Dogs vie to be the best in Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association competition

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It's a dog's life — especially this weekend, as nearly 2,000 pooches are primped and paraded at the 75th Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association show.

The two days of competition in the Monroeville Convention Center featured dogs competing for the coveted title of Best in Show.

There were 1,019 dogs representing 143 breeds entered in Saturday's daylong competition, and 872 dogs from 138 breeds slated for a separate competition on Sunday.

While this year's show featured two newly recognized breeds — a Portuguese Podengo Pequenos and a Tree Walking Coon Hound — the competition was heavily represented by traditional breeds.

Roman Capalbo, 16, of Monroeville said he got interested in showing toy poodles two years ago because that was the breed his grandmother raised.

“I just love them because they are so smart and fun,” Capalbo said as he groomed Tina, his 2-year-old toy apricot poodle. “I also like to do hair, so this is a great breed when it comes to getting a chance to do a lot of primping before a competition.”

Poodles have their fur clipped in highly stylized fashions, but even working breeds get the full treatment when they compete.

Derek Beatty, 27, of Northview, Mich., methodically teased the long fur on the 2 12-year-old Old English Sheepdog he was preparing for competition.

“A sheepdog's hair is supposed to be higher in the rear than in the front, so we rat it all up to accentuate the hair in the back,” he said. “The grooming we do can help boost a dog's positives and minimize what might be seen as negatives.”

Debbie Martin of Plum said she began showing dogs in the 1970s and picked the Maltese because “they're small, great with kids and really cute.”

“I love a lot of breeds, including the large ones, but the Maltese really is my favorite,” she said.

Ron Hill, 72, of Morgantown, W.Va., said he never thought about entering dogs into competition until an obedience trainer noted that his daughter's Siberian Husky had the qualities of a show dog.

“When we researched her pedigree, we found out that she came from some show stock. So we learned about what it takes to show dogs and began entering competitions,” he said.

In addition to the contingent of owners, handlers, groomers and judges on hand for the show, the event attracted a number of people looking for entertainment.

“We've come out here the past two or three years just to see the dogs,” said Mike Traficante, 36, of North Huntington, who with wife Antonia, 31, brought their daughters, ages 5, 2 and 8 months, to the show.

While the family is too busy raising a family to consider getting involved in competition, Antonia Traficante said it might be something they will consider.

“I'm drawn to the big breeds,” she said, noting that the family has a Newfoundland. “I'd think I might like to try this someday. It looks like it could be fun.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or

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