Move over, football: On Thanksgiving Day immediately after the Macy’s parade, NBC will televise the National Dog Show from Philadelphia. Time to sit back, wait for the pie to bake, and wager on what dog will give thanks for the big red-white-and-blue Best in Show ribbon. (The lucky dog will already know, because the show takes place Nov. 16-17; Thanksgiving is our chance to see the highlights.)
Is a Wire Fox Terrier wired to win again? The past two shows were won by two Wires. In fact, last year’s winner, Grand Champion Afterall’s Painting the Sky (Sky to her fans), is ranked the top dog of all breeds this year. You can bet the other contestants would give thanks if Sky would just stay home and eat turkey. Not likely. But she may choose to holiday elsewhere.
Unlike Westminster, where you pretty much know who’ll be there, the National Dog show is more like a surprise party. Will Sky be in attendance? She’s an unpredictable guest, often flitting from shows in one state to another overnight.
When it comes this close to the end of the year, those vying for top dog are trying for any edge they can get, and that might even mean skipping the National show, despite its prestige, and going for a smaller show with a greater chance of winning. But we’re betting several top dogs will decide to go muzzle-to-muzzle in Philadelphia.
1. Maybe Matisse, the Portuguese Water Dog, will dive in. He’s been racking up wins along the East Coast lately, and he’s ranked #2 among all breeds. Could a win here help him overtake Sky? With almost 1,500 points on the line, it would make a splash.
2. But those are only two of the dogs vying for the top award. And hey, this is the NATIONAL show! Where are our American breeds? Count on the American Foxhound Jewel to lead the charge. She’s the top hound in the country, and #5 of all breeds. And don’t discount the American Staffordshire Terrier, who may take on the Wire Fox in the Terrier group; or the Boston Terrier, that most American of breeds, in the Non-Sporting group.
Three breeds newly recognized by the American Kennel Club will make their debut this year: the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno in the Hound group, the Chinook in the Working group, and the Rat Terrier in the Terrier group. And take note: Both the Chinook and Rat Terriers are made in the USA!
3. Over the course of the day, 1,499 dogs in 183 breeds will be pared to just seven group winners. The nations’ top Sporting dog, Seymour, isn’t coming — we know that because the judging program lists no Clumber Spaniels at all. Nor will last year’s winner, Ginger the Field Spaniel, stage a repeat — no Field Spaniels entered. So look for lots of competition from dogs raring to take their place in this group!
4. In the Hound group, Jewel the Foxhound is a good favorite for a repeat win. But don’t discount Ryder the Afghan Hound — or any of his glamorous breed — to challenge her! Or perhaps a new star on the rise in Brazen, the svelte Whippet.
6. In the Terrier group, the Sky’s the limit — unless she’s brought down to earth by the Am Staff, Welsh Terrier, or Norfolk Terrier!
7. Last year’s Toy group winner, Banana Joe the Affenpinscher, retired after winning Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club. Perhaps a Pekingese named Rodger can persuade the judge to choose him, or a Toy Poodle named Sakura will score.
8. Poodles are a perennial favorite in the Non-Sporting group, and this year competition in Standard Poodles is especially fierce. No matter which one wins Best of Breed, look for it to be a contender. But the ultimate honor of group winner may go to a Bichon Frise named Honor or a Tibetan Spaniel named Tenzin.
9. The Herding group looks to be wide open. We’d love to see a Cardigan Welsh Corgi named Libby make an appearance, just because her name is fitting for the home of the Liberty Bell. The Sheltie and German Shepherd are always strong contenders, but this may be the ultimate sleeper group this year.
10. At the end of the day, only one dog will remain undefeated. Who to choose? How about some insider information from David Frei, the show’s expert commentator? Frei also hosts the Westminster Kennel Club show and says after 24 years of hosting that show, he’s found predicting the winner is a poor bet!
Just pick the number one dog? Uh oh, Sky. “In the previous 24 years, to the best of my knowledge, only about six times has the #1 dog in the previous calendar year won Best in Show at Westminster,” says Frei. Sometimes dogs come out of retirement to compete at prestigious events; sometimes dogs have had limited showing; and sometimes new faces are making a grand debut. And Frei reminds us that judging is done “on the day,” meaning no matter how great a dog was last week, he might have an off day next week, and the judge is only allowed to judge how he is on that day. And we all have bad days.
So prediction #10 is that the winner will be–a surprise!
So who will be this year’s champion? Will it be one of the nation’s top dogs? Or will it be a Rocky Balboa of dogdom, coming out of the ranks to challenge the champ? What’s your pick?
You can follow the event on the National Dog Show’s Facebook page.
About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.