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Lisa Unleashed: National Dog Show Is A Thanksgiving Day Tradition For Many

Published: November 23, 2016

Each year, many watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC while prepping their holiday meal, and at noon the National Dog Show kicks off into millions of homes on big HDTVs. For two hours beautiful purebred dogs of nearly 200 breeds are showcased for dog lovers in their living rooms and kitchens. Here’s a little history about the club and show.

According to the Kennel Club of Philadelphia website, “Since hosting a major dog event in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia has been at the forefront of the purebred dog world. The Kennel Club of Philadelphia (KCP) and its predecessor clubs have been presenting dog shows since 1879. In fact, the Philadelphia club predates the American Kennel Club (AKC) which was organized on September 17, 1884. The Philadelphia club went through several changes of name in the years spanning the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Records show a Philadelphia Kennel Club benched show in 1896 and a Philadelphia Dog Show Association with a ‘bench show of dogs’ from 1899 to 1909. Shortly after, the group reorganized and formed the present-day Kennel Club of Philadelphia.

“The KCP hosted its first dog show in 1912, was elected a member of the AKC in February 1913, and is thriving to this day. The KCP shows were suspended from 1928 through 1932, the time of the Great Depression. The shows resumed in 1933 and have been held annually ever since. For most of that period, the shows were staged in December at the Philadelphia Civic Center. Unlike the more common “show and go” format, benched shows require exhibitors to remain in the building for the day, allowing the public to meet and greet the canines. Now almost a lost tradition, only six benched shows remain in the country.”

It’s All About The Numbers

Now that’s a lot of history to take in, but basically, this is one historic dog show. This past weekend, I had the honor of being at the KCP dog show as a ring steward, helping to manage the ring for the judges, giving armbands to exhibitors, calling classes into the ring, and making sure the judge had the ribbons to hands out. It was a lot of fun, plus, it was a great place to watch the action close up. But during a few breaks between show dogs coming into the ring to be shown, members of the public came over to ask me a few questions.

One family of five, parents and three teenage kids, asked me about the numbers listed on a sign outside the ring about the breeds to be shown. For example, they asked what does this mean, “15 — French Bulldogs 9-4 (2-0).” It’s true, a cryptic numerical listing that only insiders would know. I gladly broke into educational mode and started to explain how 15 Frenchies entered in the dog show are broken down into champions and those trying to become champions and males and females. First listed are nonchampions, boys always come first, so 9 nonchampion boys would show first, followed by 4 nonchampion girls. All the boys compete against each other and then all the girls compete against each other. Eventually, one best boy and one best girl earn championship points and proceed to the Best of Breed class. Once in the Best of Breed class, they join all the champions entered. Once in this class, all the boys and girls compete against each other for the Best of Breed award. And back to the (2-0), so this means 2 champion boys were entered and no champion girls. Got that? I know it’s confusing for first timers. It took me awhile to learn it all.

But to make dog shows more fun to watch, the National Dog Show broadcast has been distilled down to all the Best of Breed winners competing in each of the seven groups, on their way to Best in Show. So I hope you were able to sit back, relax, baste the turkey, and watch that French Bulldog that bested those 14 others in the 9-4-(2-0). For more information about the show, including the rebroadcast schedule (Saturday, November 26), visit

Lisa Peterson — writes about horses, hounds, and history at She is the owner of Barn Girl Media, a communications consultancy company; contact her at

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