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Westminster dog show 2011: The contestants prepare

February 14, 2011 |  3:22 pm

A Maltese named 'Smartee' is seen backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

If you're a fan of dog shows, you might know the middle of February not for the holiday it contains, but for the famous show that takes place. We're speaking, of course, of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, which takes place at New York City's Madison Square Garden every year about this time.

This year, six breeds will be competing at Westminster for the very first time: the Boykin spaniel, bluetick coonhound and redbone coonhound, which became eligible for conformation competition at American Kennel Club-sponsored events in late 2009, and the Cane Corso, Icelandic sheepdog and Leonberger, which became AKC-eligible in 2010. The Boykin spaniel joins the Sporting group; both coonhound breeds join the Hound group; the Cane Corso and Leonberger join the Working group; and the Icelandic sheepdog joins the Herding group.

Because the Westminster show is split up into two days, only four of the seven groups (Hound, Toy, Non-sporting and Herding) will compete Monday night; the remaining three groups (Sporting, Working and Terrier) compete Tuesday night, with best in show competition to follow the conclusion of the Terrier group. If you're planning to watch at home, the show airs from 8 to 9 p.m. Monday on the USA Network (live if you're in the Eastern time zone, delayed here on the West Coast) and from 9 to 11 p.m. on CNBC; and on 8 to 11 p.m. Tuesday on USA.

Above, a Maltese named Smartee waits backstage for his chance in the ring. After the jump, more photos from the first day of Westminster 2010!

Two Australian Shepherds wait for judging during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Above, two Australian shepherds wait for judging.

Two pugs wait to enter the ring for Best of Breed competition.

Two pugs wait to enter the ring for Best of Breed competition.

A Chow Chow named 'Bingo' sits backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

A chow chow relaxes backstage.

A Bichon frise is carried in a grooming area backstage.

A Bichon frise is carried in a grooming area backstage.

Pharaoh hounds wait for judging during their breed competition.

Pharaoh hounds wait for judging during their breed competition.

An Old English Sheepdog is prepped for competition at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

An Old English sheepdog is groomed backstage.

A Havanese named Starlet is blow-dried before competition.

A Havanese named Starlet is blow-dried before competition.

A basenji named Abby gets a treat before entering the ring.

A basenji named Abby gets a treat before entering the ring.

A Chinese crested waits for judging during Best of Breed competition.

A Chinese crested waits for judging during Best of Breed competition.

A groomer puts the finishing touches on a Havanese backstage.

A groomer puts the finishing touches on a Havanese backstage.

A Basset hound wears a brightly colored wrap around its ears to keep them from getting dirty before competition starts.

A Basset hound wears a brightly colored wrap around its ears to keep them from getting dirty before competition starts. 

A Yorkshire terrier named Jack has his face groomed and cleaned backstage.

A Yorkshire terrier named Jack has his face groomed and cleaned backstage. 

Bess Cleveland and Sugar the Chinese Crested pose during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Sugar the Chinese crested poses with her handler Bess Cleveland backstage.

Travis the Chihuahua getting groomed backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Handler Hiram Stewart stands beside Travis the Chihuahua backstage.

arker the Standard Poodle backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Parker, a corded standard poodle, waits for his chance in the ring. Though most poodles are shown with brushed-out coats, they are sometimes shown with cords, which form naturally.

Leo the Afghan Hound backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

An Afghan hound named Leo wears a wrap to keep his ears from getting messy.

A Bichon frise waits to be groomed at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

A Bichon frise waits to be groomed.

Standard Poodle backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

A standard poodle waits for his chance in the ring. 

Mia the shih tzu is groomed backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Mia the shih tzu is groomed backstage.

Manny, an Afghan hound, waits backstage during the first day of the Westminster Dog Show

An Afghan hound named Manny relaxes backstage.

A Boston terrier at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Galileo, a Boston terrier, stands on a grooming table backstage.

Westminster20

An Old English sheepdog named DJ is shown in a partially groomed state.

A poodle named 'Eli' is seen before competition backstage at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

A poodle named Eli models an ... interesting hairstyle.

Rhodesian ridgeback backstage during the first day of the Westminster Dog Show

In case you thought we had forgotten Valentine's Day, we saved our favorite photo for last. Here, handler Diane Engelking gets a kiss from Ansel, a very affectionate Rhodesian ridgeback. Happy Valentine's Day -- now go hug your pets!

RELATED POSTS ABOUT WESTMINSTER:
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2010: Day 2 in photos
Sadie the Scottish terrier is Westminster 2010 winner

-- Lindsay Barnett

1st-6th photos: Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency
7th-11th photos: Spencer Platt / Getty Images
12th-20th photos: Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images
21st photo: Jeff Christensen / Associated Press
22nd-23rd photos: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters
24th photo: Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency
25th photo: Jeff Christensen / Associated Press

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