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Unleashing the Fun: Why National Dog Show Is a Must-See Event

(Image courtesy of NBC / Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)

Since the advent of television, critics have voiced their concerns over the merit of programming. With almost limitless options, viewers can watch any niche interest to their hearts' delight. In the sea of reality television and the round-the-clock news cycle, can a television program reduce blood pressure and increase oxytocin production? If so, when does it air? After the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, millions of Americans gather every year to watch this unique programming: The National Dog Show, Presented by Purina and hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.

(Image courtesy of  Bill McCay/NBC. The image depicts The 2023 National Dog Show Non-Sporting Group Winner, a Dalmatian named Pumpkin.)


For the past twenty-two Thanksgivings, NBC has aired The National Dog Show. It educates the public about canine evolution, biology, and more. The National Dog Show has mended the bipartisan bridge toward greener pastures in an ever-divided world. With over 65 million households owning pets (and most of those have a dog), The National Dog Show is a gem.


(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)


I had the chance to speak with Steve Griffith, General Manager of Vizion Group PR, to learn more about how this dog show has cemented itself in The Thanksgiving Day television pantheon. Steve and Vizion Group provided public relations and marketing services to the event in Philadelphia and to the national broadcast.

(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)


1. Why should someone watch or attend The National Dog Show?

For twenty-two years now, NBC has broadcasted The National Dog Show across America, bringing their cameras to the big weekend in the heart of the Philadelphia region. The non-profit Kennel Club of Philadelphia owns and operates the dog show and has been producing it since 1879. The organization's mission is to educate the public about responsible pet parenting and the wonderfulness of dogs.

(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)


When you attend The National Dog Show, you learn that it is the last and now only benched show. As a benched show, dogs, their handlers/owners/breeders are situated in designated areas amidst the competition rings where the public can interact with them directly throughout the day. Since The National Dog Show is a benched show, The Kennel Club of Philadelphia can fulfill its mission of canine education in the hope that people will research which breed is right for them and potentially adopt or acquire a dog that meets their needs.

(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)



2. What is the audience's reaction to the show?

It is a sight to see.  People are just so happy to be there. When you have a sporting competition or an award show, one team or person wins while the others leave unhappy. But, when you enter a room with five thousand people and two thousand dogs, you are surrounded by smiles, barks, and laughter. There are hundreds of winners in different stories.  You can't duplicate this feeling anywhere else.


(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)


The National Dog Show's environment is one of the many reasons for a positive growth trend among attendees. When you visit Philadelphia for The National Dog Show weekend, The Kennel Club of Philadelphia offers wonderfully low ticket prices. For the 2023 show, ticket prices were $16 for adults $7 for kids, and children under three are admitted free. We did a study with Temple University to learn more about the Dog Show's demographics. When you attend the event, there’s a lot going on.  You interact with the bench dogs and see the agility and therapy dog showcases. We discovered that the average family spends three and a half hours attending the dog show. Consequently, the show's entertainment value is both efficient and offers a high return on investment.


(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)

3. How does The Kennel Club of Philadelphia incorporate its mission and vision into The National Dog Show?

The event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. The National Dog Show thus enables The Kennel Club of Philadelphia to maintain and expand its programs with therapy dogs and make donations to multiple canine causes, including rescue.. Although the event occurs during one weekend, The National Dog Show is a twelve-month operation. The committee will meet formally in June and continue working until January. Then, we take some time off and return to action come spring.

(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)


4. How has The National Dog Show evolved since its formation?

Since 2002, NBC has aired The National Dog Show. There is a great story behind why this dog show plays on Thanksgiving Day. One weekend, Jon Miller, an NBC Sports executive, rented the film Best in Show, and after watching it, he and his wife found it hilarious. On his drive to work that Monday, Miller thought NBC could make a dog show work  on network television. The famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was on television, but it  aired on cable on a weeknight in February, competing with network primetime  programming. Miller thought that a dog show could reach a larger audience on broadcast television, possibly on a holiday. When he told his bosses about his idea, they were not sold, but Miller then asked if he could call Burbank (the NBC entertainment headquarters at the time) to see if there was an available time slot. The entertainment executives  said, coincidentally, that the time slot following  the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade might be available. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade delivers a massive audience. At the time, the Macy’s Parade was followed by the movie  It's A Wonderful Life, which was delivering unimpressive  ratings. The Burbank office gave Miller the time slot for one year as a trial run. NBC predicted that The National Dog Show would have garner a modest  1.5 rating, slightly better than the movie. With Purina and the Kennel Club of Philadelphia on board, the  show aired and  delivered a rating of 5.9, an unexpectedly strong audience thanks in part to the high viewership of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)

As a result, America had a new tradition: families watching The National Dog Show Presented by Purina on Thanksgiving Day, following the parade, and before football watching takes over the day. 

(Image courtesy of Bill McCay / NBC via Getty Images.)




Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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