Thankful for The National Dog Show … but mostly for dogs

Any other year, I’d be in Philadelphia, PA this weekend strolling the outdoor Christmas markets with my dog, participating in the pet-friendly historic walking tours and staying either at the dog-friendly modern Aloft Philadelphia or historic Warwick Hotel (or a night in both). Then maybe taking in The National Dog Show noon to 2pm on NBC from the comfort of a hotel room (or live, if I had head to Philly a week earlier).

Alas, it was not to be. And we all know why – travel restrictions and a border shut down has kept me out of the US since my canine-focused NYC visit in February. I’ve had big dog plans for the city of brotherly love for awhile, but fate has kept us apart.

It’s kept everyone else apart too. Or not even present, as is the situation with The National Dog Show airing on TV November 26, 2020, noon to 2 pm (all time zones) on NBC after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The 19th Annual National Dog Show

While in it’s 19th year of broadcast, The National Dog Show shares a similar – forgive me – pedigreed with NYC’s annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Gardens. Hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, the actual dog competition dates to 1879, but it wasn’t televised until an NBC executive pitched the idea to the network after a Best in Show inspirational moment.

That’s right, that 20-year-old film, Best in Show (affiliate link), is the inspiration for filling the parade to football timeslot Thanksgiving Day when families want to watch something other than each other. The popularity of Best in Show, staring Canadians Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara (yes, of Schitt’s Creek fameaffiliate link), parodied the famed Westminster show but set in Philadelphia was the impetus for The National Dog Show, televised version.

Add levity with Seinfeld alum John O’Hurley (who played J. Peterman) and credibility with former Westminster commentator David Frei as TV dog show co-hosts and you’ve got a family-friendly distraction watched by 20 million viewers annually.

2020 Dog Show Cut Out Audience

In 2020, however, the Kennel Club of Philadelphia dog show will be watched by no one in the audience – usually about 15,00 fill the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center the weekend before US Thanksgiving. No sponsors, vendors or media were present. Seats were filled by cardboard cut-outs. Fans paid between $25 to $250 to have a cardboard shape of – likely their dog – sitting in the audience during the original show dates November 14 and 15, 2020.

Thor, 2019 National Dog Show Best in Show
Thor, 2019 National Dog Show Best in Show Winner

Money raised goes to AKC Pet Disaster Fund, which stocks animal care supplies and essentials to then donate to local shelters following emergency events like wildfires and hurricanes.

Ultimately, it’s all about the dogs, right? Furry Fidos earn their spots at these national events by winning regional competitions then at this prestigious event first compete against their breed. Breed winners move to the big ring to compete in Groups, such as Herding or Working Groups, and the winner from each competes for it all: Best in Show. The dogs are being judged, not on performance running in a circle, but according to confirmation – physical breed standards unique to each kind of dog.

But most viewers simply love watching their favourite pooch parade their stuff to an appreciative audience.

What’s new at The National Dog Show in Philadelphia, USA?

As with most national dog shows, every year sees new breeds added to the competition, and it’s always fun to find out what. This year, The National Dog Show list grows to 208 eligible to compete, adding three more American Kennel Club-sanctioned breeds to the 2020 show:

Dogo Argentino

Dogo Argentino originated in Argentina in the early 20th century. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in Las Vegas (thanks to SuperZoo), but this dog has the hard-to-read expression of a martini sipping Blackjack player. A member of the Working Group, this chiseled athletic pooch was originally bred to hunt wild boar and big game, yet despite its explosive power apparently makes a good guardian and family pet.

The Belgian Laekenois

The Belgian Laekenois (Lack-in-wah) makes its debut at The National Dog Show but didn’t produce any champions to compete in the prior Beverly Hills Dog Show thanks to COVID-19 dog show cancellations. So, for the first time on a national televised dog show, we’ll meet this rarest of the Belgians who looks more like casino security than casino customer. A member of the Herding Group, this strong and protective pup is defined by its reddish rough, tousled coat requiring regular grooming.

The Barbet

The Barbet (Bar-bay) who we met at Westminster Dog Show in NYC and looks like an adorable mid-sized Muppet thanks to shaggy bangs and dense curly hair from nose to sweeping tail. Rare and a member of the herding group, this sturdy dog is known as a good swimmer and hunter accented by a composed disposition. Frankly, he looks like he’d be more comfortable hanging poolside than stressing at the roulette wheel.

The National Dog Show airs on TV November 26, 2020, noon to 2 pm (all time zones) on NBC after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


  1. […] fitting approximately 20 million people across North American spent American Thanksgiving watching The National Dog Show on NBC, the T.V. airing of The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s annual pure breed dog show held the week […]

  2. Sandy Weinstein · · Reply

    i watched it. was very disappointed that there were not many dogs. just did not have the pizazz it normally has. I only saw 1 handler that i knew. i did like the winner, the deer hound though. however, i thought it was weird that John compared it to a greyhound, but said it was larger. i compare a deer hound more to an irish wolfhound. i am always disappointed that min. schnauzer never win the terrier group or get in the best of breed. i was surprised that a golden has never won anything as well. i did not like the way the german shepherd traveled at all. i cant stand what the akc has done the to amer. bred gs. but then the akc has messed up a lot of breeds.

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