NEW YORK — Wobbling the whole way, a people-pleasing Pekingese made quite a walk down the green carpet at Madison Square Garden.
A Dalmatian and a German shepherd were in more of a hurry to win at America's most prestigious dog show.
Malachy the Peke drew cheers that grew louder with every tiny step Monday night and repeated as the top toy at the Westminster Kennel Club event. Pink tongue peeking out from his black face, he beat a prize affenpinscher called Banana Joe in a most competitive group.
"He doesn't run. He has a dignified Pekingese gait," handler David Fitzpatrick said.
Malachy also has 114 best in show ribbons on his resume, and is aiming to add this title. His early work done here, he rested on a cool pack after competing.
A lively Dalmatian with black spectacle markings around his eyes took the nonsporting group. In well over 101 years, no Dalmatian has ever won Westminster's top honor.
"That's what they just told me," handler Michael Scott said.
Captain Crunch the German shepherd romped to victory in the herding group. Handled by old pro James Moses, his champion attracted ample applause, as German shepherds always do at the Garden.
"The crowd really had him up," Moses said. "He handles the carpet well."
A wire-haired dachshund called Cinders led the hounds, then wanted to sit rather than stand for her victory picture.
"She's a clown," handler Cheri Koppenhaver said.
More than 2,000 entries in 185 breeds and varieties were at the 136th Westminster. The best in show will be chosen Tuesday evening.
Still to come: a wire fox terrier who won the National show and a standard poodle who took the Eukanuba event. There's also a black cocker spaniel who was the No. 1 show dog last year – he's named Beckham, maybe a good omen since a 12-story ad featuring soccer star David Beckham posing in his underwear is painted on a building that overlooks the Garden.
Beckham the dog, by the way, beat out Malachy as the country's top-winning show dog in 2011.
Oh, and a Valentine's Day treat on tap, too: A couple from Washington state with a Tibetan mastiff plans to hold their wedding among all the pooches.
Breed winners included a chow chow co-owned by Martha Stewart and a xoloitzcuintli called Giorgio Armani, a nice start for the alphabetically challenged contestant during Fashion Week in New York City.
A Brussels griffon named Tina Fey, a barking petits bassets griffons vendeen and a sprightly Chihuahua were among the fan favorites. Also getting noticed was a Manchester toy terrier, a breed that can live to be 20 years old.
Banana Joe was among the top contenders to be standing in the coveted silver bowl at the end. Nearly 5, he was a big winner in Europe before coming to the United States.
Affens and Brussels griffons are related way back. They're similar in size and stature, but Banana Joe's handler, Ernesto Lara, drew a distinction.
"Griffons are wonderful dogs," he said. "Affenpinschers are wonderful people."
Celebrities are fairly common at Westminster – Glenn Close, Kristin Davis and Mary Tyler Moore have made appearances – and Stewart made her presence known with her dog called GK.
"Ghenghis Khan did it!" she tweeted. "Best of Breed at Westminster!!!! Big deal."
The xoloitzcuintli (shoh-loh-eets-KWEEN'-tlee), formerly known as the Mexican hairless, is among six new breeds at this year's show. They're called a "show low" (SHOH'-loh) for short and Giorgio Armani drew cheers from the fans crowded around the ring when he was picked as the best of his breed.
"They're wonderful, they're an ancient breed, it's like a best-kept secret," Lara said.
In a few years, there could be up to 240 breeds at Westminster. But there won't be a puggle, labradoodle or Maltipoo among them. A "designer dog" is more than OK for the White House – President Barack Obama and his family considered a labradoodle before getting a Portuguese water dog – but they're absent at the Garden.
To get to Westminster, a breed must meet American Kennel Club criteria – there has to be an ample population with a three-generation pedigree, a geographic spread of those dogs and a parent club to establish breed standards.
"All dogs are lovable," said the AKC's Lisa Peterson. "But a crossbreed is not a breed."