Genesis of The National Dog Show

By Gabrielle Pardocchi

Some 30,000 beautiful dogs and 18 years later, The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show has become part of Americana, a popular television viewing experience for families across the country on Thanksgiving Day.   The annual NBC two-hour special is a holiday tradition, attracting a total audience of over 20 million each November. Many think it’s been around as long as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that precedes it on NBC. And few are aware of its unusual beginnings.

In 2000, the movie Best in Show was releases a satirical look into the dog show world. The fictional “Mayflower” show in the movie was modeled after the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden, but writer/director Christopher Guest placed it in Philadelphia, where The National Dog Show Presented by Purina now takes place each year.  The inspiration for The National Dog Show was born out of a movie night with neighbors hosted by NBC’s Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC sports. The very next day, Miller was still chuckling, but he then came up with the serious idea of placing a major dog show on NBC Thanksgiving Day following the Macy’s Parade.    The two-hour special- from noon-2p.m. in all time zones- ended up being a stroke of genius. The magic is the massive parade audience leading into two hours of gorgeous dogs and focused handlers competing and frolicking in a celebrations of the wonderful attributes of man’s best friend. Dog lovers (America has over 65 million pet-owning households) sit in front of their television, rooting for their favorite breeds with their pooch watching along with them.

That two-hour time slot sits perfectly between the parade and the tradition of football watching that dominates the rest of the afternoon and evening on Turkey Day.

Miller had to sell his idea to NBC executives in New York and Burbank and the show was an immediate ratings blockbuster. As it approaches its 20th year, over 30,000 pure bred dogs have completed for the annual “Best in Show” trophy. The host, Kennel Club of Philadelphia, brought its own tradition to the table with a history of dog shows dating back to 1879.

What makes The National Dog Show so unique is its special place in America’s consciousness. Thanksgiving Day is the parade, The National Dog Show and football and those three traditions are likely to be with us for decades to come.

Gabrielle Pardocchi is a senior at Eastern University with a major in Writing and a minor in Communication. Gabrielle loves to snuggle up next to her newly adopted dog, Rubble, as well as take him on runs (even when he is dragging her to keep up). Gabrielle’s love for animals is what brought her to Vizion Group as they work year-round for the National Dog Show in Philadelphia. Gabrielle can be reached at gabrielle.pardocchi@eastern.edu.