John O’Hurley and David Frei on Bringing a Hollywood Feel to the Beverly Hills Dog Show

John O'Hurley and David Frei
Steven Donahue/See Spot Run Photography
Beverly Hill Dog Show hosts David Frei (left) and John O'Hurley with a furry friend

Now that award season is over, it’s time for the dogs to walk the red carpet. And many will do so as they compete during the 2018 Beverly Hills Dog Show, which was recorded in early March for airing on Easter Sunday (April 1), once again on USA Network.

The master of ceremonies for the occasion is David Frei, a 26-year lead commentator for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and award-winning actor John O’Hurley who has been hosting NBC’s coverage of the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving for years now. The duo, who have worked together for the last 16 years, describe their dynamic as similar to that of a married couple.

“From the very beginning we had a very similar complementary style,” O’Hurley said. “[David] is a gentle man and a gentle person. His great love for dogs comes through everything he does. So, it’s easy for me to put my fingers through his belt loops and have him guide us around. He is the most knowledgeable man about dogs, without question. I’ve learned a great deal with him.”

“John’s underestimating himself a bit,” Frei adds. “He has worked hard all these years we’ve been doing the shows to teach himself about the dogs. He has a great perspective about the dogs because he has a great perspective of life. That shows through when we are doing these things. I think it has great fun for him, but he also understands the roles of dogs in our world.

“He understands the staginess and the quirks for the dog show world. That is what makes it fun. Yeah, he does look at my hair every once in a while and gives it some help. I’m under a lot of pressure standing next to him on camera. Here is a guy who is 6-foot-3 with great hair and athletic build and ready to take on the world and another Dancing with the Stars competition. I’m not quite at that point yet.”

Watch the video below for an example of the announcing duo at work, in a clip from the 2017 Beverly Hills Dog Show (the first time the event was televised), during the moment when the Doberman Pinscher named Ripcord was awarded Best in Show:

Frei and O’Hurley hope to continue bringing a brighter and lighter tone to the Beverly Hills Dog Show compared to other, more staid dog shows. Celebrities play a part in that, and among those in attendance for the festivities at this year’s event were Maria Menounos, Dr. Evan Antin, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Stella Maeve. O’Hurley hopes the magic of Hollywood shines through.

“There is more of the celebrity element and a little more of the fashion element,” he said. We changed the Best in Show staging so that it would resemble more of a Victoria Secret runway model event, complete with the dog version of the Oscar awards. We’ve been playing around with it to give it a unique and fun personality.”

Maria Menounos at the 2018 Beverly Hills Dog Show (Steven Donahue/See Spot Run Photography)

Frei promises variety in the field of 160 breeds, with several Top 10 dogs participating.

There are some who were at the show last year and returning in hopes of becoming big winners. Two new breeds will also be featured: Nederlandse Kooikerhondje and Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen. O’Hurley takes pride in learning the correct pronunciation of these types of names and saying them in his trademark tone.

“I swear the AKC [American Kennel Club] does intentionally give the screwiest names to these breeds,” O’Hurley said.  “We had a show a couple of years ago, and this breed has become a favorite of mine because it’s such an unusual breed: the Mexican hairless or Xoloitzcuintli. There is an I and o and x in there, so good luck figuring that one out. I remember putting the word up on the mirror as I was shaving to practice.”

Along with the competition, there is a charitable component, with sponsor Purina partnering with North Shore Animal League America and its Mutt-i-grees program. They work to show children the positive impact pets can have on their lives by teaching them important life skills such as empathy, friendship and kindness through interaction with shelter dogs.

Drawing awareness and fundraising for important animal causes are important to Frei and O’Hurley. They are very active in the community. O’Hurley himself recently adopted a rescue from the St. Louis Humane Society.

For Frei, the shows are an educational opportunity for viewers who are thinking of getting dogs to learn about the breeds and their history. They preach the importance of having a dog that matches lifestyle and home life.

“With the Beverly Hills Dog Show, it’s an experience for the whole family,” Frei said. “We’re blessed with USA and NBC of being able to have these shows on family holidays. It’s a gathering point for the family to get together around the TV to watch the dog shows while they’re waiting for the meal to hit the table…Though we like to say the real Best in Show dog is the one sitting next to you on the couch.”

The 2018 Beverly Hills Dog Show airs Sunday, April 1 (Easter Sunday), at 6/5c on USA Network