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National Dog Week History Rockefeller Center

It’s National Dog Week!

You have a right to be skeptical of these “national weeks.” It seems like every Monday brings the start of another national something week: National Kumquat Week, National Duct Tape Week, National Braunschweiger Week, and who knows what else. Mostly, PR flunkies of limited imagination concoct these faux celebrations because they can’t think of a better way to get their client’s product before the public.

National Dog Week, though, is different. Established in 1928, it was the brainchild of Captain Will Judy, a veteran of World War I and an ordained minister who devoted his life to educating Americans on the spiritual bond connecting the human and canine species. Every dog has his day, but it took Will Judy to give him a week.

As the publisher of Dog World magazine and a prolific writer, he used his platform to promote the use of service and therapy dogs (fairly exotic concepts back in the day) and to urge his readers to treat dogs with kindness and respect. Judy, along with famed dog trainer Blanche Saunders and novelist Albert Payson Terhune, was at the vanguard of a whole new way of thinking about dogs.

With the depredations of the Depression and World War II finally in the past, National Dog Week caught on in a big way in the mid-1940s. AKC club members celebrated the event lavishly at New York City’s Rockefeller Center, as the AKC Gazette photos accompanying this story bear out. Similar activities were staged in towns and cities across the country, and they still are to this day.

national dog week

Along with its longevity, National Dog Week is unique in its sincerity. Americans genuinely love dogs in a way that they don’t love kumquats—a bitter pill, perhaps, for the organizers of the Dade City Chamber of Commerce Annual Kumquat Festival to swallow, but it’s true! We really love our dogs—we don’t need to be talked into it or reminded of it—and no one expressed that love more sincerely than Will Judy. One need only read “Why the World Likes Dogs,” Judy’s introduction to the 1937 edition of his highly popular dog-training manual, to know that National Dog Week came from his heart, not a PR team:

“The most unselfish living thing in the world is your dog. If you are in danger, your dog needs only to hear your cry of distress to rush to your aid, without thought of his own life, fearless of guns or enemies.

“The most patient thing in the world is your dog, waiting for hours at the top of the stairs to hear the sound of your footsteps, never complaining however late you may be.

“The most grateful thing in the world is your dog. Whatever you give him, whatever you do for him, he never is guilty of ingratitude. To him you are the most powerful personage in the world and beyond censure; you are your dog’s god; you can do no wrong.

“The most friendly thing in the world is your dog. Of all the animal kingdom, he alone serves man without whip, without compulsion, glad to be by the side of his master wherever he may be, whatever he may do, and sad in heart when his master is away.

“The most forgiving thing in the world is your dog. The one virtue most humans lack is that of forgiveness. But your dog carries no grudge and no spite. Punish him even undeservedly, and he comes to you, nudges his moist nose into your hand, looks up at you with pleading eyes, and wags his tail hesitatingly as tho to say, ‘Oh, come on, let’s be pals again.’

“The most loyal thing in the world is your dog. Whether you come home from Congress or from jail, whether you have lost your fortune or made a million, whether you return home dressed in fashion’s heights or in rags, whether you have been hailed as a hero or condemned as a criminal, your dog is waiting for you with a welcome bark of delight, a wagging tail and a heart that knows no guile.

“The world likes dogs because dogs are nearest to moral perfection of all living things.”—W.J.

To that we can only add, let’s all of us resolve to treat our dogs as though every week is National Dog Week.


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