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Canadian-bred Matisse is the most winningest male dog in history

Donna Gottdenker

"I don't know why Canadians don't know about him," boasts a proud mother on the other end of the phone. "The world knows, but Canadians - they just don't," she says, indignant.

To be fair, Donna Gottdenker, a dog breeder from Arthur, Ont., is proud for good reason. The Portuguese water dog she co-owns with two others is the one and only Grand Champion Claircreek Impression De Matisse - or just Matisse, outside of the show ring - heading to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for the third time in as many years as he's been alive.

A Canadian bred dog, Matisse is indeed a rare find. To date he has accumulated 237 Bests, 48 Reserve Bests and 333 Working Group wins. Think that's an inordinate amount of dog shows? "He's won four Best in Shows back to back in a single weekend," she says unfazed.

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The winningest male dog in history, Matisse has always stood out from the crowd. Gottdenker has been breeding Portuguese water dogs for 17 years, hoping to find the "perfect dog." (Matisse himself has fathered 11 litters.)

Gottdenker says she knew she had hit the jackpot with Matisse when he was just four days old.

"You can't stop looking at him – he's a real eye catcher," recalls Gottdenker.

"You try not to get your hopes up.. So many things could go wrong." But now, she says, "nobody could ever have fathomed he would go where this dog has gone."

Dog show judges who determine the "best dog" based on how close the dog is to their breed standards written by the American Kennel Club, often say they can't find anything wrong with Matisse, Gottdenker says.

"They'll often say - this dog is close to perfect, but we wish his muzzle was just a bit longer. Or his angles just a bit stronger. But Matisse - they say, this is a perfect dog."

To keep him in his perfect condition, Matisse is run about an hour a day - with his handler on a bike. And the handler, Michael Scott, "grooms him to perfection - but first you have to start with his perfect coat."

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A rock star in the dog show community, the Canadian pooch caught the attention of the international press last year.

"In the world of show dogs, there is Sky the Wire Fox Terrier, there is Matisse the Portuguese Water Dog, and there is everyone else on four legs," wrote the Wall Street Journal last year.

Sky took home Westminster's top prize in 2014, but Matisse still finished the year with the most Best in Shows.

Is it Matisse's turn to be crowned Best in Show at the world's most prestigious dog show?

Only time - plus a little luck and a good dose of his owners' pride - will tell.

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