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John O’Hurley & David Frei – Best in Show

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA -- Pictured: "The National Dog Show Presented by Purina" 2016 (l-r) Hosts David Frei and John O'Hurley -- (Photo by: Chris Weeks/

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA — Pictured: “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” 2016 (l-r) Hosts David Frei and John O’Hurley — (Photo by: Chris Weeks/

John O’Hurley & David Frei

Best in Show

by Jay S. Jacobs

For fifteen years, they have been the faces of dog shows. Well, the non-furry faces, and sadly, arguably the ones that most people don’t go “awwww” over. In a sea of adorable canine action, actor John O’Hurley (Mr. Peterman from Seinfeld!) and long-time dog show host David Frei have been bringing us The National Dog Show every Thanksgiving for the last 15 years.

In a decade and a half, these dedicated and tireless cheerleaders for man’s best friend have made the dog show an annual tradition for starving family members, between the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and football, families settle in the living room, smelling the Thanksgiving feast cooking and watching some of the most adorable breeds in the world strutting their stuff.

A couple of weeks before the latest National Dog Show, we were able to take part in a conference call again with the guys, to discuss how dogs, and the dog show, have changed their lives.

A few years ago, when I spoke with you we were discussing the old W.C. Fields line that you should never work with children and animals because they always steal the spotlight from you. So, have you guys had any situations in the show recently where the spotlight was stolen?

John O’Hurley: (laughs) Well, let’s see. We had my son on last year on the show. They mic’d him up for a segment that we were doing on why we were thankful for dogs. Well, he happened to have a little school friend accompanying him for the day at the National Dog Show. So once he finished his little piece about thanking dogs he as he’s taking the mic off he turns to his friend and goes, “This is pretty much my life. This is pretty much my life every day.” (They laugh.)

How about you David? Did you have any?

David Frei: Well, we just did a press event today for the Kennel Club of Philadelphia show which is the National Dog Show. We did it at the Pet Plan Offices – Pet Plan Health Insurance offices.  They brought in a classroom of probably first graders and they were there with all the dogs that we had – the new breed dogs and the therapy dogs that are part of the National Dog Show ambassador therapy dog team. I was the emcee, and I guarantee you there weren’t many pictures taken of me today. (O’Hurley laughs) It was all the dogs and the kids, so it’s great fun. And, of course, that’s what it’s all about is dogs and kids – so we have a great time.

John O’Hurley: It is. In fact, actually I would say that one of the on-camera pieces that we did last year, David, you and I were upstaged by the bloodhound.

David Frei: (laughs) Yes, that’s true.

John O’Hurley: He was licking you all over the place during the spot, yes.

David Frei: As Mary Carillo once said about the Olympics, “It’s the only sport that she covers where the competitors lick her.”

John O’Hurley: That’s right.

As a native Philadelphian we’re very proud of the dog show. How involved has the community been in the show? Also, do you guys get any time to see any of our city while you’re here?

John O’Hurley: Well, yes, I have enjoyed all 15 years for the reason that we are there are in Philadelphia. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities. I love the increased renovation that they’ve been undergoing there and restoring a lot of the history of the community. Regarding the response to the show, now that we have a permanent home out there in Oaks, Pennsylvania, we have found that the audiences grow every year. We have upwards of 30,000 people a day that come through there and it’s just so wonderful. They’ve got the idea that a benched show like ours is a place that children will have a full day of fun. That seems to be the way that it’s grown.

David Frei: Hey, the other thing is too that this has become the month that has been declared, “National Dog Show Month” in Philadelphia, so we know we’re well received.  Not just from the crowds that come to see us at the show, but in terms of the community and media involvement and things. People are excited to see us and excited to be a part of what we’re doing.

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA -- 2016 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host David Frei, 2015 Best in Show winner Good Time Charlie the Skye Terrier, Host John O'Hurley -- (Photo by: Bill McCay/NBC)

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA — 2016 — Pictured: (l-r) Host David Frei, 2015 Best in Show winner Good Time Charlie the Skye Terrier, Host John O’Hurley — (Photo by: Bill McCay/NBC)

How is the Beverly Hills Dog Show going to be different from the National Dog Show?

John O’Hurley: Well, I will say straight out that David and I have had our hands on a lot of the birth of the Beverly Hills Dog Show. We want it to look different. Everybody wants it to look different. They want it to be the promise of what Beverly Hills would bring to the dog show world. There’s been a whole redesign of the staging that’s used. It will be – I hate to use this word – but it’ll be much more Victoria’s Secret runway. (Frei laughs.) It’ll have that feel to it. We’ll take advantage of the surroundings in Beverly Hills. It’s going to have a little bit of the flavor and the splash of what you’d hope an event in Hollywood would be like.

Do you think it will be benched as well?

David Frei: No, it is not a benched dog show. It’s California style. We’ll all come and enjoy it. It’s at a fairgrounds location. The people of Beverly Hills have been very embracing of what we’re doing there as well, so we think it’ll be great fun for everybody. We hope that we can communicate that on the telecast. One more thing about that too is the show is telecast on USA Network in its original telecast and then is repeated a week later on NBC.

I believe this is the 15th year anniversary of the National Dog Show. Am I correct in saying so?

John O’Hurley: Yes, that’s correct.

David Frei: It is, and I think that’s our crystal anniversary. I hope John’s picking out some nice piece of crystal for me.

John O’Hurley: I would went down the list and I don’t know, my chronologically said, “Papier-mâché.

What do you tribute the fascination of the public in watching man’s best friend compete over and over again these shows? Why do you think we are so fascinated?

John O’Hurley: I’ll answer first, David. My perspective is as just a television viewer. You have the remote in your hands. You’re not used to what dog shows are. You just happen to be flipping through the channels. The moment that it lands upon the National Dog Show and you see the close-up faces of all of these dogs, the expressions and the fact that they are beautiful representatives of their particular breed – you stop. You stop and you watch. You get glued to it. You continue to watch it. You find yourself an hour or two into it. It’s just very compelling television from that. There’s something about the look of a dog’s face that I think is just a very compelling thing. Now add to that that we have so many loyal viewers because we have so many loyal dog owners that have the – as David refers to it – “the alma mater factor” sitting there on the couch next to them. Not only that, people that love certain breeds of dogs. We have a wonderful built-in audience of dog lovers all across the nation. Again, I think it’s compelling television that when you go channel surfing, anytime you see the close-up of a dog you’re going to stop.

David, what is your take on that? You’ve been doing this for a very long time, now, as the host of Westminster Dog Show. What do you feel our fascination is? There’s always a click to that.

David Frei: Well, our dogs are now members of our family. We used to have dogs that do work for us, whether it was herd our animals, or get the rats out of our kitchen, or pull a cart, or something like that. Nowadays, they don’t need to do that. We keep them because of those unique temperaments and personalities that were developed because of the things that they were bred to do. They become members of our family. It’s not just open the door and let them out, it’s let’s go for a walk together. I think when people are watching us on television they have that same feeling as John talked about – the alma matter factor. I also think that just the fact that our dogs that they see in the dog show do the same things at home that your dog is doing at home. We want you to relate to that and have this be a celebration of the dog in your life, whether they’re a purebred dog, or a mixed breed dog, or a cat even – we let the cats in there sometimes too. It’s great fun for us all in that respect. We’ll sit there with our Brittany on the couch and say, “You know what? Grace, we’re going to root for the Brittany today, because I know you and I could be out there and we can be doing just as well if I gave you a bath once a month, instead of once every six months, and maybe we both did a little roadwork.” So it’s great fun in that respect. It’s easy to relate to.

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA -- Pictured: "The National Dog Show Presented by Purina" 2016 (l-r) Hosts David Frei and John O'Hurley -- (Photo by: Chris Weeks/

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA — Pictured: “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” 2016 (l-r) Hosts David Frei and John O’Hurley — (Photo by: Chris Weeks/

I know you gentleman are quite involved in therapy dogs. Can you tell us about their job and what it takes for them to become a therapy dog? They’re not just beautiful specimens of their breed, but they give back to children and adults.

David Frei: Well, it’s a natural thing for dogs. They are spontaneous. They have unconditional love. They’re universally accepting of everybody. When a dog walks into the room, the energy changes. People smile, they talk, they do things that get their mind off any problems they might have. We can bring you a little bit of that. When you see the dog on TV, you can’t help but smile and think about the great things that they do for you every day. John has written books about this stuff now that he’s learned all about them. He’s been a great advocate for therapy dogs. He’s come to the Ronald McDonald house and performed, if you will, with therapy dogs there with him as he reads his book about The Perfect Dog to them.

What is that book?

John O’Hurley: Well, I have several that I’ve written. Three now. Two that are more autobiographical that one is called, It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump and the Other Life Lessons I’ve Learned from my Dogs. The follow-up book to that was, Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It. Then I wrote a children’s book that came out. Kind of a Dr. Seuss style book that I wrote. It was a poem called The Perfect Dog that ends with the line, “The dog that is perfect is the one next to you.” Oddly enough that has now been become a musical which is now being performed at the Children’s Theater there in Philadelphia, the weekend before the National Dog Show so it’s going to be wonderful. Yes it’s wonderful. They do it. It’s done all over the world now. The musical has become quite popular, so it’s a lot of fun.

The Beverly Hills Dog Show is going to be exciting. How did this concept transpire? Now is this also sponsored by Purina?

John O’Hurley: They are joining us as well, yes.

Wonderful. How did the show transpire? How did you gentlemen get together and say, “This would be an awesome dog show to have?”

John O’Hurley: Well, I know there was a whole….

David Frei: The dog shows…

John O’Hurley: I’m sorry Dave, you go ahead…

David Frei: That’s all right. The basic background is that there were the three major dog shows they were all east-coast based – the Westminster Kennel Club, the National Dog Show in Philadelphia, and the AKC National Championship in Orlando, Florida. It made sense to look to the west. When the contract at the NBC and USA Network ended with Westminster they said, “What are we going to do for this?” They chose Beverly Hills, partly because it’s just down the street from where John lives and we knew they could commit him right away. We thought it would be fun to be there with the celebrities and having a nice, warm weather climate to do a dog show in. John I know is very excited to have that be there in his backyard.

John O’Hurley: I truly am and only because when you say, The Beverly Hills Dog Show you immediately smile. There’s an inherent expectation of it being really interesting potential from the show and we certainly hope to deliver on it. I also think what’s really magical about the show is that if we found another time of the year – Easter Sunday – which is another one of those family times of the year. There’s not a lot of sports to conflict. There’s not a lot of other programming on. So it’s a wonderful day of the year. Also, in many respects a family day, Easter Sunday, so we have almost found a similar ground to what Thanksgiving is. It will give us, hopefully, a great viewing audience – although, we’re going to be in the evening.

When is the date? Easter Sunday of 2017?

David Frei: Easter Sunday. April 16 [next] year. The show itself is shot in March in California – on March 4. We’ll add to it and create a nice television event for everybody.

Can you tell me what celebrities we can expect to see out there? Beverly Hills is close to Hollywood. You’re going to have a lot of star power out there.

David Frei: Our best celebrity is involved in the show and that’s John, who’s become a celebrity. Who’s more identified with dogs in this country than John O’Hurley? We’re lucky to have him. We’ll hopefully bring along a few of his friends as well.

John O’Hurley: Without revealing names, we will have a celebrity involvement. We hope we’ll have many.

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA -- 2015 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host David Frei, 2014 winner Nathan the bloodhound, host John O'Hurley -- (Photo by: Bill McCay/NBC)

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA — 2015 — Pictured: (l-r) Host David Frei, 2014 winner Nathan the bloodhound, host John O’Hurley — (Photo by: Bill McCay/NBC)

David, maybe you can tell me can you tell me about his new breed that’s going to be here in Philadelphia – the one that looks like a little koala bear?

David Frei: The Pumi. The Pumi looks more like a koala bear than any other breed of dog. It’s a little, curly black coated dog. It says in the standard it’s supposed to have a whimsical look about it. It creates that with its facial expression and its ears. John you’ve met the Pumi as well.

John O’Hurley: Oh, I did, yes. I have to tell you it became one of my favorite little breeds. The texture of the coat of a Pumi is just extraordinary. It’s just like a wonderful, little curled pile rug you just want to stroke. It’s just an adorable dog. (To Dave) You’re right, the face is just adorable. It’s a snuggler.

John, speaking of star power, here in Philadelphia at the gala the night before are you doing another show for us?

John O’Hurley: I will be entertaining. I’ll be doing a piece of my one-man show that I’ve been touring around the country and just finished here in New York with on Broadway which is called, A Man with Standards. I’ll be doing a segment of the show for that on Friday night for the charity gala.

David, I know you do the things with therapy dogs for the Ronald McDonald house and you had a big thing at Pet Plan Insurance today. Can you give me a little bit background on that?

David Frei: Well, we’ve been involved through with Steve Griffith leading the way. We created a therapy dog ambassador program that goes along with the Kennel Club of Philadelphia and the National Dog Show presented by Purina. That has provided a lot of great experiences for people who are in need of the things that therapy dog bring us. It’s also brought some recognition to some wonderful people who are very involved with their dogs, visiting at healthcare facilities all over the country, especially here at the Ronald McDonald house in Philadelphia. [It] is the very first of 300 and some worldwide Ronald McDonald houses to be formed, so it’s great to have a partner like them in what we do, and to recognize their great work as well as the great work of the therapy dogs and the people that visit there.

That’s terrific. And I know you’re involved in therapy dogs all along…

David Frei: My dogs do great things for people. I’m lucky enough to be the guy that brings them. I’m the transportation and the treat carrier. They do the work. I just try to stay out of their way when they’re dealing with people.

That’s terrific. I cannot wait for the show here in Philly.

David Frei: You’re getting a bonus this year with John and his and his The Perfect Dog at Center Theater in Norristown. He’s actually not in it, but it’s his show and it’s a wonderful show. They put it on for us at a fundraising gala here last year, and as John has told you, it’s in a lot of places around the world. So it’s fun to have that. It’s part of the National Dog Show in Philadelphia celebration – so it’s great to have it here.

Do you have some special stories that stick in your mind from years past about dogs that you’ve met or about things that have happened during the show?

John O’Hurley: David, I’ll let you go first. I know you have some.

David Frei: (laughs) Well, the great thing about the dog show is that you get to see dogs being dogs. I’ve said for all the years that I’ve done the previous dog shows on television, and for the National Dog Show, that I want people to know that the dogs that they see on television are more than show dogs. They are real dogs, shown by real people. These dogs do the same things at home that your dog does at home. They steal food off the counters. They shed on your black clothes and sleep on our couches. Maybe even drink out of a toilet once in a while. But the main thing about the dog show, coming in person and attending, is that you get to see all these athletes – these canine athletes – up close and personal. It’s the only sport that I know of where you can go backstage and hug the competitors. I don’t think you can go back and hug Tom Brady just anytime at all. (O’Hurley laughs.) It’s fun to be here and see all these dogs that are the stars on television. You can come and hug John and me too, we’re fine with that.

John O’Hurley: That’s the important part of the benched show, that David and I have to remain there too, so we are just as huggable and just as approachable.

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA -- Pictured: "The National Dog Show Presented by Purina" 2016 (l-r) Hosts David Frei and John O'Hurley -- (Photo by: Chris Weeks/

THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA — Pictured: “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina” 2016 (l-r) Hosts David Frei and John O’Hurley — (Photo by: Chris Weeks/