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The National Dog Show

Commentator David Frei gives family tips on touring the National Dog Show

The Philadelphia Kennel Club’s National Dog Show (Nov. 16-17) is always a bow-wowser of an event, and on Sunday, MetroKids will again be in the thick of things. Once you’ve spent some quality time in the MK kid’s zone — where dog-gone crafts, caricatures and face painting are on tap — there’ll be plenty more to see at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks.

Longtime Dog Show cohost and color commentator David Frei, the inspiration for Fred Willard’s gregarious Best in Show character, gives his top tips bon how families can best take in the spectacle.

  1. “Get into the benching areas,” open-to-the-audience prep stations where all 190 breeds of competing canines are displayed as they await their turn in the spotlight. “For the most part, the people showing want to interact with the public,” Frei says. “If you’re looking to buy the right dog for your family, you can walk around, talk to the owners, pet a beagle, a Papillon, a border collie, and find out what you need to know. Real dogs, people handling are real people, not just show dogs sitting on pillows eating bonbons, one way to show that the dogs are doing other things than just dressing
  2. “There are a lot of entertaining sidelights to watch — agility and water dogs, the Junior Showmanship competition for kids 8 to 18,” Frei says. “Showing dogs is a great family sport.”
  3. If you're coming live, make sure to tune in to the televised broadcast on Thanksgiving Day (NBC, 12noon). "Kids who were there can visit with the dogs at the show, then watch and say, 'I petted that dog who's on the TV.' "
  4. See a few of the show’s four-legged stars strut their stuff on the red carpet at a Friday-evening gala fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House on Chestnut Street (Nov. 15). Frei and his wife regularly take therapy dogs to visit the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House near his Manhattan home, and he’s seen the presence of pooches work “miracles of the moment” for sick children. “These kids have had to leave their homes and dogs behind to get treatment for months or years,” Frei explains. “Seeing the therapy dogs helps normalize things. It takes the kids’ minds off their challenges and lets them play.”

Given his extensive involvement with the Dog Show, it's somewhat surprising to learn that Frei never had a dog growing up. "I got my first dog in college, when I was moving into own house and my girlfriend said, "Let’s get a dog, how about an Afghan hound?' he recalls. We got the dog three weeks later. Eventually, the girl left and the dog stayed. It was right decision for all of us."

Frei's favorite aspect of the Dog Show is proving that competing dogs are "real dogs, and the handlers are real people," he says. "They're not just show dogs sitting on pillows eating bonbons. This is one way to show that the dogs are more than just dressing."

Get the full Dog Show schedule here, and be sure to visit the MK kid's zone on Sunday. Click here for an interview with Dog Show host and dog book author John O'Hurley.

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