History of the National Dog Show Held Each Year on Thanksgiving

Couple with dog at a dog show
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If you groan every time Thanksgiving comes around because it means parades and football, have no fear… The National Dog Show is here. Sure to please just about anyone, especially those who don’t care about sports and love dogs (like me), The National Dog Show shares its search for the very best boy or girl in a show sanctioned by the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.

The Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Show has been around for over 100 years, as it got its start in 1879. While it is one of three major dog shows in the U.S., including the AKC National Championship and the Westminster Dog Show, it ranks high in popularity as a version of it has been televised on Thanksgiving Day since 2002.

Animal themes dog

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Up to 2,000 dogs compete in The National Dog Show each year. It features 205 breeds and varieties. They are split into seven categories, including sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding, and compete for the top prize of Best in Show. One dog in each category is deemed Best in Breed, and they go on to compete for the overall title. The winner also receives $20,000.

BEST IN SHOW, Christopher Guest, 2000

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A movie about dog shows was the inspiration to air it on television. The movie Best In Show, a comedy about a dog show in Philadelphia, inspired the idea for a real National Dog Show to be televised. The 2000 film stars Schitt’s Creek actors Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, along with Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jane Lynch, among others.

Basenji Show Dog with owner/trainer practicing his stance

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As far as its history on television goes, NBC had lost the rights to Thanksgiving football games and was looking for something to fill the slot. They aired the holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life for a while but it just didn’t do well in the ratings for that time slot. NBC found that the dog show would be the perfect event to televise after the parade as they found that many families would root for dog breeds similar to the ones they owned or knew. So, that is why they began televising it in 2002.


Mitchell Haaseth/NBC/Everett Collection

Watch The National Dog Show on Thursday, November 23, at noon ET on NBC. It will run until 2 p.m. ET and will also be available to stream on Peacock. There will be an encore airing on Saturday, November 25, at 8 p.m. ET. This year, John O’Hurley and David Frei are the hosts. NBC Sports analyst Mary Carillo will provide commentary. Last year, Winston the French Bulldog won Best in Show after becoming Best in the Non-Sporting Group. You can also view a complete list of past winners.

Now tell us, what is your favorite thing to watch on Thanksgiving?

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