Who Will Win the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day?


It’s time again for the National Dog Show! America’s most-watched dog show will be seen by millions on Thanksgiving, immediately after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And if you don’t like football, it’s a godsend. Here’s the inside scoop on favorites for group and best in show wins.

Last year, America’s top dog was Jewel the American Foxhound. But Jewel has since hung up her show lead to be a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps one of the other American breeds, like the American Water Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Boston Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier, will win? It depends on who makes the trek to Philadelphia, city of doggedly love (or something like that), how they show on the day, and who the judge decides is the best on that day.

Jewel the American Foxhound took home top honors at last year's National Dog Show.
Jewel the American Foxhound took home top honors at last year’s National Dog Show.

We have our ideas, though.

The Hound Group

Jewel may not be in the Hound group this year, but her understudy, GCh Kiarry’s Back in the Saddle, has become a star in his own right. He will try to keep Jewel’s trophy in the family.

And while we’re talking about family, remember Hickory, the Scottish Deerhound who made history a few years ago with her Best in Show at Westminster? She also retired to motherhood, and now her daughter, Chelsea (GCh Foxcliffe’s Chelsea Piers), is taking her place alongside Hickory’s former handler Angela Lloyd. As this year’s winner of the Deerhound National Specialty, she’s another to watch.

Chelsea the Scottish Deerhound.
Chelsea the Scottish Deerhound.

But there’s a complication: Lloyd also has a Treeing Walker Coonhound named GCh Cherry Creek Confetti who has been on the trail of some big wins. How will she show two dogs if both make it to the Hound group?

The Treeing Walker is one of the more recently recognized Hound breeds, but even newer is the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno. That’s the one that looks sort of like a terrier/Dachshund mix. Or some kind of mix. Impress your friends by pointing it out before the announcer has a chance. You can also impress them if the smooth Saluki Ali (GCh Takara the Time is Now) wins the breed this year. She doesn’t carry the customary long fringe on her ears and tail, but the smooth coat is an equally correct coat type.

Other contenders for high honors might well be the top-winning Whippet, the incredible Ibizan Hound, the alluring Afghan Hound, and the baying Beagle. But in our opinion, the smart money for the top spot is on Nathan the Bloodhound, last year’s Westminster Hound group winner, this year’s top Hound, and an all-around pretty cool dude who goes more formally by GCh Flessner’s International S’cess.

Nathan the Bloodhound.
Nathan the Bloodhound.

If Nathan wins the Hound group, he’ll face stiff competition from the other group winners, especially the Working and Toy groups.

The Working Group

This promises to be one of the most hotly contested, with two heavyweights duking it out — even though the No. 1 Working dog (and No. 1 dog all breeds) is rumored to have skipped the National Dog Show this year. Not so of the No. 2 and No. 3 Working dogs, both of whom plan to compete — and win. Will it be the Akita, Trader (GCh Cr -Wicca’s Trade Secret), who’s already won 17 Best in Show awards this year? Or the Samoyed, Bogey (GCh Pebbles’ Run Play It Again Ham), with seven Bests so far this year?

Never discount the Doberman, Boxer, Rotty, or Siberian Husky, but this may be the year of the rarer breeds. Impress your friends by identifying the Leonberger, the lion-looking dog from Germany, and keep an eye out for the Standard Schnauzer and Bernese Mountain Dog.

Banana Joe is Ben There Done That's sire.
Banana Joe is Ben There Done That’s sire.

The Toy Group

Be prepared for another clash of the (tiny) titans. One of them is likely to be Ben (GCH Yarrow’s Hi-Tech Ben There Done That). And if his name refers to winning, especially winning Best in Shows, then yeah, he’s aptly named. Small surprise, considering his sire is another former Westminster Best in Show winner, Joey (GCH Banana Joe V Tani Kazari), and his handler, Ernesto Lara, also piloted Joey to his wins. And while it doesn’t matter as far as winning, two of his owners, the Truesdales, are some of the most active and benevolent sponsors of the AKC Canine Health Foundation.

Ben the Affenpinscher.
Ben the Affenpinscher.

But if Ben wants to have done that in the winner’s circle again, he’ll have to get past the General: that is, GCh Pequest General Tso, another star at the end of renowned Peke breeder David Fitzpatrick’s leash. And Fitzpatrick is another who might just find himself with two dogs in the Toy group if the Chinese Crested he’s showing wins Best of Breed. While we think this is a two-dog showdown between the Peke and the Affenpinscher, don’t discount the Pug and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The Sporting Group

This group is always a crowd favorite, especially since it includes America’s favorite breed, the Labrador. But Labs are notorious underachievers at the group level. Will this year’s winner change that?

More often, the Golden is the Retriever who fetches all the ribbons, and this year has an impressive entry. Will it be a golden win? Or will the nod go to one of the flashier Setters or Spaniels? Setter-wise, we like the English, Blaze (GCh Weymouth’s en Fuego), who is ranked No. 16 of all breeds, although we hear a lesser-known Gordon named Sadie (GCh Sandpiper’s Shore Why Knot) has set her sights on the big prize as well. And never ignore the spaniels, whether flashy Cockers or Springers or one of the more subtle ones like the Field or Clumber. And don’t ignore the German Shorthaired Pointer!

The Non-Sporting group is always tough, being home to the poofed Poodles, dashing Dalmatians and frumpy Frenchies. Poodle competition is once again at fever pitch this year, so look for whichever Poodle emerges from the breed victorious to be a contender.

But maybe this isn’t the year of the foo-foo. We think it could be the year of the Dalmatian. Or French Bulldog. We’re bullish on this year’s Frenchie favorite: GCh Diva’s Bastille My Heart (Freda) — her clever name would be reason enough, but she’s also had a stellar show year. Also watch out for the hairless Xoloitzcuintli, if only so you can impress your friends with your pronunciation skills (say Sho-lo-ITZ-keent-lee. Or just “Sho-lo” for short!).

Freda the French Bulldog. Photo by Ethan Wheeler.
Freda the French Bulldog. Photo by Ethan Wheeler.

The Herding Group

Famed German Shepherd handler and breeder Jimmy Moses, winner of Best in Show at Westminster with two different GSDs, will be judging the Herding group, so any Shepherd in his ring is going to face a tough critic. For that reason, we aren’t going to choose a Shepherd as one of our favorites, despite their dominance of the Herding group.

Instead we may again go with another second-generation winner, this time the Bearded Collie, or maybe the perky Shetland Sheepdog or one of the chipper Corgis. This group is really up in the air, so go for a longshot! By the way, look for the Pyrenean Shepherd — cute and smart!

The Terrier Group

No group of dogs has so dominated the show world as has the classic Terrier group. Often small in number, it’s never short of quality. With last year’s top dog of all breeds, Sky the Wire Fox Terrier, retired, there’s a rush to fill her place. We happen to know the current top terrier stayed in the sunny south for the weekend, but there’s still going to be plenty of quality in Philadelphia.

Sky the Wire Fox Terrier.
Sky the Wire Fox Terrier.

Fox Terriers, both wire and smooth, are always the ones to beat, and recently the smooths seem to be especially quality-laden, so look for a Smooth Fox Terrier amongst the finalists. But this year don’t discount one of the short-legged terriers, or even a bully breed.

Norfolk Terrier GCh Yarrow Venerie Ticket to Ride (Rider) shares a kennel name and owner with the Affenpinscher we’ve already mentioned in the Toy Group. Could there be a family feud in Best in Show? Maybe. He’s one of the top Terriers in the country. He could be challenged by a couple of other breeds from the British Isles, the Scotty or Sealyham. But surely there will be one American breed to stave off the British invasion! We think it will be up to the American Staffordshire Terrier, Flash (GCh An Garda Deja Vu Looking at You) to get the Liberty Bell ringing.

Rider the Norfolk Terrier.
Rider the Norfolk Terrier.

Best in Show

So who will come into the Best in Show ring for the final smackdown? It’s hard to know for sure, but we’re thinking Nathan the Bloodhound, Blaze the English Setter, Freda the Frenchie, General Tso the Peke, Ben the Affenpinscher, Trader the Akita, Bogey the Samoyed, or Rider the Norfolk are most likely to strut away with the red, white, and blue ribbon at America’s red, white, and blue dog show.

But if we really had to put our money where our mouth is, we’re thinking Nathan is the hottest on the trail right now. Or the General. Or Trader. Or Rider. Or… wait, who will win the Herding group?

Read more about spending Thanksgiving with dogs:

Interested in breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.


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

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