Could Your Lab Make the Show? How Would Your Labrador Retriever Do at Westminster?

Could Your Lab Make the Show?

Americans love their Labradors, but the judges at Westminster apparently aren't as sold. This lovable breed has never taken "Best in Show!" Find out what it would take for your Lab to be the one to make dog show history.

Though the loveable Labrador Retrievers are consistently among the most popular breeds in the United States--claiming the top spot for the last 21 years--these members of the “sporting” dog category have never claimed a Best in Show, the most coveted award at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The breed has never won top spot in the Best of Group competition among sporting dogs, either. Yet that’s not to say your own Lab couldn’t be the one to change history for the breed! And there’s always the Westminster’s Best of Breed competition for your pooch to duke it out with fellow Labs.

So just what are the criteria Labrador Retrievers are judged by in dog competitions? According to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, each contender is held up to a standard established by the breed’s parent club--in this case, the Labrador Retriever Club.

Main Features

Labs are bred to “hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions.” According to the Labrador Retriever Club breed standards, to be a show dog, your pal should show these strengths as well as possess the “character and quality to win in the show ring” and a family-friendly disposition. 

See how your dog would do!


Your pal’s body should be medium-sized, athletic, and strong. A height of 22-1/2 to 24-1/2 inches for males and 21-1/2 to 23-1/2 for females is ideal as is a weight of 65 to 80 pounds for males and 55 to 70 for females.


Your animal’s fur should be short, compact, and have a solid black, yellow, or chocolate coloring. A small white spot on the chest is allowed, but not favorable in the show.


The shape should be wide, with a clearly defined bone structure (read: no chubby cheeks) and powerful jaws. The nose should be wide with visible nostrils--black on black and yellow Retrievers and brown on chocolates. Your pet’s lower layer of teeth should rest just behind the upper set. Your dog’s ears should sit close to the head and far back on the face.

The eyes should be kind, friendly, intelligent, and alert (could you imagine a Lab’s eyes being otherwise?), medium in size, set apart and neither bulging or sunken. In black and yellow Labs, they will be brown, and brown or hazel in chocolate Labs.


In a nutshell, your pet’s body and legs should be strong and fit, allowing your animal to move with ease. The neck should be muscular, without too much heft. Similarly, your canine’s back should be powerful and athletic. Viewed in profile, your best pal’s chest should be prominent but not overly exaggerated.


Described as an “otter tail,” the Labrador Retriever Club cites the tail as a “distinguishing feature of the breed.” Near your pet’s rear, it should be thick, and it should thin out toward the end.


Is your loved one true to the breed? The answer is yes if your buddy is kind, outgoing, a people pleaser, gentle, peaceful, intelligent, easy-going, and easy to train.

Reasons for Disqualification

If your pooch doesn’t meet the size specifications, has a pink nose, a docked or altered tail, or a coat color other than black, yellow, or chocolate. Unfortunately, they will not meet the show standards.

How did your doggie fare? Are they a show-stopper? Either way, give that pooch a treat and some love!

Has a Labrador Retriever ever won the Westminster Dog Show?

Unfortunately, a Labrador Retriever has never won the Westminster Dog Show. Some have gotten close in the history of the show but gone home empty-pawed despite their huge fan bases. The interesting part is that the top three of the most popular dog breeds in the country have never won the show. These include the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, and French Bulldog. Other breeds that are still waiting to win the big prize include giant and Miniature Schnauzers, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Great Danes, Rottweilers, and Dachshunds. The show disqualifies dogs that do not match the size specifications and have features like a docked or altered tail, a pink nose, and a coat color other than black, chocolate, or yellow. 

Why don't Labradors win Best in Show?

Labradors have probably never won the title of Best in Show at Westminster because they are unflashy and do not vie for the spotlight.  Additionally, the high standard set by the Labrador Retriever Club in 1994 is a possible reason. Dogs at the Westminster competition are compared against their breed standards rather than against one another. They may be disqualified for several minor traits like having a pink nose, having a curly tail, or deviating half a pound or inch from the recommended weight/height range. Casey Swango, former veterinary technician at Banfield Pet Hospital, notes that certain dog breeds have noses going from black to brown or pink over the years. This happens due to the breakdown of tyrosinase, an enzyme that produces pigment, with aging. 

Has any dog won Westminster twice?

In the history of the Westminster competition, the Best in Show title has been bagged twice only by seven dogs. Warren Remedy, a Smooth Fox Terrier, won it thrice in 1907, 1908, and 1909. Matford Vic, a Fox Terrier (Wire), won for two consecutive years in 1914 and 1915. In 1930 and 1931, Pendley Calling of Blarney, a Fox Terrier (Wire), repeated the feat to win the title twice. The Westminster Dog Show is among the most prestigious dog shows, known for acclaiming the best and brightest. It showcases the grace, beauty, and skill of dogs. The winners are only the cream of the crop, chosen from a group that meets the rigorous eligibility requirements set by the show. Besides good looks, the winner needs to match the highest standards of temperament and agility. 

What rank is a Labrador Retriever’s smartness?

When it comes to the most intelligent dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever ranks number seven. Stanley Coren, a canine researcher and PhD student from the University of British Columbia, notes that intelligence in dogs is assessed according to four criteria. These include the ability to learn, remember things, obey commands, and solve problems. Based on these factors, Coren listed the top intelligent breeds in his book The Intelligence of Dogs. The list has breeds like Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd on top. Coren acclaims the Labrador Retriever for its keen sense of smell and self-training abilities. It also has patience and an affectionate disposition, making it ideal for families with kids. The breed is also regarded as one of the most trainable dogs. 

What are the top 3 dog shows?

Dog lovers looking to take their canine companions to the best dog shows in the country must consider the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the National Dog Show, and the AKC National Championship. All three shows categorize the participants across seven recognized groups. They judge the dogs closely according to the conformation standards of the specific breeds. These shows allow only purebred, non-neutered dogs or non-spayed dogs to compete. Breed standards include the appearance, movement, and temperament of the dog. These attributes contribute to the canine’s ability to perform according to breed-specific expectations. When dogs closely conform to the standard, it is an indication of the ability to produce quality puppies.

Do Westminster dogs win money?

Winners at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show do not get cash prizes. However, obedience and agility winners direct a $5,000 Westminster donation to the American Kennel Club Humane Fund or a training club. Of course, winners do get trophies and bragging rights because the show is among the most prestigious ones in the country. J.T. Walker, a former veterinary technician who studied veterinary technology at San Antonio College, notes that dogs winning such top shows win prestige for their owners and breeders. Participation is worthwhile, even if it requires you to invest time, money, and training effort. 

More on Labradors and Show Dogs

How to Train a Labrador to Hunt
Could Your German Shepherd Be a Show Dog?
Could Your Dachshund Make the Show?

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