6 things to know about The National Dog Show

PHILADELPHIA — The show will go on. The National Dog Show, one of the most anticipated dog shows in the nation, returns Nov. 14 and 15 in Philadelphia, with significant changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since 2002, television viewing of the National Dog Show has been a Thanksgiving tradition in homes across the nation. That tradition will continue in 2020. Hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, the show features American Kennel Club-sanctioned breeds and varieties competing for Best of Breed, First in Group and the top-dog spot: Best in Show. Here’s what you need to know about the changes being made for this year’s National Dog Show.

1. No spectators will be allowed.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be no spectators, vendors, sponsors or media allowed at the 2020 event. Only dogs and their handlers, along with NBC personnel and security will be allowed at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. All on-site participants will receive temperature checks, and masks and social distancing will be strictly enforced.

2. Limited participants: There will be a cap on participants for this year’s show, with the competition being limited to approximately 600 dogs. Normally, the show boasts of 2,000 dogs. There also will be just one show over two days this year, versus two separate shows.

3. Unbenched show: While The National Dog Show is one of the oldest and few remaining benched shows in the United States, it will be an unbenched show in 2020, to ensure the safety of all participants. An untrained dog-show enthusiast may be wondering why a benched distinction makes a difference. Participating dogs are required to stay on assigned benches when not in competition, an awesome feat of discipline and character.  The benching makes the canine competitors accessible to all on site and allows for interaction and provides an easy way to ask questions and share information.

4. The show has been airing since 2002, but it’s been around for much longer than that. The Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Show has been in existence since 1879 with minimal interruptions. When NBC Sports began airing the show in 2002, it was rebranded as The National Dog Show. The show is one of only three major dog shows in the nation, ranked along with the AKC National Championship and the Westminster Dog Show. The 2020 National Dog Show airs at noon Thanksgiving Day, immediately following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

5. The judges are picky, and rightly so. Over the course of the show, judges will have seen hundreds of dogs. But what exactly are these discerning individuals looking to find? The questions are tough: Is the dog able to perform the job the breed was originally bred to do? Does the dog have all of the physical characteristics typical of their breed? How fit is the dog? Does the dog have the correct gait?  But wait, there’s more: Judges are also looking for happy dogs that enjoy the competition so each dog’s expression and general demeanor receives extra scrutiny.

6. Those long names may sound excessive, but there’s a good reason for them. Gia, a greyhound, was 2016′s Best in Show, but her proper name is GCHS CH Grandcru Giaconda CGC. While it may seem a little crazy, there’s a method to the madness of the competitor naming.

That long and hard-to-read name reads like a history lesson on the dog’s life. Components of the dog’s name can be pulled from many different places: the name of the kennel where the dog was born, notations about the dog’s qualifications or prizes and a part of the name that’s specific to the dog.