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Westminster Dog Show Opens With Agility Contest, 'Meet The Breeds' Event In NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As it does every year around this time, New York City has officially gone to the dogs as hundreds of four-legged friends arrive for the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

It was a dog lovers dream Saturday at Piers 92 and 94 in Manhattan as the annual master's agility championship got underway.

The agility contest, which starts the club's storied annual dog show, featured 330 accomplished dogs as big as 98-pound Zurri and as small as a Chihuahua.

In agility, dogs navigate jumps, ramps, tunnels and other objects on a route packed with tricky turns. Handlers, who are often the animals' owners, guide them with voice and hand signals. Scoring is based on a dog's speed and accuracy.

A dog in the agility competition at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. (Credit: TV 10/55)

Border collies and Australian shepherds have been the agility power breeds so far at Westminster, winning every time since the sport was added to the annual show in 2014. Fifty border collies and 16 Aussies were entered Saturday.

Dog handler Pam Coblyn and her border collie Fenway came from Maryland.

"I love seeing him happy. I just turned 68 and it's keeping me young. We're the veteran team," Coblyn told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

A dog at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. (Credit: TV 10/55)

Traditionally bred to herd livestock, "they're used to turning on a dime" and can translate that skill to the agility course, Tom Gooding of Schenectady, New York, explained while waiting to compete with his Aussie, Lili Ann.

Some 27 contestants were in that mix this year, including Buster, a shih tzu/silky terrier blend that was brimming over with energy as a puppy.

Owner Jackie Soccodato tried agility as an outlet for him. Six years later, she feels the sport works for both of them.

"It gives me a goal. It gives him a goal," said Soccodato, of New Rochelle, New York. And it's "a great way to bond with your dog."

As the agility dogs showed their stuff in the rings, cats also had their day Saturday on the dog show's sidelines. A companion "Meet the Breeds" event, sponsored by the American Kennel Club and The International Cat Association, showcased both dogs and cats.

Visitors got to learn about different breeds, how to best care for them, and what may be the best fit for their family.

"My daughter is turning nine and is in love with a dog and wants us to get a dog," Rick Richert of Manhattan said.

From competition to camaraderie, these dogs definitely stole the show.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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