The National Dog Show in Pennsylvania Fetches Large Viewership Making It a Thanksgiving Tradition

Written By Katie Kohler on November 22, 2021 - Last Updated on September 20, 2023
National Dog Show 2021 in PA

The Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t playing on Thanksgiving. Yes, there are three NFL games on, but we all know home is where the heart is during the holidays.

Pennsylvania does have something to cheer for on Thanksgiving. The National Dog Show, which is hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, is held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center and broadcast annually on Thanksgiving Day at noon on NBC.

This year marks the show’s 20th year the National Dog Show has aired on Thanksgiving. Reps for the show say “Dogs until 2” and are well aware that football is the main course.

But these prize pups don’t deserve leftover attention.

National Dog Show 2021 preview

The National Dog Show took place on Nov. 20 and will air on Thanksgiving  from noon until 2 on NBC. The show was founded in 1879 and has been held annually since 1933.

Host John O’Hurley (“J. Peterman,” Seinfeld) provides pooch play-by-play and David Frei adds expert analysis.

O’Hurley commented in a the show’s media guide:

“The show has become a yearly tradition for American families – overseas as well – and it’s rather extraordinary. It’s just good, wholesome family entertainment whether you are 4 or 94. It’s something that you can watch all together as a family and I think that’s the thing that I’m the proudest of in the way that this has evolved.”

Facts, figures and how winners are picked

  • The AKC recognizes 209 dog breeds and varieties, split into seven different groups.
  • The National Dog Show is one of the few benched events left in the U.S. Benched shows, according to AKC rules, designate that dogs and their people remain onsite while judging happens throughout the day. This allows the general public to walk through the show and stop at dogs’ stations.
  • New breed in 2021 – Biewer Terrier in the Toy Group.
  • How are dogs judged? Judges examine the dogs and they are placed according to how closely each dog measures up the judge’s mental image of the perfect dog as described in the specific breed’s official standard. The judges consider the dog’s overall appearance, temperament, structure and movement.
  • Seven Groups: Each of the 209 registered breeds and varieties are assigned to one of seven groups such as sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting and herding. The seven group winners compete for Best in Show. 
  • Who won the 2021 National Dog Show? The Best in Show gets announced publicly on Thanksgiving Day, so tune in.

Can I bet on the National Dog Show?

No. Pennsylvania sportsbooks or any legal, regulated U.S. sportsbook does not offer betting on the National Dog Show or the Westminster Dog Show. Why? At legal sports betting apps, betting markets revolve around the outcome of an event that takes place in a field of play. The subjective judging nature also makes it something that sportsbooks don’t usually take wagers on.

Of course, friendly family wagers on the show likely happen in living rooms across America.

Since we think dogs are simply too cute to pick just one, we’ll gather some adults and play the National Dog Show drinking game.

Viewership for National Dog Show

With the nation’s largest Thanksgiving Day parade as its lead-in and an adorable cast of characters, the National Dog Show draws over 20 million viewers each year. In 2020, the show attracted 25 million viewers.

To compare viewership:

Pennsylvania handlers and dogs in the National Dog Show

Some PA-based pups and handlers to root for.

  • Kristeen Davidson-Christman, a Gordon Setter owner-handler, lives in Telford-Souderton. The Gordon Setter lineage of local Davidson-Christman spans nearly twenty years of competition.
  • Gail Mirabella, a Hatboro native and Delaware Valley University grad quit her job and joined the circus. Because of this, she is our personal favorite at the National Dog Show. Mirabella left her job in the corporate pharmaceutical industry and joined  the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Now she is one of America’s most accomplished performance dog trainers and a staple at the show since 2003.  Gail Mirabella and the Dynamo Dogs perform their act all over the country including halftime shows for professional and college sports teams. In Sept. 2021, Mirabella and her dogs were inducted into the Ashley Whippet Hall of Fame in Naperville, Illinois.
  • One of the most accomplished show dog handlers in the world hails from Cochranville, Chester County. Margery Good  has shown international champions and at this year’s event, she will be showing about twenty dogs among breeds such as West Highland White Terriers, Sealyham Terriers, Scottish Terriers, and Tibetan Spaniels.

A National treasure for dogs and humans

During the National Dog Show, Rosalyn “Rose” Fennell, Superintendent of Valley Forge National Historical Park, was named a recipient of The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s “Dogs’ Best Friend Award.” Fennel plays an integral role in the national effort to welcome dogs and their people safely back to National Parks.

Valley Forge National Park is a fantastic place for a walk, especially in the fall to peep the foliage. If you live close by and the weather cooperates, Thanksgiving weekend would be a great time to visit with your dog who always earns the title of best friend.

Katie Kohler Avatar
Written by
Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist and Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania. Katie especially enjoys creating unique content and on-the-ground reporting in PA. She is focused on creating valuable, timely content about casinos and sports betting for readers. Katie has covered the legal Pennsylvania gambling industry for Catena Media since 2019.

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