A fan greets Avi backstage at the Westminster Dog Show in New York. A fan greets Avi backstage at the Westminster Dog Show in New York. A fan greets Avi backstage at the Westminster Dog Show in New York. (Photo: Courtesy David Golden)

Reigning champ repeats as Canaan best-of-breed at Westminster

Avi earns third consecutive title by beating the only other entries – Lil Roy and Vino.

Avi, America's best Canaan dog, spent last night strutting around Madison Square Garden as millions at home watched him on TV. Twelve hours later, like celebrities returning from a night of partying after the Academy Awards, the 5-year-old dog is napping.

"He's been sleeping in the car," his owner, David Golden, told us when we reached him by phone on Tuesday. They left New York City early this morning and were just about to pull into the driveway of their home in rural Virginia. "He's been busy. He'll relax and he's going to take a few weeks off."

Avi deserves a little R&R after the weekend he's had. On Sunday, he topped the up-and-comer Lil Roy to hold onto the title of best-in-breed for the third year in a row. The two dogs – and their owners – have a bit of a friendly rivalry. The Canaan dog is so rare that they are the only two owners who competed with that breed at Westminster. They even helped each other get ready backstage. "It's so much better than doing this on your own," Golden said. Golden had his hands full; his other Canaan dog, Vino, was making his Westminster debut. Watch all three compete for best-in-breed in the video below:

On Monday night, Avi went on to compete against 30 other dogs in the herding group in front of a live audience. There were also multiple meet-the-breed events where thousands of fans could line up to meet Avi and take a selfie with him.

"Westminster is one of the very few dog shows left in this country where the dogs have to be out where the public can see and interact with them," Golden explained. "It gives us a chance to educate folks about the history and the characteristics of the Canaan dog. And that's what I liked the best. It was my favorite part of the whole weekend."

Avi, who has won three consecutive times at Westminster, at a meet-the-breed event this weekend. Avi, who has won three consecutive times at Westminster, at a meet-the-breed event this weekend. (Photo: Courtesy David Golden)

The Canaan dog is one of the oldest breeds in the world, dating back thousands of years. The breed originates from Israel, where evidence of the first-ever domesticated dogs was discovered. The dogs are known for noticing everything around them and constantly being on high alert. Which can make bringing them to Madison Square Garden – where they must wade through a sea of hounds and handlers – an uphill challenge. "As you can probably guess, it's the most difficult environment to deal with," Golden said.

And yet, Golden wasn't too nervous. "Being realistic, the likelihood of a Canaan dog even getting a group placement at Westminster is minuscule. Only one Canaan dog in history has ever gotten any placement at all. And that was Avi's uncle, a dog by the name of Magnum, who got a group placement several years ago – a fourth place in the herding group. So when your concern is just that your dog performs well, it takes a little bit of the edge off. I was pretty confident he would do well and he did. He's an old pro at this point."

Avi may have competition in the coming years. His sister Anni is expecting to give birth to a litter of Canaan puppies any day now. Meanwhile, the best in show will be announced tonight. Avi will be on the couch watching from home.

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Reigning champ repeats as Canaan best-of-breed at Westminster
Avi earns third consecutive title by beating the only other entries – Lil Roy and Vino - at the Westminster Dog Show.