We’ve all done it. Stuffed our faces on Thanksgiving Day and then sat around watching … no, not football, but the other American tradition — The National Dog Show. Here are 12 things about the The National Dog Show you should know.
The show is hosted by The Kennel Club of Philadelphia of Oaks/Valley Forge, PA, which is outside of Philadelphia. The organization began in the late 1800s and it and its predecessor clubs (it went through several name changes) have continually hosted dog sporting competitions since 1979, making it one of the oldest, if not the oldest, dog sporting competition host in America. It is presented by Purina.
It’s on television, broadcasted nationally on Thanksgiving Day by NBC Sports. It’s the most widely viewed dog competition because of the broadcast and the day. A total of more than 20 million viewers watch it, according to Nielsen ratings. It follows the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from Noon to 2 p.m. in all time zones on NBC. The holiday special will simulcast at noon on NBCs Peacock streaming service on Thanksgiving Day, plus be available immediately following on demand. NBC will also present a primetime encore of this year’s “National Dog Show Presented by Purina” (8-10 p.m. ET/PT).
The show itself takes place over two days, featuring two “benched” shows at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks in Oaks, PA. This year it is expected to attract 15,000 people to the GPEC.
Today’s broadcasted The National Dog Show came about when the acclaimed comedy/parody movie Best In Show inspired NBC Sports programming chief Jon Miller. If you haven’t seen the movie, you definitely must. Best In Show came out in 2000, and it was written by comedy geniuses Christopher Guest (actor, director, writer, musician composer, who also co-wrote and starred in This Is Spinal Tap) and Eugene Levy (actor, writer, producer and most currently in the beloved Schitt’s Creek). Directed by Christopher Guest with an ensemble of brilliant comedy actors: Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Will Sasso, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban and many more. The movie is a behind-the-scenes mocumentary of the world of dog shows through the eyes of “ruthless dog owners.” Although the movie was based loosely off of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Christopher Guest called it the Mayflower competition and placed it in Philadelphia. After watching the movie in 2001, Jon Miller sold the idea of a two-hour special dog show sandwiched between the Macy’s Parade and football on Thanksgiving Day. Put together The Kennel Club of Philadelphia, with its rich history and tradition of dog shows, and NBC Sports and thus a star was born. It was and has stayed a ratings blockbuster.
The National Dog Show gives back. The event itself is surrounded by other events raising money for charity throughout what is called National Dog Show Month. Some of the beneficiaries include: the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, the AKC Pet Disaster Relief, the Canine Health Foundation and Take The Lead Foundation.
The winner gets the title of Best in Show, plus $20k worth of prize money is also awarded. The prize money is divvied up among the winners, with the Best in Show winner receiving The National Dog Show trophy and the other winners receiving ribbons.
About 2,000 purebred dogs representing over 180 breeds compete. It’s a ladder elimination format, which means that each dog first competes for Best in Breed (the top Yorkie of all the Yorkie Breeds, for example), then Best in Group (all the breeds are placed in one group — the Toy Group, Terrier Group, Working Group, Sporting Group, Non-Sporting Group, Hound Group or Herding Group) and finally Best in Show.
Every year, a new breed may be competing if it becomes certified for competition by the American Kennel Club (AKC). This year — 2001 — The Biewer Terrier (pronounced beaver) gets his/her shot at the title. The Biewer Terrier joins the Toy Group and is the AKC’s 197th recognized breed. According to the AKC, the breed was founded by Myrna Torres of California and Gayle Pruett of Alabama, who are both President and Vice President of the parent Biewer Terrier Club of America. In the past, the breed has been called a black and white Yorkshire Terrier or Biewer Terrier after German Werner and Gertrud Biewer, who first began producing tricolor Yorkies in the 1980s. However, Mars Veterinary geneticists studied the DNA of Biewer Terriers in 2007 and determined it was its own breed, with its dominant traits coming from Yorkies, Maltese and Havanese/Bichon Frise. Read more from the AKC here.
The TV broadcast is hosted by several dog lovers and experts:
The main host is dog lover, actor, Broadway musical star and writer John O’Hurley
The expert analyst is the well-known dog aficionado David Frei: former host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for 27 years, former Director of Communications for the WKC, current host of the Beverly Hills Dog Show and The National Dog Show.
Expert reporting is by esteemed sportscaster, dog enthusiast and 1977 French Open Mixed Doubles Champion Mary Carillo (along with John McEnroe). You’ve probably seen her during NBCs coverage of the Summer and Winter Olympics too.
This year — 2021 — is the 20th anniversary of the show and broadcast. So what can you expect? Exciting highlights from over the years with audience cutouts of all 19 previous Best In Show winners. Plus, a brand-new show will air on Peacock (NBCs streaming service that launched in 2021) called National Dog Show Junior. The Junior show is a fun, new way to watch The National Dog Show, with highlights of breed judging, Best In Show, features on the science of dogs, junior handlers, dog agility training and what makes dogs such great pets. It will be hosted by comedian, actor, TV host and doctor Matt Iseman, Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist and artistic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and teenage sports lover, writer, podcaster and reporter Anna Laible. It starts at 2 p.m. ET. It will also be available on demand.