By Isabel Jones
Nov 22, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

When it comes to the ultra-competitive world of dog shows, National Dog Show judge Pamela Peat has had a front-row seat to all the behind-the-scenes drama for the past 50 years.

Peat got involved in 1968 when she and her husband adopted their first long-haired Dachshund. Since then, Pamela’s been around the block — er, ring? — as the president of an all-breed club, an international judge, and a breeder of both dachshunds and affenpinschers.

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“I’ve flown 13,000 miles in the last month,” the Arizona-based judge told InStyle. “I’ve been twice to Philadelphia and then to Seoul, Korea.” The universal language across all of her travels? A love of dogs. “You can be sitting next to a nuclear physicist or a truck driver, but we’re all in love with the dogs,” Peat explains. (She's not wrong.)

So, is your furry BFF champion material? According to Peat, it takes a lot more than obedience training to place among the top dogs. “We have a standard — a written description of what they should look like,” she explains. “They should fit that as closely as possible. But then there’s that little spark, that little attitude that says ‘Look at me, I’m special.’”

Peat compares the initial “spark” to meeting her husband of 50 years. “It’s like when you meet your husband and it’s like ‘Oh, wow,’ …’” she joked. 

From the brief time I spent at the National Dog Show Presented by Purina, I’ve gathered that the world of competitive dog shows is much akin to that of Dance Moms. The interpersonal drama is high, the parents/owners are scary-strict, and the smell of hairspray is ever-present. Peat can corroborate the drama aspect — there are handlers she likes, and those she really doesn’t, but she tries not to let those biases interfere in her judging.

RELATED: 12 of the Best Photos from the 2017 National Dog Show

Steven Donahue / See Spot Run Photography

“It’s really funny, because we tend as judges to be harder on our friends,” Peat reveals. “It makes you feel better to put up someone you really don’t like with a really nice dog. It’s like ‘Oh, I was a really good person.’ When you first start you have to remember, just because you’re my friend I can’t hold you to a higher level.”

Most of us only know dog shows from what we’ve seen in media — be it NBC’s Thanksgiving tradition or Christopher Guest mockumentary classic Best In Show. So, what does a National Dog Show judge think about the film’s portrayal of her sport? “I think it’s hysterically funny and much too true,” she says. Clearly, Peat can take a joke.