Forget football this Thanksgiving Day. For those who love dogs, watch the National Dog Show presented by Purina instead.
You meet perfectly coiffed pooches representing 193 breeds, including one new addition, the Azawakh.
You can keep up with the action as dog expert David Frei provides commentary along with co-host John O'Hurley. NBC correspondent Mary Carillo will report from inside the show ring, while former U.S. Olympic figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir will provide behind-the-scenes access.
Here are five things Frei wants you to know before the show begins at noon on Nov. 28.
1. Dog shows are fun for the whole family.
"I grew up with a football family and my dad was a football coach," Frei said during a 2012 interview. "We never thought about doing anything except watching ball games and eating turkey. This gives families something to do as a family if they are really not into football — as some families may not be. It’s the perfect time slot on a perfect holiday. Watch the dog show while waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven."
2. It’s a winner-take-all competition.
Dogs advance by winning the breed level and then the group. Each of seven group winners is selected for Best in Show. Dogs keep winning and advancing until it's the last dog standing.
Judges evaluate each dog against a standard, which is the written description of the ideal for that breed. Once they get into their groups, you can’t judge a dachshund against an Irish wolfhound, so you're judging the dog against his standard of perfection and the same for the wolfhound. Judges understand what the breed was developed to do and they have to picture the dog doing that. This process goes to the very end, and the winner is judged against thousands of dogs.
These are the dogs that have won Best in Show for the last couple of years:
2018: Whiskey the whippet (and you can see the Best in Show dogs take their final laps in the video above.)
2017: Newton, the Brussels Griffon
2016: Gia, the greyhound
2015: Charlie, Skye terrier
2014: Nathan, bloodhound
2013: Jewel, American foxhound
2012: Sky, wire fox terrier
3. You'll meet a new face.
The Azawakh was bred to be a guardian and a hunter. (Photo: Canarian [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons)
The competition, which is in its 18th year in its current guise, will include a new breed this year. The Azawakh is an American Kennel Club-sanctioned breed. This addition to the hound group is described by show officials as "a loyal, independent and deeply affectionate sighthound known for its short coat, long and lean appearance and excellent companionship and guardianship."
The American Kennel Club (AKC) determines when a breed is eligible for full privileges, including competing in a confirmation show. It sets the criteria based on conditions such as whether there is enough of the breed to justify inclusion. They can’t all be living on some farm in Montana, Frei says, and they have to have a parent club that advocates for them and helps watch over their breed and breed programs. Once the AKC is satisfied that a breed has met those requirements — and enough people are working hard to do it right — the dog is allowed to compete at the National Dog Show.
4. This is set up differently than other dog shows.
This is one of the last major dog shows to be "benched," meaning the dogs must stay in an area for the duration of the show when they are not in the ring. The Westminster Kennel Club — famous for its show, which is also "benched" show — says this is an important element.
Originally, all dog shows were "benched" or assigned areas (on benches) at all times when not being judged in the ring. This allowed for the interaction of dogs and their owners with spectators and other owners and breeders as an educational process.
5. Ready for a dog? Use the show to learn about different breeds.
The show is an opportunity to see and hear what the dog was bred to do, and learn its history. The announcer will also give pet lovers an idea of the dog’s needs and temperament. You can find info for every breed on the National Dog Show website. Keep in mind that the National Dog Show generally features adult dogs, so while you won't see the dogs in all stages of life, you'll get a clear picture of how that fluffy puppy you met at the shelter might look when it's full grown.
The National Dog Show presented by Purina airs from noon to 2 p.m. in all time zones on Nov. 28 on NBC, following the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was published in November 2012.