The Thanksgiving tradition is back, with some socially-distant safety protocols in place.

By Austin Cannon
November 18, 2020
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Credit: Mark Makela / Getty

Will there be a National Dog Show in 2020? Yes, friends, the Thanksgiving tradition will continue, albeit as a smaller version due to the pandemic. 

But you will still see beautiful dogs. You will still hear the (relocated) voices of hosts David Frei and John O’Hurley. And you'll still think the judges picked the right dog for Best in Show—like Thor the bulldog from last year's competition—or throw up your hands in frustration when they don't pick your favorite contender. 

In fact, during a year when some of us might not get to see our families on Thanksgiving, the dog show is a piece of normalcy we might need more than we think.

Here’s how to watch the 2020 National Dog Show from the comfort of your couch (sweatpants encouraged, but not required). 

Where Can I Watch the National Dog Show?

No matter your time zone, the show will begin at noon on Thanksgiving (Nov. 26) on NBC. (It will follow the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.) 

If you cut the cord in favor of online streaming services, you can also stream the broadcast on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports App beginning at noon Eastern time. You can access the app via smartphone, Roku, Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire TV Stick. 

Is the National Dog Show Live?

Nope. The Philadelphia Kennel Club held the show on Nov. 14 and 15 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. We’ll all watch it on delay with turkey dinner in front of us, as always. 

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the only people allowed at the show during taping were the show officials, the NBC broadcast crew, and the dogs and handlers that competed at the expo center for the show. None of the usual vendors, media, or sponsors were in attendance—and certainly no crowd. 

The show is also usually “benched,” meaning the competing dogs have to stay in certain areas when they’re not competing, allowing onlookers to come see them up close. Not this year. The roughly 600 dogs—down from the usual 2,000—did not stick around the arena after they’re done showing. 

Are There Any New National Dog Show Breeds? 

Yes indeed! Three new dog breeds were added to the competition this year, per NBC Sports: the barbet, the Belgian Laekenois, and the dogo Argentino. (Those breeds will also make their debuts at Westminster this year.)

In all, 208 breeds are eligible to compete. The water dog barbet will compete in the sporting group; the strong Belgian Laekenois will be entered in the herding group; and the protective dogo Argentino will occupy a spot in the working group. 

How Does a Dog Win Best in Show? 

To the average viewer's dismay, the dog that wins Best in Show is (sadly) not which dog is cutest. If that was the case, my family’s standard poodle Riley would be a 12-time Best in Show winner. 

NBC Sports lays out the process for the pup who takes home the trophy: First, all the dogs of the same breed compete to see which dog best fits the breed’s standards. Each “Best in Breed” winner moves on to the group level. There, each of the dogs in the seven groups—herding, hound, non-sporting, sporting, terrier, toy, and working dogs—are again judged to see which pooch best fits their breed standards. 

The group winners then compete in the final round for the Best in Show title.

Which Dog Won Best in Show Last Year? 

The 2019 National Dog Show winner of Best in Show is the mighty Thor, an English bulldog whose real name is GCHG Diamond Gold Majesu Pisko Bulls. His handler is Eduardo Paris of Houston, Texas.   

The pup was no stranger to taking home titles. His handler shared that Thor won “...because of his structure and because he moves so well. He has been showing since September 2018 and has won 27 specialties since he has been showing.” Consider us impressed.

What We’re Most Excited to See This Year

No surprise, the staff at Daily Paws is looking forward to watching the National Dog Show. Here's what they’re most excited to see during the competition: 

Haylee Bergeland, pet health and behavior editor: The fashion, of course. Specifically all the blazers with large pockets and non-slip orthopedic shoes. Secondarily, the borzois and Irish wolfhounds, but only because I like to watch short people run with them. 

Austin Cannon, associate editor: I agree with John O’Hurley. The golden retriever is past due for a Best in Show victory. That’s who I’ll be pulling for. And, no, this is not a cheap ploy to gain favor with my girlfriend’s parents, who own a golden. I would never stoop to that. (Editor’s note: Yes he would.)    

Rachel Crocetti, SEO content strategist: The mop dogs are my personal favorites (Komondor), but I’m also always pumped to see the tiny Pomeranians. And if there’s a pup doing a naughty thing or showing a silly personality, they automatically become my front-runner! (Young Rachel used to sit in front of the TV every Thanksgiving and write down the names of every dog breed with a rating scale. Spoiler alert: No dogs received a bad rating.)

Abbie Harrison, senior editor: I'm excited to see all the different breeds and see which breeds my rescue pup resembles the most. I'll be paying special attention to the hound group because we're pretty sure she's some type of hound.

April Saylor, deputy editor: My family watches the whole thing—it's always on while we're making Thanksgiving dinner. We each have our favorites and tend to root for dogs based more on personality and the way they interact with their handler than on breed standards. I always root for the hound group because of my own two coonhounds, and even they tend to perk up when they see a particularly interesting pup trot by on screen.

Regardless of who takes home the title, in our book, they're all winners. And if you're looking for the perfect pup to add to your family, your local shelter or animal rescue organization may have just the dog you're looking for.