O'Hurley reveals 'The Perfect Dog'

What dog is the best dog?

That is the question John O’Hurley’s young son, Will, asked one night. Mr. O’Hurley, who has had a dog all his life and has been host of the National Dog Show for 12 years, pondered the query.

His answer is in his latest book, The Perfect Dog, published last month by Penguin. Mr. O’Hurley will talk about this book and his other work when he visits Wilton Library on Monday, Nov. 25, from 7 to 8:30 for an Area Author Affair. Registration is highly recommended, as seating will be limited. Visit wiltonlibrary.org or call 203-762-3950, ext. 312.

The book, Mr. O’Hurley told The Bulletin this week, “came as something I did a year ago.” His son, who has a stuffed dog named Puppy, asked, “Can Puppy be in the dog show?”

“I thought, why not,” Mr. O’Hurley said. “Why not when only 2,000 of the best dogs in the world are in the show … why can’t we slip in a stuffed animal?

“Then he asked, ‘Is there a perfect dog, Daddy?’” That was when Mr. O’Hurley saw his opportunity.

As his son lay in his arms sleeping, he wrote the book — as a poem — in about two and a half hours.

“I read each line to him,” Mr. O’Hurley said, “and each time he said ‘aww’ I had a keeper.”

The words have a Dr. Seuss-like lilt to them. The book opens:

“My son asked a question, as little boys do,

Of me in my wisdom and all that I knew.

‘Is there a dog that is perfect?’ he asked on a whim.

Well, I thought,

And I thought about where to begin.”

He continues by going through all the “great elements of what all the breeds have in terms of color, coat, disposition, and size,” he said, until he comes to the conclusion that the perfect dog “is the dog next to you.”

“I’ve maintained that as a premise since doing the dog show,” he said.

Mr. O’Hurley’s love of dogs is evident as he talks about being host of the National Dog Show in Philadelphia, which airs each Thanksgiving.

“It’s our favorite day of the year,” he said, “to be around 2,000 dogs, 170-plus breeds. It is just one of the most magical days.

“There are 15,000 people there during the day and everybody is happy … there’s not a mean spirit. I’ve never seen a dogfight. Everybody’s happy because the dogs are there. They round off the edges of the human experience.”


Mr. O’Hurley is best known as an actor who has appeared in numerous television projects, most famously as J. Peterman on Seinfeld and on Dancing with the Stars.

But he is also a prolific writer and has two other books to his credit: the best-selling It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump, published in 2006, and Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It, published in 2007.

When he visits Wilton Library, he said, he will talk about how The Perfect Dog originated and his love and style of writing.

“My history, growing up in the late 50s, had a Dr. Seuss feeling to it,” he said. “It’s something I always attach to my childhood.”

Whatever he writes for publication — he also writes for magazines — he reads each draft out loud. “If it has a lyrical style,” he said, he commits to it.

Mr. O’Hurley’s first book is a compilation of life lessons he has learned from dogs. One of those, he said, is that dogs live in the present moment.

“It is one of the most important things they teach us,” he said, explaining that the biggest cause of stress in one’s life is brought by worrying about the past or future.

“If we live moment to moment, we find ourselves less stressed. … Dogs are not trying to engage in a more interesting conversation.”

Another lesson, which he said he wished he’d learned earlier, is “when someone stops petting you, move on to the next.”

In addition to asking the question that gave rise to The Perfect Dog, Mr. O’Hurley said, his son’s pictures are in it and Will thus “claims co-authorship” of the book. Nearly 7, “he is very much into the idea of book signings,” Mr. O’Hurley said. “He wants to write in the books as well.”

There will be copies of Mr. O’Hurley’s books available for purchase and signing Monday night at the library. Unfortunately, Will is not scheduled to be there, but Mr. O’Hurley will take on the signing duties.