Forget the gridiron gang this Thanksgiving Day. For those who want to see the fur really fly, don’t miss the National Dog Show presented by Purina. Perfectly coiffed pooches representing 187 breeds and varieties will take center stage this year, including two new additions. The treeing walker coonhound and the Russell terrier, popularized by a scene-stealing rescue dog named Uggie in “The Artist,” will go snout to snout in the show ring for the Best in Show title. Pick your favorites and watch as dog expert David Frei (below right) provides commentary along with co-host John O’Hurley (below left).
Here are five things Frei wants you to know before the dogs hit the arena on Nov. 22.
1. Dog shows are fun for the whole family.
"I grew up with a football family and my dad was a football coach," Frei says. "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 are 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.
3. Welcome one familiar face, and one new one.
The competition will include two new breeds this year. The Russell terrier is a short-legged dog we all used to know and love as the Jack Russell terrier. There’s also the treeing walker coonhound. 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. Everyone has a top dog.
For Frei, it’s Rufus. The colored bull terrier (right) became the most successful dog in the breed’s history. Rufus also was a therapy dog extraordinaire, according to Frei, which might surprise people who mistook Rufus for the misunderstood pit bull. "Rufus was one of the greatest therapy dogs I’ve ever seen work," he says. "Sadly, we lost Rufus this year. He was 12 years old, but he had a full life and did a lot of great things."
5. Ready for a dog? Consider the National Dog Show your virtual shopping experience.
Announcer and Philadelphia Kennel Club President Wayne Ferguson reads a script about each breed. That’s an opportunity to see and hear what the dog was bred to do, and learn its history. Ferguson’s info also gives pet lovers an idea of the dog’s needs and temperament. You can info for every breed on the National Dog Show website and Westminster Kennel Club website too. Keep in mind that the National Dog Show generally features adult dogs, so you get a clear picture of how that fluffy puppy will look when full grown.
Grooming is just one aspect of pet care that every potential owner should consider. When it comes to shedding, Frei's family has a unique outlook. "We think of dog hair as a condiment," he says.
The National Dog Show presented by Purina airs from noon to 2 p.m. on Nov. 22 on NBC.
Talk about your top dog with Morieka @SoulPup.
Click for photo credits
O'Hurley and Frei: Ali Goldstein/NBC
Rufus: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
MNN tease photo: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images