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173 & Counting

173 & counting, breeds that is. Last week I looked at the AKC’s proposal for realigning and expanding the current seven groups of breeds. What struck me as extraordinary was the number of new breeds included in the realignment, a staggering 53 additional breeds. While one should not assume that all 53 will be admitted to full recognition by the proposed 2015 implementation date, the best estimates are that 30 new breeds will be added over the next three to five years.

One of the things I love about the dog game is the wide variety of types of dogs we have in the game. Our European counterparts have almost 350 breeds/varieties to enjoy at their shows. I have for some time admired those among us who have worked so diligently to preserve these living records of man’s association with the domesticated dog. What I wonder is what impact these new breeds have on our fancy. One would think that as new breeds are added entries at shows would have risen, but they haven’t. One would think that, for every breed added, AKC registrations would climb, but they haven’t.

Between 1992 and 2008, registrations fell by 53 percent, from 1,528,392 to 716,195. During the same time, the number of breeds in the registry grew by 17 percent, from 140 to 164. I hear a lot about how entries have dropped around the U.S., but I think the anecdotes are misleading. While individual clubs are floundering, the top shows have not suffered as much. Entries were down by 16 percent at the top 25 shows during the century’s first decade, even though the number of breeds grew by 11 percent.

As an analyst, I would have to say that the data prove nothing except that we have more breeds now than we used to and AKC has fewer registrations than they used to and our shows are smaller than before. What one has to do with the other, I am not sure, but I do know this, adding breeds has not made the fancy more viable. So I ask this question, “How come the well-established breeds can’t maintain the zeal for their breeds that is present in those seeking recognition?” Could it be that the teamwork and enthusiasm required to get a new breed introduced has fallen victim to jealousy and stagnation in some of the established breeds?

If your breed is faltering, stop looking to outsiders to rescue you. Work with your fellow breeders to promote your breed. Find and mentor new exhibitors and, yes, breeders. All of us were newbies at one time. How many of us have someone to hand off our life’s work to when our time to stop comes? Americans keep 78.2M dogs in their homes, only about 10 percent of which are AKC-registered. That’s a huge, untapped market.

If you think of Poodles and Labs as Coke and Pepsi, it would be smarter to find new markets for your established product than trying to market a new product like organic pumpkin soda. It may be a tortured metaphor, but you get the picture. And that’s today’s Back Story

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.