Interview with Westminster Co-Host David Frei

Kelly Roper
David Frei and canine sidekick

If you're a true dog fan, then David Frei may already be a familiar face. As co-host of the most prestigious canine event in the country, David brings us the annual Westminster Dog Show results live from New York City's Madison Square Garden. In addition to his duties as co-host, David is also the Director of Communications for the club, and has appeared on The View, Martha Stewart and Ellen.

A Conversation with David Frei

David, thank you for taking time to chat. Please share with us a little about your background in purebred dogs.

I've been involved in dogs most of my life. I've enjoyed breeding, as well as owner-handling my own show dogs, something I've found personally rewarding. It's so satisfying to take a dog you've helped bring into the world, and love, train and condition it, then present it yourself. It's just been a big part of my life.

I've also been on the other side of the equation as a dog show judge, something I've also enjoyed immensely. It's wonderful to be able to go over some of the finest dogs in the world, whether they're today's top winner or an up and coming star.

Which breeds have you focused on through the years?

My main focus has been on Afghan Hounds and Brittanies. One of my females, Ch. Stormhill's Who's Zoomin Who was actually the number one Afghan in 1989 and she retired as the top-winning bitch in the history of the breed.Then we have the Brittanies. I've shown those in conformation and competed with them in field trials, but what has been most satisfying for me is working with Teigh and Belle, my therapy dogs. These dogs make the rounds at New York hospitals every week, putting a little love and comfort in the lives of people at a time when they need it the most.

Obviously Westminster is one of the most prestigious dog shows in the world. How did you become part of the broadcast team?

Chet Collier, then president and past show chairman for Westminster, asked me to fly back to Boston to do an audition tape before the 1990 show. He liked what we did, and asked me to take on the job as co-host. I was flattered then, and continue to be flattered today to be representing both the Westminster Kennel Club and the sport of dogs to the "outside world." I am amazed that 2007 marks my the 18th year as co-host, and now it has become a full time job for me as well, working for Westminster as their director of communications.

What is it like behind the scenes at Westminster?

Controlled chaos! Lots of pressure for all concerned, when you take into consideration that millions of people are watching on live TV, and now watching the breed judging on our web site. We reach millions of viewers on USA Network, attracting about 600 media on hand from 20 different countries to share the story around the world. We also generate over 100 million hits on the web site. The pressure of the competition is huge. It's knowing that your peers are watching you and your dog, and that millions of dog show fanciers and dog lovers are watching and waiting to find out this year's Westminster Dog Show results. It's hard to do justice with words; you really have to be there.

Any interesting stories to share?

It may sound trite, but every year is an interesting story, to see all the great dogs in the same place at the same time. It may seem like the process is the same year after year, but the cast of dogs, handlers and judges changes with each show, and this sets up an entirely new dynamic for the action that unfolds.It doesn't happen anywhere else. There is truly only one Westminster.

It was a truly impressive field for Best in Show this year. If David Frei had been the judge, would the Westminster Dog Show results have changed?

I always say I love them all, but I really love the dogs that put on a show and rise to perform when the crowd is screaming. In recent years, you would have to recognize Kirby, Mick, Josh, and Carlee as dogs that really stepped up. But this year? Once again, I loved them all. What a great lineup, but I have to admit that I was pulling a little bit for James, the Springer. Not only is he a great show dog, he is also a therapy dog, one of my great interests. My own dogs are therapy dogs and I am also the national spokesperson for Pet Partners, the world's leading advocate and resource for therapy dogs.

David, thank you for spending time with us at LoveToKnow Dogs. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I'd just like to say that I'm really proud of the way Westminster has become so much more than a dog show. The broadcast has helped bring this event into the homes of millions of viewers, helping us to promote other AKC endeavors as well, like the Take the Lead Foundation. This organization raises funds to help disabled members of dog show families, helping to ease their burden a bit. It's a great cause.Just as important, the show fosters a love for dogs. It's a celebration of the family dog, and how these pets enrich our lives. Viewers at home are all watching to see who will be the next big winner, and rooting for their personal favorite breed, all the while knowing in their hearts that the real Best in Show dog is the one sitting right next to them at home.

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Interview with Westminster Co-Host David Frei