8 things we learned on Day One of Westminster

The rumor that cameramen and other "little people" are not allowed to look Martha Stewart in the eye is still going around. We don't think it's true; she seemed perfectly personable to us, although we were 10 feet away from her as she was being interviewed, and thus out of earshot. But wherever we're supposed to look, we congratulate her Chow Chow, Ghenghis Khan (the grandson of her previous Chow, Paw Paw) for his Best In Breed win today.

WKC.org: See how Ghenghis does in Group competition Monday night at 8 ET on USA Network

One Old English Sheepdog handler is using Aqua Net's maximum-hold hairspray to keep her dog's mane fluffy. We're from New Jersey in the '80s; we'd know that smell anywhere. (Our understanding is that, although using "product" on your dog is not legal, the practice is widespread and usually ignored.) 

The best way to get a dog through the backstage crowd? Over your head. We saw a Bichon Frise, a Bearded Collie, and even a Dalmatian traveling this way; it simply wasn't possible for them to walk in the throng without getting stepped on.

The Chinese Crested is a lot cuter in person.

The handler who has a "tramp stamp" tattoo on the small of her back is the last one you'd have predicted. In other news, while we've got nothing against body art, the WKC show is televised; handlers may want to take outfits for a test-drive at home to make sure they don't show any skin on TV (or throw on a long tank under that suit jacket, just in case).

Sequins are for daytime.

Where's the pit bull? We had one conversation, and overheard two others, about why the pit bull isn't represented at Westminster. Well, it's not because the breed is dangerous; it's because "the breed" is actually not a breed – it's a type. The pit-bull type dog is one of three breeds, generally, all of which descend from 19th-century cross-breeding between bulldogs and terriers; the idea was to combine the strength of the former with the "gameness" and determination of the latter.

The resulting breeds that can be seen at Westminster are the American Staffordshire Terrier, sometimes known as the "Am Staff," and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, its slightly smaller British cousin. (The "Staffie" is so good with kids that it's called "the nanny dog" in the UK.)

The dog that we Americans tend to think of as the pit bull is called the American Pit Bull Terrier. "Pitty" owners used to get around the difference by registering their dogs as Am Staffs at shows, but this is no longer allowed, and the American Kennel Club does not currently recognize the APBT; nor does it appear on Westminster's list of breeds.

So the answer is, he's there…and yet, he's not.

Maybe, one day, we'll get all the Beagle look-alikes straight – but today is not that day. Don't get us wrong, it's a handsome group of dogs and we're glad Westminster welcomed the American English Coonhound this year. And we've got the beagles themselves sorted out – the 13-inch beagle is the little one, and the 15-inch beagle is…the other one, duh. But then there's the Harrier; the English Foxhound, which is a bigger Harrier; the American Foxhound, which is a faster English Foxhound; and the American English Coonhound, which is a taller American Foxhound

To breeders and owners, these animals probably look about as similar to each other as they do to rabbits or rhododendrons. (If any of you would like to give us neophytes a clinic, please send an email! We will publish a clip 'n' save and name it after you!) We don't mean to imply that they all form a variably-sized blur of saddle-coated cuteness. But someone should write an app to help us tell them apart, is all we're saying.

Elsewhere on Shine Pets:
MNN: Meet the German Shepherd
CNBC: Westminster's most successful dog breeds
Oddsmaker Johnny Avello's complete list of breeds and their chances at the 2012 show