For the first time mixed-breed dogs, or mutts, will be allowed to participate in a portion of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Feb. 8.
Dubbed “All-American dogs,” the non-purebred canines will compete in the Masters Agility Championship, which is new to the show this year. It will feature tasks like weaving around poles and jumping through hoops.
However, mixed-breed dogs won’t vie for the Best in Show award. That prestigious award will be reserved for a dog of one of 187 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds.
Allowing mutts to compete in the agility portion of the show may have come as a response to animal activists who have long criticized Westminster for encouraging the breeding of purebred dogs while 60 percent of shelter dogs are euthanized.
Critics say the dog show is an exercise in canine genetic engineering, but dog breeders say they’re preserving dog breeds and helping people adopt compatible pets.
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The Westminster Kennel Club dog show will add three new breeds to this year’s show: the Chinook, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno and the rat terrier.