In Show at Westminster again.

Many Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show watchers were on the edge of their seats Tuesday night when Daniel, a 5-year-old golden from Ligonier, Pa., won the sporting group. It was the first time since 2006 that a golden retriever was advancing to the final round for that coveted blue ribbon to be named top dog.

While golden retrievers are consistently among the top three most beloved dog breeds in America (Labrador retrievers have been No. 1, followed by German shepherds for the past several years), the friendly canines with the golden coats have never won Westminster’s top prize in the 144 years since the dog show debuted in 1877.

And the crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City — not to mention the armchair critics on Twitter TWTR, +2.10%  — thought Daniel was about to make Westminster history. “Golden retriever for best in show or we f—-ing riot,” posted one viewer before the night’s main event. Another person tweeting from the MSG audience said the arena was “losing its mind” over Daniel.

But Daniel was up against some stiff canine competition for the night’s biggest award. The magnificent seven that made it to the final round also included Conrad, a charismatic Shetland sheepdog; Bono, a Havanese with a flowing coat — and Siba, the stand-out standard poodle who had made headlines the day before for chowing down on a McDonald’s MCD, -0.10%  chicken sandwich before going on to win its breed.

Read more: After eating McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwiches, this poodle qualified for Best in Show at the Westminster dog show

Still, while the judge was making his final Best In Show decision, the crowd at Madison Square Garden could be heard chanting, “Daniel! Daniel!” And there were some scattered boos when the poodle pawed the night’s big prize. Many viewers at home barked their displeasure on Twitter under the hashtag #DanielWasRobbed as“Daniel” and “golden retriever” also started trending.

Others got political, drawing parallels between their Best In Show disappointment and the presidential race, including Tuesday night’s New Hampshire primary.

Dog lovers were also frustrated last year when Burns, a longhaired dachshund, lost the purebred pageant’s top prize. The 2019 blue ribbon was pinned on King, a wire fox terrier. That breed has taken the dog show circuit’s most coveted crown 15 times. Poodles have won Westminster 10 times, while standard poodles like Siba have won five times.

Read more: People are doggone mad that this dachshund didn’t win Westminster

So why don’t popular breeds like golden retrievers and dachshunds win as much as seemingly “fancier” pooches like poodles and wire fox terriers? In fact, the New York Times notes that no Labrador retriever, golden retriever or French bulldog has ever won the title, and the only times a German shepherd won were in 2017 and 1987.

Well, the Times also reported that when these breeds become so popular, that means that a lot more of them are bred. And larger breed gene pools make it harder to set a brand standard that dog show judges can follow to pick the perfect specimen. What’s more, many best in show judges aren’t as familiar with the breeding of some of these more crowd-pleasing dogs, like retrievers, dachshunds and bulldogs, as they are with terriers, which can affect the outcome.

Regardless of the outcome, the seven pedigreed finalists — and all 2,500 dogs from more than 200 different breeds that competed this year — did a very good job. And it’s not like anyone missed out on prize money. Although owners competing in the dog show circuit can drop more than $250,000 a year on entry fees, travel, grooming and more, Westminster doesn’t offer prize money. The real pay off comes in breeding your prizewinner, since pedigree puppies can cost $100,000 a piece.

And, of course, the bragging rights are priceless.

Read more: Siba the standard poodle wins Westminster’s best in show

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