The National Dog Show brings close to 2,000 furry pooches to Oaks, Montgomery County, this weekend. The best part? As one of the few remaining "benched" shows in the country, the event requires all participating pups to hang out on assigned benches — where you can give head pets galore — when not engaged in competition.
In total, 190 different breeds and varieties will vie for titles like Best of Breed, First in Group, and the coveted title of Best in Show. With so many options, which breeds should you seek out first for a little face-to-snout time? Consider starting with the weirdest-looking* ones — it's hard to beat a selfie with a purebred whose big, droopy head is swimming in wrinkles, like the Neapolitan Mastiff, or one that looks like a household mop running around on four legs, like the Komondor.
(*Disclaimer: When we say "weird," we mean that in the best way possible. In comparison to a dog like the Labrador retriever, currently ranked the most popular breed, some of these appear just so unusual that they become heartbreakingly cute.)
If you can't get there, NBC broadcasts the highlights — hosted by Seinfeld star John O'Hurley, who has served as a host of the National Dog Show since its TV debut in 2002 — from noon to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Just remember, no weird puppy petting action can take place through a TV.
While the Bedlington terrier looks more like a lamb than a dog, the cheerful companion would much prefer to be cuddling up alongside you versus spending its nights out in the field. Don't mistake this dog for a lazy lounger, however, as it's a highly active breed and a fast runner. Originally bred as an Englishman's hunting partner, the Bedlington is known to get a little mischievous if deprived of exercise.
11 a.m. Saturday, ring 3; 1 p.m. Sunday, ring 3.
Not surprisingly, komondors are often referred to as mop dogs, covered in flailing white dreadlocks from head to tail. The breed is believed to have originated more than 500 years ago in Hungary, where it served as a guardian for Hungarian Racka sheep and developed its distinguishing coat to protect it both from predators and weather extremes. Its fluffy puppy hair begins to form cords within eight to 10 months of age.
11:30 a.m. Saturday, ring 8.
The gentle Afghan hound is undeniably a strikingly beautiful pooch, and with records dating back to 4,000 B.C., stands among the oldest of all domestic dog breeds. The silky, long-haired hound is aloof in nature but also at times silly and playful, and, at 25- to 27-inches tall, a notorious food thief when kitchen counters are in sight.
Noon Saturday, ring 7; 10:45 a.m. Sunday, ring 5.
The lightning-quick whippet can gallop at speeds as high as 35 mph, but the long-legged dog also loves to lounge, often found cuddling up on the couch postexercise. Whippets were originally seen as the poor man's greyhound, but today, according to the American Kennel Club, the friendly and quiet — whippets rarely bark — breed ranks as the 60th most popular in the country, more than 90 spots ahead of the much larger greyhound. Coat colors and patterns vary, but it's the whippets with the tigerlike patches of black and orange that stand as the most eye-catching companion.
12:45 p.m. Saturday, ring 6; noon Sunday, ring 6.
While the Chinese crested comes in a "powder puff" variety (meaning hair all over), it's the hairless type, born with silky soft socks and a tousled rock star hairdo, that gives this breed a spot on the list. The toy dog is known for its graceful and agile movements and its devotion to its owners. Perfect for those who like to play puppy dress-up — the hairless Chinese crested requires a sweater for any cold weather outings and is a loving lapdog once you return indoors.
9 a.m. Saturday, ring 13; 1:15 p.m. Sunday, ring 12.
It's hard not to want to cuddle up to a dog swimming in wrinkles, and the massive Neapolitan mastiff is one of the sweetest. The gentle giant can weigh up to 200 pounds and sometimes holds an intimidating stare that can scare intruders. Yet, rarely will a Neapolitan display aggression unless someone's attacking its owner. This type of pooch prefers to plop its hefty self down on any open lap that will have it, but be warned, it's known to stink up the room with TV-interrupting farts and will also happily let its drool spill down onto your pants.
12:15 p.m. Saturday, ring 8; 8 a.m. Sunday, ring 7.
We're not sure which we like better — the beard that makes this terrier look like a master detective or its soft coat holding signature hints of blue. Named after the Irish county of its birth, the Kerry blue terrier once served as a hardworking farm dog, herding livestock and hunting small game. It remains a notably active breed, often found digging in the dirt with a muddy nose to prove it or energetically chasing squirrels all around the yard.
9:45 a.m. Saturday, ring 3; 11:15 a.m. Sunday, ring 3.
With an innocent smile and a scruffy, I-just-rolled-out-of-bed appearance, the slender, 30-plus-inch-tall Scottish deerhound brings a whole lot to love. The athletic breed was originally intended to hunt deer, and while low-key and mellow in nature, is still known to chase anything in sight when taken outdoors.
1:15 p.m. Saturday, ring 5; noon Sunday, ring 6
Legend has it that the Pekingese was created by Buddha, who shrunk a lion down to dog size. In reality, it's believed that the Chinese used breeding techniques to turn a larger dog into a toy size to create the perfect lapdog for emperors and the imperial family. (During the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century, a death sentence was doled out to anyone caught stealing one of the regal dogs.) Today, the breed remains a lovable, although often stubborn, cuddle buddy, one that requires regular combing to keep its coarse main from becoming a tangled mess.
10 a.m. Saturday, ring 11; 9 a.m. Sunday, ring 13
We're not quite sure how the Skye terrier sees through all of the lush fur that covers its face, but that's exactly what we love about it. The breed marks the only one on this list to have won a Best in Show at the National Dog Show (Charlie, in 2015). Avid fan Queen Victoria is said to have first brought the prized pup into popularity. The Skye terrier is an affection fiend with a loud voice — ignore it and you might get a yap, or worse, a pair of sad puppy eyes.
1:15 p.m. Saturday, ring 4; 1:25 p.m. Sunday, ring 4.