In the past decade many dog lovers have added a new tradition on Thanksgiving Day: watching the National Dog Show presented by Purina on NBC. In fact, with an estimated 20 million viewers, this annual event has become the most-watched dog show broadcast of the year, according to the host, the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.
This year viewers will get to see six new American Kennel Club-recognized breeds make their major competition debuts: The Icelandic Sheepdog, the Bluetick Coonhound, the Leonberger, the Cane Corso, the Redbone Coonhound, and the Boykin Spaniel.
At last year’s show, Sadie the stellar Scottish Terrier took Best in Show, on her way to capturing two other major titles, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship and Westminster Kennel Club.
Is there another Sadie waiting in the wings? What about the six new breeds that will compete at the Philadelphia show? I sat in on a conference call with National Dog Show cohost and canine expert David Frei, and Mary Carillo, his Westminster broadcast partner who joins him on this year’s turkey day broadcast, along with TV personality John O’Hurley.
Here are some highlights:
- I love dogs and doing the Westminster show with David has been a joyous learning experience for me, says Carillo. “When NBC called and asked if I would like to be a part of another dog show I barked Yes! and wagged my tail immediately.”
- Like Westminster, the Philadelphia show is a benched show, with the dogs on display all day so that attendees can see them up close. “You can see the fluffing and primping and preening, it’s a very different experience from covering any other sporting event,” says Carillo. “That’s just me and O’Hurley fluffing and preening back there,” quips Frei, to loud guffaws.
- Commenting on the addition of new breeds: “When I started doing the Westminster show in 1990 we had 148 breeds and varieties and for this show we have 179,” says Frei. “Around the world there are something like 400 recognizable breeds, but they just don’t have a following in this country yet.”
- Could any entries from the six new breeds become contenders at the show: “In theory yes,” says Frei. “But the reality is that until judges get comfortable with what they see and what they are judging and what these dogs are all about it is probably going to be difficult for them to give them big wins in big shows like the National Dog Show. And it is a matter of numbers, more than anything else.”
- Who are the favorites? “It seems a little close at the top this year. There is a Smooth Fox Terrier, he’s been the No. 1 dog in the country all year long. There is a Pekingese, No. 2, an Irish Setter, a Boxer, a Standard Poodle, and a Whippet. But we won’t know until right before the show how many of the top five or six dogs will be entered.”
Here is a closer look at the new breeds:
The Redbone Coonhound
Well known for its red coat, is easily trained and versatile, making it a great hunting dog.
The Cane Corso
A breed native to Italy, is a muscular and large-boned breed that is distinguished by its noble, majestic, and powerful presence. Its protective instinct makes it very loyal to its owner and loving with children.
A larger, multi-purpose dog that is terrific with children and makes a great therapy dog, the Leonberger gets its name from its original hometown in Germany. The breed excels as a mult-purpose working dog that is often referred to as the “nanny” dog because of its affinity for children.
One of the world’s oldest breeds and Iceland’s only native dog, it is slightly under medium size, has prick ears and a curled tail. It is a hardy and agile dog that is cheerful, friendly, inquisitive, and playful.
Known for its dark blue, mottled pattern coat, is a sturdy and athletic hound that can stay on the most intricate of tracks.
Generally known as the official state dog of South Carolina and is bred primarily for hunting.
The show will be broadcast by NBC on Nov. 25 at noon EST.