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Everything to Know About the 2023 National Dog Show Presented by Purina

John O'Hurley and David Frei return to host the telecast of the iconic canine competition held in Philadelphia—which, they tell NBC Insider, was first inspired by a classic comedy film about a dog show. 

By Samantha Vincenty

When it comes to cozy comfort watches, the National Dog Show Presented by Purina ranks up there just after...well, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is the iconic competition show's lead-in on NBC each year.

The National Dog Show is required viewing for the roughly 20 million people who tune in to enjoy the broadcast, whether they're serious canine enthusiasts who know their Airedales from their Schnauzers or they simply enjoy the parade of furry faces. 

National Dog Show co-host David Frei told NBC Insider that even in the age of streaming and a wealth of options to watch on Thanksgiving morning, the show remains a hit because of its sweet mass appeal. "You've got the family gathered, and you're going to have some people who want to watch football. You'll have others who want to watch something else," Frei said. "But the dog show works for everybody, whether it's a three-year-old or their great grandmother." 

"When a dog walks into the room, the energy changes," Frei continued. "Even when they're onscreen in your living room as you're waiting for the turkey, it makes people laugh and smile."

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Here's every detail about the 2023 National Dog Show, from how to watch to who's hosting, as well as how to get in on the fun if you're a proud dog owner yourself. 

The National Dog Show judges posing together with various breeds of dogs.

How to watch the 2023 National Dog Show on NBC

The 2023 National Dog Show airs on Thursday, November 23 from 12-2 p.m. across time zones on NBC, and simulcast on Peacock. 

There will be an encore airing on Saturday, November 25, at 8/7c.     

Who are the 2023 National Dog Show Hosts?

Once again, the telecast will be hosted by John O'Hurley and David Frei, with NBC Sports analyst Mary Carillo providing commentary.

John O'Hurley

John O'Hurley sitting in a chair while a Miniature Poodle sits on his lap for The National Dog Show.

A co-host since NBC began airing the program in 2002, you may recognize O'Hurley from his acting roles like J. Peterman on Seinfeld, and his stint as one of the very first Dancing with the Stars winners.

O'Hurley told NBC Insider that because it's the only benched dog show in the world, competitors must stay on site for the entire day—making for a singularly-bustling environment.

"It's a really amazing day, not only for the competition that's going on in the ring, but for this wonderful sense of camaraderie in the dog show world," O'Hurley says. "It's quite a community."

David Frei

David Frei posing and hugging Winston, the French Bulldog, for The National Dog Show.

Breeder, handler, and all-around dog expert David Frei has been co-hosting the National Dog Show with O'Hurley since its first year in 2002. The American Kennel Club-licensed judge is so famous in the dog world, he played one in a 2004 Sex and the City episode as a dog show judge when Charlotte (Kristin Davis) entered her Spaniel, Elizabeth Taylor, in a competition. 

An owner of many dogs himself (one of Frei's adorable pups, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named True Dat, dozed next to him as he spoke with NBC Insider), Frei's particular passion for dogs who help humans led him to write 2011's Angel on a Leash: Therapy Dogs and the Lives They Touch. 

The National Dog Show was inspired by the comedy film Best in Show

The idea for the National Dog Show was actually inspired by the hilarious 2000 comedy film Best In Show. Christopher Guest’s mock-documentary starring Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jane Lynch follows a group of eccentric dog owners competing to win the titular top prize in Philadelphia.

When Jon Miller, NBC Sports' President of Acquisitions & Partnerships, was the President of Programming in 2002, he fell in love with the cult classic film—and got an idea.

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"Jon came into the Monday morning meeting at the network and told them, 'I know what we're gonna do with that two-hour slice between the parade and football. We're going to do a dog show,'" O'Hurley recounted to NBC Insider. As he remembers it, Miller's idea initially sounded offbeat to some, but very soon, he was in talks with the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. 

"Tuesday morning he called me in L.A. and said, "Woof woof," O'Hurley said. And the rest is history.

When does the 2023 National Dog Show happen?

The Miniature Poodle for The National Dog Show 2023 Presented by Purina

The National Dog Show was held by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia at the Greater Philadephia Expo Center on Saturday, November 18, and Sunday, November 19, 2023.

Ticketed attendees watched up to 2,000 dogs compete for Best in Show—and you'll see many of them during the NBC broadcast.

How does the 2023 National Dog Show work?

The National Dog Show features 205 breeds and varieties split into seven categories (sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding), all competing for the grand prize of Best in Show.

The groups will compete against each other to win Best in Breed to go on to the next round, and only one dog in each category will be chosen.

The dogs that make the cut will then compete for First in Breed, and the winners of those rounds will then compete for Best in Show, where one special dog will be appointed the highly-competitive title. Overall, the dogs are judged based on how they meet the standards of their respective breeds.

Which dog was the The National Dog Show winner?

Winston the French Bulldog posing in front of a blue backdrop for The National Dog Show.

Winston the French Bulldog won Best in Show in the 2022 National Dog Show.

The dog beat out about 1,500 of his fellow canine competitors after placing first in the Non-Sporting Group, and looked extremely adorable doing it. Great job, Winston!

As for 2023's winner, you'll have to watch on November 23 to find out.

Enter Your Pet in the National Dog Show's Top Dog Contest

While you can't bring your dog to the competition itself, you can enter them in Thanksgiving's Top Dog Contest. The prize? A one-year supply of Purina Pro Plan dog food, and a $500 Chewy gift card. 

To enter, post a photo or video of your dog at their very cutest on Instagram, TikTok, or X (formerly known as Twitter) using the hashtag #ThanksgivingsTopDogContest. The deadline to enter is November 13 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET.  

Visit the contest's site for more info and the complete list of contest rules. 

Originally published Nov 2, 2023.