The 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show kicks off Monday, Feb. 11 in New York City. By the end of two days of judging thousands of dogs, a new Best in Show will be crowned. And David Frei (pictured at right with Uno the beagle) will be on hand to host, like he has been for the past 22 years.
“The first year I did the dog show on television was 1990 and we had 132 breeds and varieties. And now we have 187. That’s exciting,” Frei tells Zap2it.
Watching all those lovable pooches on television, it’s easy to see why Frei keeps hosting the annual dog show. He says it’s easy to keep doing it because he’s such a dog lover.
“I love my dogs, I love the sport. That’s probably the driving reason [I keep doing it],” says Frei. “I like representing our sport to the outside world, so to speak. We have so many great stories to tell.”
“People look at these dogs and think, ‘I bet that dog sits on a doggie cushion and eats doggie bon-bons all week.’ But that’s not the case,” continues Frei. “These dogs live in our homes and steal food off our plates and shed on our black clothes and even drink out of the toilet occasionally. They’re no different than any other pet at home sitting on the couch with you.”
One way they are different from some people’s pets, however, is that these dogs have a pedigree. They are the best representations of their breeds in the country. We asked Frei if he thinks that championing these pure-bred dogs goes against the recent cracking down on puppy mills or campaigns to encourage adoptions from a shelter.
Frei says he doesn’t think Westminster works against those ideas at all.
“I think Westminster promotes the idea of responsible ownership and educating yourself about finding the right breed to match your lifestyle,” says Frei. “I think that’s key with anything. Not only the right breed, but the right dog. Any dog, any mixed dog. We talk about taking care of your dog and finding the right dog for your family, so there’s less of a chance a dog winds up in a shelter.”
He goes on to talk about the first Westminster, back in 1877, was three days long, but it was so popular that they were asked to do a fourth day and the WKC donated all the proceeds from that day to the ASPCA in order to build a hospital for their stray and injured dogs.
“Through the years, we’ve been supportive financially, as well as ethically and in spirit, of rescue organizations and shelters and the ASPCA. I think that’s important for people to know as well,” says Frei.
As far as the 2013 competition goes, Frei says he can’t pick a favorite group — there are just too many great dogs.
“My background is in hounds,” says Frei. “I raised and bred and showed Afghan hounds for a lot of years. But now I have a great Brittany, that’s a wonderful sporting dog … and I have a Cavalier, that’s a sweet little toy dog. The first toy dog I’ve ever owned. They’re both accomplished therapy dogs.”
But he adds, “I love ’em all. That’s my job, I’m the dog guy.”
The 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show airs Monday, Feb. 11 on CNBC from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET/PT, then on Tuesday, Feb. 12 on USA from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET/PT. Fans can also watch streams of the group judging during the daytime hours at the WKC official site, or download the app to follow along on their mobile devices.