PHOTOS: Springs pooch is runner-up at Westminster

R. SCOTT RAPPOLD Updated: February 12, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: February 12, 2013

Swagger can run around with a little, well, extra swagger in his step after back-to-back honors in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The shaggy Old English sheepdog, who lives in Colorado Springs, was the runner-up Tuesday for Best in Show.

The second place finish came after Swagger won best in group in the herding category Monday night, earning raucous applause and the judge’s approval in front of thousands of spectators and a national television audience at Madison Square Garden.

The win surprised on-air commentators as well as his owner, Colton Johnson. Swagger, at 20 months, is barely out of puppyhood, and was competing in only his fourth show.

“We were kind of in the air if we were going to bring him because he is so young, and this is the best of the best. But we had a lot of confidence in him and a lot of faith in him and I guess it paid off,” said Johnson by phone Tuesday, while waiting for the Best in Show judging to start later that night.

Johnson, whose family owns Sunrise and Woodmen Kennels, is no stranger to the Super Bowl of dog shows. In 2006, he took Swagger’s uncle, Smokin’, to the final round.

Swagger is a 90-pound ball of fur with a beard that never quite looks clean despite best efforts. In the best in group for herding dogs contest Monday, the smart money was on one of the flashier breeds, but something about Swagger earned a smile from the judge and a first-place honor. Johnson points to his “incredible breed attributes” and personality.

“He’s the sweetest dog. He’s a really good dog. Nothing bothers him. He never has a bad day. He loves everything, loves the other dogs — male and female,” Johnson said.

The Best in Show award went to an affenpinscher named Banana Joe.

Johnson was proud of Swagger and looks forward to a long show career.

“I’m just so surprised to be where I’m at, that anything else is icing on the cake,” he said. “I just want to go show the dog and have fun.”

Johnson could not be reached Tuesday night after the finale.

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Gazette reporter Daniel Chacón contributed to this report.

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