What is a Sporting Dog? Plus 6 Other Important 'National Dog Show' Questions We All Have

Turkey may be the most notable Thanksgiving animal, but this Nov. 27, those tryptophan-filled birds will have to compete for my attention against another, much cuter critter: the dog. On Thanksgiving, NBC will air the National Dog Show for the thirteenth time. There's no way I'm ever convincing anyone in my family to turn off football and turn on a beauty pageant for our four-legged friends, so I'm catching up on all the breeds ahead of time. Particularly adorable are the pups in the sporting group. Just what is a Sporting Dog? Turns out, not all pooches are created equal. But that's not my only question about this event.

According to Animal Planet:

Alert, active and intelligent, sporting dogs have historically been used by hunters to locate, flush or retrieve game from land or water. Many sporting dogs are still used as hunting companions today.

Am I the only one who feels a little weird about one animal being used by people to hunt down another animal? (Maybe that's because all my feelings on this subject are informed by too many screenings of The Lion King. Shouldn't they all be friends?) But in addition to their original purpose:

Their gentle natures and high level of trainability have also earned them the reputation of being among the best family dogs ... Some of these animals [are] recruited into service positions, either as helper dogs for the disabled or as bomb and drug sniffers for law enforcement agencies.

OK, now I feel a little better.

Here's a video explaining a bit about the Irish Water Spaniel, the breed that won last year's Sporting Group at the National Dog Show:

Now that we've all learned what a Sporting Dog is, I have a few follow up questions:

How Do They Choose the Winner?

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

According to the Westminster Kennel Club:

Each breed's parent club creates a standard, a written description of the ideal specimen of that breed ... Most standards describe general appearance, movement, temperament, and specific physical traits such as height and weight, coat, colors, eye color and shape, ear shape and placement, feet, tail, and more.

Does Trying to Live Up to an Impossible Standard of Beauty Damage the Dogs' Self-Esteem ?

Women have spent decades fighting society's ridiculous norms regarding our bodies. Yet we give no thought to the canine underclass who share the same struggle.

Do Dogs Ever Have an Identity Crisis When They See Other Dogs that Look Exactly Like Them?

These dogs are freaking out right now.

Do Professional Show Dogs Ever Use the Phrase "I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends"?

Get your head in the game, Rover.

Is This Dog Aware That Hairstyle Went Out in Like, the '90s?

Get this shih tzu an ombre!

Do The Dogs Get Extra Points for Having Fashion Sense?

This dog has been planning his outfit all year.

Images: Getty Images; PartnerHund.com, FidoFactor, PetsAdvisor, audrey_cel, QuinnDombrowski/Flickr