Skip to content
Things To Do
Link copied to clipboard

Pet 2,080 dogs at Philadelphia’s National Dog Show this weekend

Here's what you need to know to ruff it.

Topaz, a nine-month-old Golden Retriever, takes a break during a press event for the Kennel Club of Philadelphia's National Dog Show.
Topaz, a nine-month-old Golden Retriever, takes a break during a press event for the Kennel Club of Philadelphia's National Dog Show.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

The Philly region’s annual chance to boop more than 2,000 floofs arrives again this weekend with the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show at the Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks Nov. 16 and 17.

What makes this dog show special — aside from being nationally televised on NBC Thanksgiving Day — is that it’s one of only three “benched” competitions in the country. A benched show requires dogs and their handlers to remain in a specific area when not in competition, to meet and greet the public.

Want to boop a border collie or pet a Pekingese? As long as you ask the owner first, you can do it here. Here’s what you need to know before you go.

Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show, 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday (Best in Show judging starts at 5 p.m.), Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, 100 Station Ave., Oaks, $16, $7 for kids, free for children under 3, 610-644-2902,

What is the National Dog Show?

The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show is a two-day event sanctioned by the American Kennel Club where 2,080 purebred dogs will compete for the title of Best in Show. The competition is two separate shows, one on Saturday that will be taped for national broadcast, and one on Sunday that features more doggy agility demonstrations.

Dogs are first judged among others of their breed. This year, the show features a record 195 breeds from 40 states. The winner of each breed is placed into one of seven groups: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. First-place winners then compete against each other for the ultimate prize, Best in Show.

Why is this show special?

Aside from being one of the oldest dog shows in the country — with roots dating to 1879 — this show is one of only three benched shows left in the nation, along with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City and the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show in San Francisco.

Benched shows allow the public to interact with the prized pooches when they’re not actively competing. Attendees will be given a program showing where every dog’s bench and every breed is located.

Want to see a dozen Dalmatians together in one area? You can spot them here.

Want to roam among oodles of poodles? Well, prance on over.

Want to get in the ring with a bevy of boxers? Float on by like a butterfly.

“Two thousand dogs in one building is an exciting environment you can’t replicate,” National Dog Show spokesman Steve Griffith said. “You want to see six Saint Bernards in one place? You can see them at the dog show.”

How did this show get so popular?

This marks the 18th Thanksgiving Day that the National Dog Show will be televised at noon on NBC, and for the roughly 20 million Americans who tune in, it’s become as much of a tradition as apple pie and football.

And it’s all thanks to the Christopher Guest film Best in Show, a beloved satire about the world of dog shows, Griffith said.

When Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports, saw the film, he had the idea of bringing a dog show to the network on a holiday.

Airing It’s a Wonderful Life after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wasn’t working out so well for the network, so it agreed to give Miller’s idea a try, Griffith said. Given that the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s show was already held in November, it made a logical fit — and the ratings turned out to be a hit, too.

“The parade provides a great lead-in and it’s family programming before football really takes over the day,” Griffith said. “It’s sandwiched in there perfectly and we’ve turned the corner on it being an American cultural phenomenon.”

The show is hosted by actor John O’Hurley, who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld; Olympic games host and correspondent Mary Carillo; and American Kennel Club licensed judge David Frei.

Since the show is taped at Saturday’s competition, organizers ask those in attendance to keep the winners under wraps until broadcast airs.

What else is there to do?

Aside from observing judging and visiting with the benched pooches, attendees can also get hyped watching doggo athletes perform a variety of agility demonstrations or chill out with therapy floofs at the therapy-dog meet-and-greet booth.

Around 100 vendors and sponsors will selling products for two- and four-legged friends, perfect for the fast-approaching holidays.