20 behind-the-scenes photos of the National Dog Show that prove these pups are the hardest-working dogs in show business

A dog rests during a commercial break.

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A dog rests during a commercial break.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

Now in its 18th year, the National Dog Show is a beloved Thanksgiving tradition watched by 20 million people. It follows the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast on NBC.

This year, 2,000 dogs of 200 different breeds competed for the coveted Best in Show title. The winner, a bulldog named Thor, took the top spot with his “outstanding overall attitude.”

But there are adorable moments that you didn’t see on the air. Here are 20 behind-the-scenes photos from the National Dog Show.


Before they appear on camera and are evaluated by judges, the dogs are groomed to perfection.

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A dog reacts while being groomed during the National Dog Show.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

Their coats are carefully combed and fluffed.


Grooming kits also make great pillows.

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Taking a nap.
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Nancy Schwartz/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

This standard poodle was snoozing on set.


Some of the smaller dogs wear blankets to keep warm.

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Getting cozy.
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Bill McCay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

An Italian greyhound wore a patterned blanket backstage.


It can get pretty cold back there.

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A Pembroke Welsh corgi with an entourage.
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Bill McCay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The Pembroke Welsh corgi’s fan club made sure there was no shortage of ear scratches.


Cuddling up to their owners also works in a pinch.

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An owner uses an iPhone as a dog sleeps on her lap during the National Dog Show.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

The dogs have some downtime when they’re not on stage.


Handlers also sneak in naps when they can.

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A handler sleeps during the National Dog Show.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

Handling prize-winning dogs is hard work.


The dogs and handlers share a special bond.

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Warm hugs.
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Nancy Schwartz/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

This was the Azawakh dog breed’s first year in the National Dog Show.


It takes a lot of work and training to make it to the National Dog Show.

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A dalmatian at the National Dog Show.
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Bill McCay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Getting to the National Dog Show often requires instructional classes and practice shows.


Handlers keep dog treats in their pockets to reward stellar performances …

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A Brussels griffon.
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Bill McCay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Brussels griffon dogs are known for being devoted and intelligent.


… and reward the hardworking pups with their favorite toys.

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A golden retriever at the National Dog Show.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

Zipadee, a 3-year-old golden retriever, loves her frog toy.


Backstage, the dogs can let loose.

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Glen-Ellis the Italian greyhound leaps up to her handler.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

Glen-Ellis, a 3-year-old Italian greyhound, was very excited to be there.


The dogs also have a chance to practice their stunts.

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A flying disc performer at the National Dog Show.
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Bill McCay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

There’s a separate competition for dogs who perform tricks, The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge.


It’s hard to resist a table piled with delicious bones, but these dogs are professionals.

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They have to wait their turn.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

This Bernese mountain dog gazed wistfully at a table of bones backstage.


The National Dog Show broadcast is hosted by actor John O’Hurley.

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From left to right: David Frei, Havanese the dog, and John O’Hurley.
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Bill McCay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

This was his 12th year hosting the show.


When he’s not on TV, he visits the dogs backstage.

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John O’Hurley backstage at the National Dog Show.
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Bill McCay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

A long-haired dachshund gave the host a sloppy kiss.


The show is broadcast live, with cue cards helping O’Hurley with his hosting duties.

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A cue card holder at work.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

“Dogs always seem to be there for us,” O’Hurley said to introduce a segment.


With 20 million people watching, everything has to go smoothly.

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Behind the scenes at the National Dog Show.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

Members of production staff watch the video feed to make sure everything looks right.


Dogs are the stars of the show, but even they don’t get all-access passes.

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A placard states “NO DOGS ALLOWED” outside a restroom during the National Dog Show.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

There are no dogs allowed in the bathroom at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks in Pennsylvania, where the competition is held.


Trophy polishers make sure the Best in Show award is ready to go.

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A member of staff arranges a trophy for “Best in Show” winner.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

The trophy also comes with a $20,000 prize.


A bulldog named Thor won the Best in Show prize this year.

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Thor enjoying a snack after winning Best in Show.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

He beat out 2,000 other dogs to win the prestigious title.