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5 Fun Facts About the National Dog Show


Written by Jasmine Sawatzky

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/07/2022, edited: 11/28/2023


Thanksgiving is all about traditions, and The National Dog Show has become a part of that for many folks and their doggos. Airing right after Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and before football kick off on Thanksgiving Day, this furbulous dog show attracts an audience of over 20 million each November. Families often gather around the television, curl up with their favorite furry friends, and watch gorgeous pedigree pups and their dedicated handlers to see which dog will be crowned the winner. 

In preparation for this woofderful tradition, we’ve dug up 5 fun facts about The National Dog Show for you to enjoy. So, grab your best canine pal and some snacks, and get ready for some fun!

The National Dog Show is over 140 years old

Held by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, The Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Show can trace its beginnings back to 1879. For a long time, only people on the dog show circuit witnessed the yearly event, which has occurred every year since save during the Great Depression from 1928 through 1932. However, it wasn't until 2002 when NBC’s John Miller was inspired by the movie, “Best in Show,” and saw the potential for families everywhere to enjoy the dog show from the comfort of their own homes. Rebranded as The National Dog Show, the event began to be televised on Thanksgiving Day to a whole new host of fans across the nation, and the world.

Today, The National Dog Show has grown to be one of the three top dog shows in the United States, along with the AKC National Championship and the Westminster Dog Show. For those of us who can’t get to Philly to watch in person, this is grrrrreat news. 

You won't recognize some of these rare woofers

All 209 AKC registered breeds and varieties are classified into seven groups which represent the characteristics and purpose that these dogs were originally bred for. These include the Terrier Group, the Toy Group, the Working Group, the Sporting Group, the Hound Group, the Non-Sporting Group and the Herding Group. There could be over 2,000 dogs entered in the dog show, but when the Best in Show portion takes place, you’ll only see seven dogs, one representing each group. 

You may consider yourself a dog breed buff, and even recognize most of the breeds. You may be able to make out the Mastiffs and point out the Pointers. But even so, you’re almost guaranteed to learn about some strange and beautiful new breeds along the way. The video above features National Dog Show Host John O’Hurley presenting three examples of the most unusual breeds you've probably never heard of! 

Contestants often have long and wacky names

It’s hard to imagine calling the name “GCHG Pouch Cove's Alright Alright Alright” at the dog park, but this Newfoundland actually goes by Matthew. Contestant names may seem pretty over the top, but they actually hold a lot of meaning and some history about the dogs. They can tell you things like the name of the kennel where the dog was born, or notations about the dog’s qualifications or prizes. For example, the prefix GCHG in Matthew’s competing name stands for Grand Champion Gold, which means he’s won 400 Grand Championship points. 

Despite all the fame, this chill and easy-going Newfoundland seems to take after his namesake, Matthew McConaughey. 

You can pet these pedigrees

The National Dog Show is a benched show, which is kind of a big deal, and a big incentive for spectators to get tickets to go to the show in person. A benched show means that the puppers need to be accessible to the public and stay at their assigned benches unless they’re competing, being groomed, or exercised. 

Staying at their benches while surrounded by a buzz of activity takes a ton of discipline and patience for these top dogs. It allows groomers, breeders, and spectators to ask questions and interact with the canines. Yes, you heard that right, you can pet the dogs! But be sure to ask first, as they may have just spent three hours with the groomer being perfectly coiffed, like the Standard Poodle from the 2017 show shown above.

Judges can be swayed by pawsonality

It’s no easy task to judge between hundreds of dogs of all different shapes, sizes, and kinds. If they were just going by cuteness, surely all the dogs would get a first place ribbon. National Dog Show judges need to make their decisions by asking questions like: Is the dog able to perform the job the breed was originally bred to do? Does the dog have all of the physical characteristics typical of their breed? How fit is the dog? Does the dog have the correct gait?

It’s heartwarming to know that the judges are also looking for happy dogs. They take a close look at a dog’s demeanor and expression. It helps if you have a dog that’s genuinely enjoying the competition, like the grinning Golden Retriever seen above. 

Barking for more?

Every pet parent thinks that their pup is the “top dog”, and they’ll always be first place winners in our hearts. However, if you think your dog's got what it takes to compete or are simply inspired by the well-behaved woofers on TV, book a trainer with Wag!

To dig a little deeper into dog shows, check out our related guides:

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