Fri, 05/24/2024 - 7:42pm

World Dog Show 2024

Vince Hogan reports from Zagreb in Croatia

An American-based handler guided a stunning Afghan Hound to Best in Show at the latest World Dog Show in Zagreb, Croatia. Willy Santiago, originally from Cuba, is based in Miami, Florida, and is well known already to many in the U.S. fancy, having taken the breed at Westminster in 2023 and the Hound Group at the AKC National Championship later that year.

Watched by an enthusiastic crowd on Sunday night in Hall 5 at the showground, and by thousands worldwide online with P1 Dog Shows and OUR DOGS livestreams, Zaida the popular Afghan Hound bitch flowed around the ring like liquid honey piloted by Willy.
In fact, it was a stunning show in general for Willy, and Zaida’s renowned breeder-owner, the one and only Ramon Podesta from Chile, South America. The Afghan— formally, GChG Zaida Bint Muti Von Haussman — was clearly a crowd favorite, although many people said it was such a strong line-up, anyone could win.

“As I sit now back at home and ponder the amazing week I spent in Croatia, I have been reliving every minute of it and the feeling in my heart is so hard to describe,” said Willy a few days after the show. “I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing show. To feel the support of so many people clapping and supporting our team, from friends to total strangers, cheering us, rooting for us — what an incredible feeling! So happy to see so many friends and have the opportunity to make so many new ones! I want to thank all the organizers of the show, as there was not a single detail left out — what a spectacular show it was. I will have so many memories of the people, the beautiful dogs, the country that I will always cherish in my heart.

“A big thanks to our Von Haussman team cheering us all the way from Chile and the U.S.!

“And to Zaida, it’s such an honor to be at the end of your lead. Thank you, Ramón and Juan, for letting me lead the way with this amazing girl! We are more than friends — we are family for life.

“Thank you, Zaida, for always giving me 100 percent. You will always be my Queen.”


Afghan team (above) after winning the Spring show (below).


Zaida had already taken Best in Show at the Spring Show on the Wednesday before the WDS under FCI President Tamas Jakkel and then Sunday, the supreme win under Croatian all-rounder and Best in Show judge Niksa Lemo.
For Niksa, it was the ultimate honor, having been asked a few weeks earlier by Croatian Kennel Club President Branko Sare. Looking very dapper, like a Croatian James Bond in bowtie and tuxedo, Niksa went over a top-class line-up, also placing “Blondie” the Old English Sheepdog from Greece in second spot and the Thai-owned brindle Scottie in third, handled by top American handler Rebecca Cross, no stranger to the winners podium. Earlier Matthew Fan of China had taken Best Junior in Show with his Chow Chow.


Chilean Pride


Chilean Kennel Club president Macarena Pantaleón was rightly proud of the win.

“Huge congratulations to Ramon Podesta as breeder and owner of Zaida Bint Multi Von Haussman, who won the Best in Show today at the World Dog Show in Zagreb 2024 and also the BIS at the International Spring Show held at that time,” he said. “Zaida defeated nearly 20,000 dogs between both shows.

“I feel such pride as the president of the Chilean Kennel Club, that not only a dog born in our country won, but also one that has more than 15 generations behind her from the same kennel, was the winner; and I was lucky enough to be able to experience this moment in person and felt the goosebumps during Best in Show.

“I want to also congratulate Zaida’s co-owners Scott Pfiel, James Donahue and Armando Sobrado, her handler Willy Santiago, and everyone involved with the Von Haussman team.”

Rafael Malo Alcrudo of Spain, who judged Best in Show at the World Dog Show in Madrid a year or so back, remembers judging this accomplished Afghan on the other side of the Atlantic.

“I was lucky enough to judge her in Tampa, Florida, 10 months ago, watch her float and look at me without being ashamed to see me,” he said. “One of the best Afghans I've ever seen, with all the class, type, dignity and mystery of that fascinating breed. A true monument.”
Truly a super international line-up much appreciated by the enthusiastic crowd, judges and VIPs, who showed vociferous appreciation for all the final 10 dogs.




The show had been originally planned to take place in Kyiv, but world events overtook things, and so Croatia stepped in. The Ukrainian Kennel Union was present at the show with a stand and had a special book for people to sign. Clearly the whole situation had taken its toll on the UKU President Georgi Onishchenko.

The Croatian Kennel Club and all its supporters and helpers had clearly taken the task to heart, and it was great to see some of their top judges (including Davor Javor, Boris Spoljaric, Igor Selimovic and Tino Pehar) helping in the main ring collection areas, picking judges up from the airport, and meeting and greeting at the show hotel, which was around 15 minutes away by bus. You could tell it was a matter of pride for this smaller country — in canine terms — to be seen doing the best job possible.

The first day of the event was the Spring Show on Wednesday; often these national shows are added on to give exhibitors more opportunities to make the week a full trip and have plenty to see and do. It’s also a test run for the organizers to get things slotted into place.



Junior Handling


The international Junior Handling, or Junior Showmanship as it is known in the U.S., is always a feature at the WDS. The winner here was from Iceland and also received an electric scooter!

“First and foremost, to all the juniors who entered the competition: We had more than 80 young people from all over the world competing every day, 31 country representatives and so much talent, passion and love for the dogs has been displayed by all of you during the four days!” said Ante Lucin, well-known Croatian exhibitor and now judge, and president of the Junior Handling Committee of the Croatian Kennel Club. “Then to Ivan Kovacic, member of our board, who worked so hard, not only during the five days, but also in the weeks prior to the event — we would not manage without you! To Branko, Bojan, Tajana and Mara for all the help and support from the start till the end!

“To our judges — each one of you has displayed the perfect picture of professionalism, style and respect for these young people, their parents, dogs and the competition itself. To the Vulkal company, which donated the wonderful electric scooter for the winner of the finals, and to all other sponsors for the wonderful trophies and gifts, thank you all for supporting the future of our sport, and congratulations to all the wonderful winners!”



The finals were judged by top Croatian handler Juraj Sokolić, who has had many successes showing for German owner-breeder Wilhelm Schoenberg. The overall winner was Hronn Velgeirsdottir (Iceland) with Gerda Vunsh (Estonia) in the second spot, and third, Iside Nelli (Italy).



So why do people pay so much to travel and take time away for a major show like this?

Social media is a good place to gauge reaction to shows of this nature, but you always see two sides to the story. One judge had shared her disappointment at the standard of officiating by some judges while others responded to the contrary, and that caused quite a seismic reaction online.

FCI President Tamas Jakkel, however, posted: “WHAT IS THE REASON TO GO FOR THE BIG SHOWS? Winning vs. Experiencing? The importance of the external EVALUATION of our work by EXPERTS and fellow BREEDERS! 15,000 dogs participated in the superbly organized FCI World Dog Show in Zagreb. 280 Best of Breeds and about 1,500 different World Winner titles have been awarded. It makes about 13,500 dogs’ owners travelling home without the title ...

“The real REASON to participate in these shows (in my belief as a breeder and exhibitor for over 40 years) is to SHOW to the others what I could produce, and SEE what the other breeders produced compare to myself and what plans can be done in the breed for myself or even TOGETHER, asking and giving advice to each other while celebrating those who could win (instead of hating others' success)!”

One Italian exhibitor commented, “We came back home from the WDS without any title this time, but in my heart, I was satisfied. It was a fair competition with a lot of high-quality dogs. We looked at almost all the classes with interest: different dogs caught our attention, and we would have easily taken them back home with us. Later, after the show, we had the chance to talk with some other breeders, sharing opinions and ideas related to our passion. Some of those breeders showed us their dogs, let us touch them, sharing personal thoughts and plans for the future. At the end, isn’t this the purpose to enter at such big shows? Isn’t it important to meet other international breeders and to share ideas to improve our work? We have no ribbon in our pockets this time, but thanks, dear breeders, for making this WDS a great day.”

“I think the whole show went very well,” another exhibitor added. “Croatia is a small country, and their kennel club is not so big compared to larger dog countries; they had much less time than usual to organize everything. They also have many knowledgeable judges, well known in the world, and some skillful breeders.”


More Exhibitors' Views


Many exhibitors came from the U.S., all parts of Europe, the U.K. and Ireland. It was hard to actually get any statistics for the number of U.S. entries, but there certainly did seem to be plenty of American visitors around the spread-out showground, including Desi Murphy and Linda Clark.
Comments were varied post show, but the following short comments sum up the feeling of most exhibitors.
“So many countries, so many miles, and what a time we had! Did we win big? No, but to participate in such a wonderful show and to have your fellow exhibitors help you.”

“Brilliant! We’ve only been showing for 12 months and only owned Maltese for 15 months so to come away from WDS with 4th place Junior was a dream come true.”

 “A very long journey there and back, but a great time and a good show for the dogs, lovely rosettes and gifts, my only issue was finding Hall 5!”

In fact, that was always going to be an issue at this show ground, which is quite old and spread out and probably could have done with more signage to help people find their way around … often the case at world and European dog shows. Organizers, please take note.



The author with Mongol Bankhars, the dog of the Mongolian nomads.


The shopping area / trade stands were all confined to Hall 10 with some kennel clubs hidden away in Hall 5; the first two days were rainy, which meant some people stayed in their respective halls, showed and left. The stand of the Mongolian Kennel Club attracted many visitors for information on their national breed and also to see and hear the Mongolian musicians on Saturday.  In fact, a male Mongol Bankhar won Best in Group (FCI non-recognized) and the breed is seeking FCI recognition.

Some costs seemed expensive. Parking in the normal lot was only around $10, but seemed a bit of a free for all. However, to park inside the show area (much closer) was $60 per day … handy but expensive! Also to have a diploma for your World Winner, you paid $50, and that was actually for a PDF emailed to your computer for you to print out!

By the weekend, the sun came out, people circulated and enjoyed the Croatian hospitality and food concessions, and by and large people eventually found their way around the showground. Saturday evening saw a gala dinner at the venue, but with early starts for many judges on Sunday, the night did not go on too long.


 Local catering on site!


Just before BIS we had a parade of Croatian breeds, accompanied by a national choir resplendent in national costumes, then a flag hand-over to Finland for the 2025 World Show … sure to be a major success.

The small team of organizers and their many volunteers can look back on a job well done, especially bearing in mind the circumstances of having a much-shortened lead time because of the war in Ukraine.  


Love Italy? Make your plans for WDS 2026 in Bologna!



2024 World Dog Show Winners


BIS 1 and Group 10

Afghan Hound Zaida Bint Muti Von Haussman, owned by Ramón Podestá (Chile) and handled by Willy Santiago. Group Judge Carla Molinari (Portugal).


BIS 2 and Group 1

Old English Sheepdog Airzeppeline Delia, co-owned by Matteo Autolitano (handler), Louisa Mayssoyianni and Nikolas Kanales. Group Judge Davor Javor (Croatia). 


BIS 3 and Group 3

Scottish Terrier Kriscots He’s A Rebel At De La Pomme, owned by owned by Jaruthavee, Huber, Krisko and Cross, handled by Rebecca Cross. Group Judge Adrian Landarte (Uruguay). 


Group 2

Newfoundland Reggae Man De La Baie De Pempoul, owned by Patrice Le Rest. Group Judge Michael Forte (Ireland).


Group 4

Dachshund Standard Long-Haired Yason Della Canterana, owned by Enrico Candela. Group Judge Claudio De Giuliani (Italy). 


Group 5

Pomeranian Tauro Pranciškus, owned by Janita Januskauskaite Plunge. Group Judge Ann Ingram (Ireland). 


Group 6

Basset Hound Miracle Mary Van Grunsven, owned by Francesca Ghezzi. Group judge Malgorzata Wieremiejczyk-Wierzchowska (Poland). 


Group 7

German Shorthaired Pointer Malomkozi Quelle owned by Istvan Nagy. Group judge Velimir Sruk (Croatia).


Group 8

American Cocker Spaniel Very Vigie Oh My Gosh, owned by Maarit Jäntti. Group judge Barbara Muller (Switzerland). 


Group 9

Standard Poodle Smart Connection Darkness, owned by Deivy Lozano. Group judge Vija Klucniece (Latvia). 


Best in Show Junior

Chow Chow Easter Magic I Need Some Sleep, owned by Matthew Fan. BIS Junior judge Jasna Matejcic (Croatia).




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