The answer might shock you.

By Meghan Overdeep
February 12, 2019
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In the dog show business, champions are both born and made.

Tonight, the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club dog show will crown a winner. But this historic competition isn’t just about one lucky pooch or the thousands of other dogs vying for the prize, it’s also about a unique breed of people.

Behind every perfectly coiffed, expertly trained canine is a group of dedicated humans… and a whole lot of money.

Forking over as much as $10,000 for a pure-bred puppy is just the start of these owners’ expenses. When you factor in that show dogs require professional handlers and extensive grooming as well as travel and promotion, CNBC reports that some owners can spend as much as $250,000 in the year leading up to Westminster.

"You might spend $100,000 a year just advertising your dog," Wendy Anderson of HareHill Hounds told CNBC, explaining that touting a dog's accomplishments in industry publications is thought to help influence judges down the road.

"Not everyone spends $100,000 to campaign their dog or get to Westminster," Anderson clarified. "I'm referring to the top-winning dogs of each group and the ones who are out with handlers and advertising. A lot of owner-handlers campaign their own dogs for a lot less and still go to Westminster."

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But most owners do hire professional handlers to show their dogs. The average handler charges hundreds of dollars per day, although GOBankingRates.com reports that some high-end handlers charge so much that they can make up to six figures annually.

For most show dog owners, competing in marquee competitions like Westminster is a labor of love. The money, they say, is secondary.

"I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember," Sharon Fremer, the owner of a Cardigan Welsh Corgi named Houston, told CNBC last year. "I used to steal people's cats and dogs and bring them home and hide them in my mother's laundry room as a child. I have a connection with all my animals. For me, it's teamwork. It's getting to bond with him. It's succeeding at something."

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