November 24, 2010 07:00 PM

Now in its ninth year, the National Dog Show presented by Purina – the second-oldest dog show in the U.S. – will air on NBC immediately following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (at noon ET).

This year’s event will feature several novel twists, including the addition of six new breeds, the return of an old hero and a fresh voice behind the microphone. We spoke to the show’s hosts – actor John O’Hurley, dog expert David Frei and sportscaster Mary Carillo – to get the scoop on what to look for during the broadcast.

1. Rufus returns!
The 9-year-old bull terrier who won the triple crown of U.S. dog competitions – The National Dog Show, the Westminster Dog Show and the Morris & Essex Kennel Club Show – in 2005-06 will be honored at this year’s event for his work as a therapy dog.

“Rufus was a great show dog, he’s a wonderful dog in the community, he’s been great for his breed, he’s been great for the sport,” says Frei, who founded the therapy-dog program Angel on a Leash. “We all hope our winners can grow up to be like Rufus, or [2008 Westminster Best in Show champion] Uno or [2007 winner] James – great dogs that have made their mark in much more than the show ring.”

2. Will the judges catch Scarlett fever?
Frei has been keeping an eye on Scarlett – or as she’s known by her registered name, Ch. Winfall Brookwood Styled Dream – a boxer who has nearly two dozen best-in-show titles and is ranked among the top 20 dogs in the country of any breed.

“She was second in the working group at Westminster behind a beautiful Doberman [C.J.], who has since retired,” says Frei. “Scarlett’s been doing a lot of winning. She’ll be a great dog to watch.”

3. Sportscaster Mary Carillo joins the team
A new addition to the crew of announcers for this year’s broadcast is veteran sports journalist Mary Carillo, who will serve as a sideline reporter and interviewer. Carillo is known primarily for her tennis and Olympics work, but the lifelong dog devotee displayed her canine commentary chops while working alongside Frei on the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show telecasts in 2009.

“I’m a preposterous, hopeless dog person,” says Carillo, who owned a French poodle named Freenie for 16 years while growing up on Long Island, and had a Bichon Frise named Oley who died at the ripe old age of 17 six years ago. “When NBC called and asked me if I’d like to be part of The National Dog Show Presented by Purina, I barked yes and wagged my tail immediately. I have never smiled more than I did at Westminster.”

4. Six new breeds have been added to the competition
The Boykin spaniel, Leonberger, cane corso, Icelandic sheepdog, bluetick coonhound and redbone coonhound are all throwing their hats, er, bones into the ring for the first time. “We’re introducing more breeds than we have cumulatively in the last nine years, I believe,” O’Hurley says.

All six are larger varieties of dog, and will be spread among the sporting, working, herding and hound groups in the competition. The Boykin spaniel has the closest point of origin – it’s the official state dog of South Carolina – while the cane corso hails all the way from Italy.

5. Know to expect the unexpected
Dogs plus lights, camera and a lot of action can lead to some hilarious unscripted moments. “We had a dog a couple years back, one of the smaller breeds, and it was the first time on the show for this particular one,” O’Hurley recalls. “At one point he just put the back legs down, and decided he wasn’t going to show anymore. His handler had to drag him by his butt out of there.”

Tune into NBC at noon ET on Thursday for complete National Dog Show coverage.

Read more about the National Dog Show on PEOPLEPets.com:
Former Champ Rufus Enjoying ‘Second Life’ As a Therapy Dog

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