David Frei and John O’Hurley talk Dog Show for Thanksgiving on NBC

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving, other than calling dibs on the crusty part of the exposed stuffing from inside the Turkey, is the Purina Dog Show that follows the Macy’s Parade.

For all the dog lovers out there, the National Dog Show sponsored by Purina is a good time to check out the breeds and root for your favorites. The National Dog Show, sponsored by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, will feature more than 2,000 of the top dogs in the country.

Back on February 12th, Uno the beagle made history as the first of his kind to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club competition. In honor of his new title, Macy’s commissioned a special float and he will ride on it with dog expert and commentator for The National Dog Show, David Frei.

Uno the Beagle

Uno the Beagle

Following the parade Uno will make an appearance at The Purina National Dog Show where he “pose” with fans – the fees for this will be donated to the non-profit therapy dog program called, Angel on a Leash. These real earth angels train dogs to work at hospitals, hospices, schools and correctional facilities.
John O’Hurley, who has served as the host of the canine competition since it began in 2002 will return this year to join Frei as well.  O’Hurley had a great turn as “Seinfeld’s” nutty J. Peterman and was a winning “Dancing With The Stars” contestant.  He has also some books published about living with dogs.

The National Dog Show Presented by Purina is every Thanksgiving Day.
It airs from noon to two in every time zone.

David Frei and John O’Hurley took time out to talk to Monsters and Critics with other journalists about everyone’s favorite four-legged show coming to NBC.

Are there hypoallergenic dogs?

John O’Hurley: Hypoallergenic – I understand the President-elect is looking for a puppy.  I’m going to have to pick David’s brain and find out what type of dog would match a lifestyle that is both extraordinary and ordinary at the same time? I don’t know.

David Frei: I’ve already done a couple of bits on – with MSNBC and Inside Edition about this. But in the first place he’s going about it the right way. They’re doing their homework. They’re making a decision as a family. And that’s the first point you’ve got to start with. And that’s great.

If somebody out there is telling him that there is such a thing as a totally hypoallergenic dog – you’re telling a story like that to the President – that’s probably a violation of some federal law somewhere.

Because there is no totally hypoallergenic dog. There are some breeds that are a little less likely to cause challenges like Poodles and Bichons and things like that.
Or they’re talking about a Golden Doodle – these bad breeds that come about because some person creates a marketing tool and thinks he can sell them a dog with a cute name that that’s going to be appealing. They’re still going to get a dog that’s half-Poodle and half-Golden.

And they’re going to get traits from both dogs. And it’s not always going to be a perfect Poodle coat only and Golden temperament only.  In the first place there’s nothing wrong with a Poodle temperament. But those dogs are not the answer.
If as he says they like the idea of getting a dog from a shelter but understand the challenges there, then they ought to look into a rescue dog.

Dogs end up in rescues sometimes for the silliest reasons. And you can get a dog that you know the background of pretty well.

If it’s a purebred dog, the predictability of knowing how that dog is going to grow up and what kind of coat they’re going to have and things like that, I think that’s what a purebred dog has to answer – or has to offer.

But at the same time I think they should just continue going about it the way they are. Keep asking questions and keep trying to find the right dog that fits their lifestyle.

How important is such a focus that they’re putting on this? How important is it to the national scene as far as dogs are concerned?

David Frei: Well I think it’s very important, If you’re going to add a dog to our family from a personal standpoint, this dog is going to be with them longer than anybody he’s going to be named to his Cabinet. And I think that’s why it’s important to ask these questions ahead of time.

Now from a national focus standpoint, look you’re adding a member to the family. It’s a dog that’s going to have great visibility for eight years in our world. In the dog world it means that they’re going to help us educate the public about responsible ownership. And I think that’s a key issue there.

I think we also need to be careful that we get a dog that has the right temperament and personality to be in the White House. You know, we almost had an international incident there the other day…

Barney took a piece out of the Reuters reporter. And I think years ago I think it was Teddy Roosevelt who had a dog that bit the French ambassador. So, we don’t want to create any international incidents.

I think it’s important to get a dog that can be there and stand a lot of noise and a lot of things going on because they’re going to be in the middle of it everyday.

Canaan dog

Canaan dog

What about the Canaan breed?

David Frei: Well they’re still dogs that even though they’re recognized they’re still a little bit rare. And I think judges don’t always have confidence in what they’re seeing because they haven’t seen enough of them to form an opinion.

You’re supposed to judge each breed against the standard that describes the written – or the written standard that describes the perfect specimen of that breed – the ideal specimen of that breed.

If you haven’t seen enough of them to apply what you read, then it’s difficult for you to say this is the best dog in the group compared to the 20-some other breeds that are in there. And I think that makes it difficult for judges to step forward even if a dog is the best Canaan they’ve ever seen.

If Barack Obama picked up the phone and asked you what breed would you recommend knowing everything about the White House, what would you say to him?

David Frei: I would say a Standard Poodle, a Portuguese Water Dog or an Irish Water Spaniel.
I think the allergy issue is less of a challenge with those three breeds because of their coat types. They are athletic, intelligent, active dogs that could withstand the lifestyle that two young children – two young, active children would bring on them. And they’ve got a huge yard to run in.

John O’Hurley: David I want to echo what you were saying. I don’t think that is matters as much what he chooses as how he explains his process of choice.

Because I echo what David was saying earlier – that it’s kind of heartwarming as a choice as it seems, it does say a lot to all of the people that are potential dog owners in the country. And it can help or it can hinder depending on what his – the nature of his choice is.

David Frei: We face this every year at Westminster.   We face this every year at Westminster. Whatever dog goes Best in Show at Westminster the phone starts ringing the next day at the National Beagle Club.

And whatever dog he picks the same thing is going to happen. It happened when Nixon got an Irish Setter. It happened with (Paula), the Scottish Terrier, that FDR had. It happened when President Clinton got a Labrador. Suddenly everybody sees that dog. It looks pretty good running around the White House and looks good in pictures.

So they say I think I should get one of those. It happens at Westminster with our winners. It happens at the National Dog Show too. And just because a dog is in the White House or just because a dog looks good on television on Frazier doesn’t mean it’s the right dog for you.

There will be a big challenge to people who are involved with those breeds to educate the general public that it may not be the right breed for you.

What do you think of the movie “Best in Show”?

John O’Hurley:  I’ll say it’s funny because it’s a wonderful parody of a wonderful institution. And really as G.K. Chesterton used to say the test of a good religion is how well it can take a joke.

I think the fact that it’s a wonderful parody on a wonderful institution I think makes it – it solidifies how important these type of shows are and the fact that they can be parodies.



David Frei: That’s well said, John.  I’ve done the Westminster on television for 20 years. And this will be my 20th year coming up. So we were right in the middle of it as they were asking to film some things here. And we wouldn’t let them because of space considerations.

But we were all concerned about the movie, of course. We’re flattered that we’re the object of satire like that by some very talented people. And when we went to the how we saw that they didn’t make fun of the sport.

They didn’t make fun of the dogs. They only made fun of the people.

We say all the time and we admit readily to the fact that we are a target rich environment in that respect; that there are a lot of characters out there. And we watched the movie and sat there and said, I recognize that character. And I recognize this character. And I remember the day I didn’t bring Mr. Bumblebee and I was in trouble with my wife and things like that. So it was great fun.

And as I say I have the DVD right here in my office. I carry around with me most of the time.

What is a good age to introduce a dog with kids?

John O’Hurley: I have a little bit of experience in it having a two year old son now and recently acquired two new additions to our household – two puppies.

I think it sometimes it’s very difficult to introduce puppies to children because puppies can overwhelm the child at a time when they are forming, their kind of views of the world. And sometimes it can be a bad experience of dogs that are jumping up on them all the time.

So sometimes I think a parent really has to decide whether six is too young and whether six is a responsible age when they can a) start to enjoy the dog without it being, you know, intruding physically on them; or b) actually assumes some responsibility for them.

Because we have two puppies. The two puppies are puppies for each other as well so they – it’s been very entertaining. But we’re still having a lot of trouble housebreaking them.

David Frei: John and I each have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from the same breeder in California.

John O’Hurley:  David has been an enormous influence on the dogs in my life.

David Frei: (Why) thank you.

Any dog show scandals?

David Frei: I guess that would be a great story if that were true. But really I think we’re all there as a competitive sport and the competition ends in the ring.

I think outside the ring people are – this is someone’s circle of friends. And the social things that they do many of their friends if not most of them are dog show people who have the same interests.

David Frei: Yeah we’ve got a great organization called Take the Lead that is within the dog show world only. And it’s less than 20 years old that raises and provides funds for people who have life threatening and (devastating) – or physically or financially devastating illnesses. And that organization is strictly within the dog show world.

But it’s raised and distributed more than $2 million in its time. So that’s the kind of things, I think, that evidence that fact that we do kind of consider ourselves family.

What are some of the best characters that you’ve seen out there over the years hosting this?

David Frei: Well I remember John’s great line actually when a Puli was on the screen one time. This really (was to) the dog. But he said oh Whoopi, we found your hair.

Yeah sometimes people match their dogs to their outfits. And sometimes they match them in personality. And yeah a lot of times people look like their dogs. But it’s not always a good idea to point that out.

But I think that people are drawn to dogs that have similar personalities and characters as their own. John you see it every year walking around back there.

John O’Hurley: Yep.  There’s a lot of primping and preening there. And there is a certain stage mother quality to what’s going on.  The dogs can’t groom themselves. So they take great concern over the way that their dogs look. And it really is to be commended that they get them, you know, in such beautiful shape.

Any other animals appeal to you?

John O’Hurley: Well you’re getting now into the red states and the blue states issues right now.   It’s kind of like the Red Sox and the Yankees. They’re just  different people. People like cats and there are people that like dogs. And I just find them different people.

David Frei: I’ve had cats in the past and I’ve had horses. And  I’m pretty much a dog person. But we’re very accepting of the cat people in our world.

I actually went to the CFA Cat Show here at Madison Square Garden last month. And I walked away from there thinking I don’t ever want to hear anybody kidding me again about how dog people look like their dog.

Any interesting stories or unusual happenings?

John O’Hurley: Hold it right there. I’ll tell you exactly what happened.  David will not admit this. NBC doesn’t like when I tell this story. But darn it I’m going to tell it.

Yes in the second year that we were doing it, a Great Dane came out and right in front of David and I at the NBC booth he squatted down and left us a package right there on the floor as only the size and aroma of a Great Dane could do. And it didn’t stop the show.

David Frei: And, surprisingly no dog fights. If you go back there with 2000 dogs and you don’t see any dog fights. You see squaring off and a bark or two here. But it’s,  if 165 breeds can get together why can’t we?

John how did you come up with the name of your second book “Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework First You Have to Do It”?

John O’Hurley: Well I do a lot of corporate motivational speaking. And that’s one of the things that I do talk about. I talk about the object of separation and that’s really what that’s all about.

I have other chapters called When All Is Said And Done More Was Said Than Done. That’s just – it was just a title. It was actually a title from the original book. It was a chapter that I pulled out of the original book and make it the focus of the second book.



Why aren’t Samoyeds more popular at dog shows? It seems their natures and showy coats and large size are made for stardom?

John O’Hurley: David that’s probably a better question for you…

David Frei: I guess the main thing would be that they’re a dog that needs a lot of care and who needs a lot of attention because of the coat. Why aren’t they more popular at dog shows? I think they are pretty popular at dog shows.

I don’t know where they stand. Before this is over I can get you their ranking in the registration lineup. But they’re wonderful dogs. They’re athletic dogs. They’re beautiful in appearance and fun to be around. But they do require some care.

And I think we see more and more dogs, I think, being registered that are dogs that require a little less care and time because of coat or size or whatever. So I don’t think that’s a fair statement about Samoyeds.