What to Expect at the National Dog Show

The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show presented by Purina will air on Thanksgiving Day from noon to 2 p.m. in all time zones. It is broadcasted nationwide on NBC immediately following the Macy’s Parade, reaching an audience of nearly 20 million viewers. This two hour family event is a major milestone in the dog show world and is rapidly becoming a must-watch American holiday favorite. 

This year it was held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA two weeks before Thanksgiving. Oaks isn’t exactly a New York City, Los Angeles, or other popular destination location, so for many it can be an unknown attraction. If you were not able to make it in-person this year but are considering it for next year, you can expect to experience the following:

A huge variety of dog breeds

There are over 2,000 dogs and 200 breeds to see at the dog show. There are the recognizable Poodles – yes they will have those foofie haircuts – Golden Retrievers – so many goldens – Huskies, German Shepherds, and Pugs. In addition, it’s a wonderful opportunity to see much more rare four-leggers such as the Glen of Imaal Terrier, Affenpinscher, Leonberger, Flat-Coated Retriever, and Xoloitzcuintli, among others. 

The dogs are all extremely behaved and rarely can you hear much barking considering how many animals are in one giant convention center. All participants have only a few feet of space in between their station and their neighbor. Picture a trade show but with much smaller tables. The dogs can often be found with their heads leashed up high to a metal pole so they stand upright as they are being groomed via blow dryer, brush, scissors, and, for some, having their ears lightly bound (to reduce ear-hair frizz). 

They are patient and have minimal reactions to humans compared to their untrained counterparts. Most surprisingly, there are no accidents or even unruly smells, which again is very impressive considering it’s thousands of dogs in one building. In fact, a person is more likely to spill a drink on the floor than a dog is to pee on it. 

Some dogs are more friendly with people than others, however, it’s unreasonable to think that any will jump up or wag their tail feverishly out of excitement. They are much more subdued and calm. Some will seem unphased by petting but attendees are welcomed to do so if granted permission by their owner.

Both serious professionals and drama-free dog owners

One major component of any dog show is the variety of humans who have trekked from all over the country to attend. This is apparent through one look at the parking lot to see massive trucks, busses, and campers.

While some are merely proud, maybe retired, owners, others are running a business and it shows. You can see this in the seriousness of their tone if they are asked a harmless, “What kind of breed is that?” question and they seem irritated to answer. Others are so obviously staking out the competition before it is their turn to show. Remember, for some people this is their business and they take it very seriously. 

It’s easy to quickly see the massive amount of money it takes to be involved in this kind of activity. From travel costs, boarding, grooming and supplies, healthcare, training, and professional handlers, it’s an expensive event. Most of the owners bring way more than just one prize dog too. It’s common to see one dog on the table getting ready while four, or more, are in cages right behind. 

While the prize to winning the ‘Best in Show’ is only $1,500, champion dogs can bring in money another way — as breeding stock. Puppies of major-show champs have reportedly sold for as much as $25,000, and a dog’s semen alone could go for $2,000. Wow.

Numerous competitions and pet-friendly vendors

As stated the main prize to win is ‘Best in Show’ but there is also ‘Best of Breed’ and ‘First in Group’. While the main stage houses the televised event, there are smaller competitions throughout the convention center. For example, one had eleven or so Dalmations competing for the best of the breed which left people wondering where the other 89 went. #dogjoke

Numerous vendors are selling dog artwork, pet supplies, pet clothing, and more. There is even a fun picture booth area where you can get a great #selfie in front of posters of dogs and the hosts of the show, John O’Hurley, former Seinfeld star, winner of Dancing with the Stars, and purebred owner, along with Mary Carillo, and with expert commentary by David Frei, the “dean of dog show commentators.” There are even a few nonprofits who attend to raise money for their causes, such as emergency service animals or kennels that need support.

The National Dog Show is definitely a great event to attend at least once for all dog lovers, and maybe some cat lovers too. It’s a way to get an education on what breeds exist and show respect for all of the people who raise and train such amazing creatures. Unless allergic, feel free to bring the whole family for this once a year tradition.


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