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Canine competition wasn't always a pretty affair. In the early nineteenth century, "bull-baiting" and "ratting" were the sports "du jour." By the middle of that century, however, another form of dog combat was slowly emerging: the more genteel but no less fiercely contested pedigree dog show. Today, the American Kennel Club sanctions over 11,000 of these shows each year.

Of the 20 million registered purebred dogs in America, some 2 million will compete in events around the country. In "Dog Eat Dog," Jane and Michael Stern follow one kennel's dogs -- Mimi Einstein's Allstar Bullmastiffs -- through a tumultuous year on the circuit, from the opening weekend show III Princeton, New Jersey, to the nerve-racking season finale ten months later at the Super Bowl of dog shows: the Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden.

Along the way they explore a wide world of dogs: tiny, hairless polka-dotted ones like Randall, a Chinese Crested; giant, hirsute ones like the leonine Leonberger, Koko von der Heckenrose; and an assortment of Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Afghans, and more. At all-breed shows in Providence, Rhode Island, and Greenwich. Connecticut, and a best-in-breed specialty event in Plano, Texas, they put the reader in the crossfire of competition and explain the politics, tonsorial tricks, and gritty ambition that can make a show dog a champion and its handler a star.

Written with genuine affection for dogs and spirited enthusiasm for the equally entertaining people and rituals of the show world, Dog Eat Dog is a must-read for anyone who has ever owned a dog, showed a dog, or wondered what could possibly motivate those who do.

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Gary Larson Creator of "The Far Side" I've always loved both dogs and books on dogs, but until now, I've never had any inkling as to the inner, arcane world of dog shows. Amy Tan Author of "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Kitchen Gods' Wife" Anyone who loves dogs will eat this up. It's a hoot!

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