Thanksgiving Day marks more turkey, cranberries, U.S. history, and the National Dog Show Presented by Purina. This is the 15th anniversary of that dog show, seen on NBC on Thanksgiving Day, noon to 2 p.m. (in all time zones) following the Macy Thanksgiving Day parade.
With over 22 million people tuning in last year, the National Dog Show is most viewed dog show ever. The show never had an audience less than 17 million. By comparison, on a good night, “The Voice” garners about nine million viewers for NBC.
No word on how many dogs watch, though announcer David Frei touts he’s always been number one among canine viewers. For 27 years, he also announced the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
“I’ve got the greatest job in the world,” he boasts.
The National Dog Show carries nearly as much tradition as Thanksgiving Day itself. The National Dog Show airs on Thanksgiving, but is taped as a part of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Show, which dates back to 1876. The Philadelphia club predates the American Kennel Club (AKC) which was organized in 1884.
The Kennel Club of Philadelphia hosted its first ‘official’ dog show in 1912, and was elected a member of the AKC in 1913. This is also a benched dog show; unlike the more common “show and go” format, benched shows require exhibitors to remain in the building for the day. Benches shows allow the public to meet and greet the canines stars. Now almost a lost tradition, only a hand full of benched shows remain.
While Frei is considered Mr. Dog Show, his broadcast sidekick, John O’Hurley, is most well known for playing J. Peterman on Seinfeld.
Talk about your varied career, O’Hurley has authored books on various topics (including dogs), has broadcast golf on TV, hosted game shows including To Tell the Truth, The Great American Spelling Bee, Family Feud; he starred on Broadway and in the national tour of Chicago; was the first winner of Dancing with the Stars; O’Hurley’s voice can be heard on many cartoons, and was even a guest on the soap opera The Young and the Restless.
O’Hurley says, “Well, I love to do unusual things so I don’t have a unilateral career; I prefer to keep different plates spinning.” He pauses and adds, “But doing the dog show truly has to been a favorite. I love dogs. I hope it shows. Dogs represent the absolute embodiment of innocence. Dogs are God’s reminder that there are angels. Dogs are effusive with their love – and they show it with their eyes.”
Among O’Hurley’s books is “The Perfect Dog.” He says, “I wrote that for my son with a Dr. Seuss style poem describing what the perfect dog would look like. Talk about going full circle, my son – who is now 10 (years old) – reads that very book to young children in schools all over.”
This year’s National Dog Show Presented by Purina will be the debut of three new American Kennel Club breeds.
- American Hairless Terrier: An energetic and fun-loving breed that would like to hunt as their ancestors did, but being hairless – a squeaky toy might be all they should hunt, particularly in the winter. American Hairless Terriers are about 12 to 16-inches.
Pumi: This is quite the popular and well-known breed, if you happen to live in Hungary. The breed dates to the 17th or 18th Century, likely related to the Rastafarian-look of the Hungarian Puli combined with sheepdogs from France and Germany. In fact, for many years the Puli and Pumi were considered the same breed. A very attentive dog, and quick to alert vocally. Pumi’s, for all their 14 to 17-inches and 18 to 29 lbs. of cuteness, require lots of exercise.
- Sloughi (Arabian Greyhound): A sighthound that originated in Morocco, looks and acts like a cross between a Saluki and Greyhound. This active dog requires a bit more exercise than either of those breeds, but can easily adapt to the city with a daily walk. Currently, Sloughi’s are very rare in the U.S. Sloughi’s are 24 to 28-inches and weigh 66 to 70 lbs.
Last year’s National Dog Show winner was a Skye Terrier named GCH Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie or, as friend just say, Charlie. As for this year, Frei isn’t saying who expects to win, except, “The winner is always that dog sitting on the couch with you while you’re watching the dog show. Your dog is always Best in Show.”