UPPER PROVIDENCE>>Of the more than 3,000 dog shows in the country, only a few allow visitors to personally experience the nobility of a purebred show dog.

One of those rare “benched” shows, The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show, is on its way back to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, 100 Station Ave., Oaks on Nov. 18 and 19.

“A benched show means that all the dogs and handlers have to be in the venue all day to meet and greet the public,” explained Steve Griffith, director of communications for the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. “That’s what makes this a very special show, and also because of the Thanksgiving Day special,” he added, referring to “The National Dog Show presented by Purina” that airs on NBC at noon Thanksgiving Day.

“You see where the Dalmatians are and you walk over to that area, turn the corner and you’re looking at 15 or 20 Dalmatians in the same place. The same thing for St. Bernards, the Goldens, Australian shepherds and all down the line.”

Dog lovers who can’t resist petting every dog they meet will have plenty of opportunities, with the permission of their handlers, to lavish these furry superstars of the ring with affection, while further enhancing the family- and dog-friendly event by marveling over the agility demonstrations by the performance dogs, chatting with the many pet rescue groups and browsing the pet supplies at the vendor tables.

With a possible 2,000 dogs or more gathering at the Expo Center, this year’s National Dog Show is expected to be the biggest in more than a decade, Griffith noted.

“We think we’re going to have more dogs this year than any time since 2006 because a show in Syracuse that used to be on the same dates as our show has abandoned those dates this year and we think hundreds of dogs that would otherwise have gone to Syracuse are going to come to Philadelphia. We won’t know until a week before the show because that’s when entries close,” he said.

A popular aspect of the show is the introduction of a new canine breed.

The new American Kennel Club breed for 2017, the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje (Ned-er-lawndzuh Koy-ker-hond-juh), who resides in Jim Thorpe, won’t be eligible to compete until 2018 but will be entered into the Miscellaneous Group at this year’s show.

A release noted that the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, “a small, flashy, orange and white spaniel-like sporting dog,” is an ancient breed of working dog, appearing in the works of the Dutch Masters as early as the 17th Century. Brought to near-extinction during World War II, the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje only became a recognized breed in the Netherlands in 1971.

Dogs are judged against a litany of qualities that the AKC has established as the exact characteristics that perfectly distinguish a particular breed.

Like the queenly 4-year-old greyhound named Gia, who won Best in Show last year and was promptly featured on the Today show with her handler, Rindi Gaudet, the 2017 winner will become an instant star, Griffith pointed out.

“When a dog wins the dog show on Saturday it becomes an immediate celebrity because so many people watch the dog show on Thanksgiving day and that dog is celebrated for the last 15 minutes of the show and there are over 20 million people watching,” he noted.

The history of show dogs winning Philadelphians’ hearts dates back to the late 1800s, when, according to nds.nationaldogshow.com, The Kennel Club of Philadelphia (KCP) and its predecessor clubs began presenting dog shows. The Philadelphia club, which predated the American Kennel Club (AKC) and was organized in 1884, went through several changes of name in the years spanning the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, eventually reorganizing and forming the present-day Kennel Club of Philadelphia. The KCP hosted its first dog show in 1912, was elected a member of the AKC in February 1913, was sidelined for a time during the Great Depression, resumed in 1933 and has appeared annually ever since

“We lost our continuity in the middle of the last decade when the Expo Center in Fort Washington got sold off to real estate and there was no place to put the event,” Griffith said. “Because the Kennel Show is a nonprofit, a bunch of volunteers put on this dog show every year and the Center City Expo Center with their union labor was just too expensive. We went to Harrisburg in 2006 and Reading in 2007 and back to Center City in 2008 and none of it worked,” he added. “The Expo Center in Oaks opened up and that’s when we were able to re-establish the continuity, re-establish the brand and compete for the entertainment dollar in the Philadelphia region. It’s not like being in Minneapolis … it’s a big place with a lot going on and there’s a lot of competition for entertainment dollars. It took a lot of incremental marketing to break through and now these last four or five years we’ve increased attendance every year. Now it’s a bigger attraction and people are more tuned in to how special the event is.”

Tickets are available at www.NationalDogShow.com ($16, adults; $7, children ages 4 to 12; free under age 3, and will be available at the door.

No strollers are allowed inside the Expo Center.

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