Updated Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 02:31 AM
Banana Joe has this little quirk. The affenpinscher with the monkeylike face shakes his oversized head so hard, he sometimes loses his balance.
That's OK. At this level of competition at the Westminster dog show, having a big head helps.
"He has a huge impression of himself," handler Ernesto Lara said.
Ditto for Jewel, the American foxhound that likes vanilla milkshakes. While her entourage fussed over her early win Monday night, she looked around Madison Square Garden for more action.
"Right now, in her mind, she's thinking this is exactly how it should've happened," said John Miller, son of co-owner Lisa Miller. "She knows she's awesome."
A little ego can go a long way at America's top pooch pageant, especially heading into the best in show pick Tuesday night.
Banana Joe won best of breed for the third straight year, then took the toy group. Jewel was the top hound and Honor the bichon frise won the nonsporting group - Ellen Charles co-owns both dogs.
"My lucky night," she said.
An old English sheepdog earned herding honors. It was quite a surprise by Westminster standards - 90-pound Swagger is just 20 months old and had only entered three previous dog shows.
"Such a cool dog," breeder-owner-handler Colton Johnson said.
The top working, sporting and terriers come Tuesday, and judge Michael Dougherty was set to choose the best in show shortly before 11 p.m. on the USA Network. A Doberman playfully called Fifi and a big-winning wire fox terrier called Sky were among the favorites to walk off with the prized silver bowl.
There were 2,721 entries this year, though some missed out after getting stranded by the recent blizzard that hit the Northeast. The 137th Westminster features dogs in 187 breeds and varieties with a pair of newcomers, the treeing Walker coonhound and the Russell terrier.
Sophie left without any ribbons. But with perfectly trimmed pompoms and fluffed out fur, she was the very essence of poodle pulchritude.
Scissors, blow dryers, bobby pins - they're as much a part of the Westminster dog show as commands, crates and treats.
What Westminster won't tolerate, though, are PEDs - performance-enhanced dogs.
That means no tattooing a boxer's nose to make it more black, no braces for a pointer to straighten its teeth, no removing a basset hound's inner eyelid to improve its appearance.
"It goes against the spirit of showing dogs in their appropriate state," Westminster President Sean McCarthy said.
Cosmetic surgery isn't permitted, either, along with steroids. Yet detecting illegal drugs is virtually impossible while a dog has its few minutes in the ring.
"Our judges are not all veterinarians," longtime Westminster television host and breeder David Frei said. "They can't tell if a dog is on greenies."
Some things are OK. Corn starch is often used to get water off a coat, and that helped on a rainy Monday as dogs piled into the halls on the Hudson piers for early judging.
Crufts, the largest dog show in the world, expects to draw 25,000 dogs next month in Birmingham, England. In a year or so, that event might change regulations that have been in place for nearly a century.
"The Kennel Club set up a working party to look at the rules surrounding the use of hairspray, chalk and other products at dog shows, and whilst this review goes on the strict prohibition of these substances remains in place, including for Crufts 2013," club secretary Caroline Kisko said.
"The Kennel Club regulations state that the use of products that could `alter the natural color, texture or body of the coat' may not be used," she said.
Associated Press writer Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.
MARY ALTAFFER / AP
Linda Scott, of Odessa, Texas, grooms Pink, a 2-year-old bulldog during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club dog show, Monday in New York.