WE’RE trying something a little different this weekend, we’re launching the Dog World Sunday Supplement. Ten years ago that would have meant that we were printing an additional newspaper, we would have had to ship those to shops all across the UK and it would have been difficult for anyone anywhere else in the world to get their hands on a copy.
All that has changed though and our Sunday Supplement is an online only publication. What it also does is makes use of our extensive archive.
The first Sunday Supplement takes an in depth look at the best of breed vet checks that were introduced at Crufts in 2012 and caused a huge amount of controversy leading, less than a week later, to the formation of the Canine Alliance. Of course recently things had calmed down as very few dogs have failed their vet checks in recent months but all that changed last month with two failures, both St Bernards, and the issue was back on the front page and at the forefront of people’s minds. We thought, therefore it might be appropriate to bring together all the stories about the best of breed vet checks, the formation of the alliance and all that has happened since. We’re also linking to video clips and to stories that detail all the vet check failures that have happened in the last two and a half years.
If you want to have a look at the supplement it will be available from 9am Sunday (UK time) and you can access it then by clicking here http://www.dogworld.co.uk/product.php/116599
What is exciting about this new publication is that it is as accessible to readers in the US as it is to readers in the UK. Wherever you are in the world, at the click of your finger, you can access this latest publication, jut as you can always access the latest show reports, breed notes, news and opinions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. My oh my, how things have moved on and in such a short space of time.
I know there are people who don’t like change and they don’t like what some here in the UK describe as “new fangled” ideas, but what we can’t deny is that here at Dog World new technologies have helped us become more popular than we ever have been. In addition to selling more than 13,000 copies of our newspaper every week, and 10,000 copies of our annual, around 100,000 people are visiting our website every month and the videos on dogworld.tv are being watched 150,000 times every month. Add to that more than 30,000 followers on social media and you can see we are reaching far and wide. And of course our audience is no longer just a UK based one we are making significant inroads to an international audience too. For someone like me brought up on print it can sometimes be difficult to fully take in.
So while its easy to be negative about the world of pedigree dogs what I think our numbers show is that there is still a huge level of interest out there and what people need to do is harness new technologies and use them in a positive way to promote our sport and to encourage people to become involved.
Encouraging young people is something else we have worked hard to do and we’re currently engaging a whole new generation of young photographers to go out there and help us promote open shows. Working with these young people is like a breath of fresh air they are enthusiastic and passionate which is so great to see.
But the more things change the more they stay the same and I was interested to notice in our archive section this week that it is 20 years ago since the Kennel Club announced swingeing cuts in the number of challenge certificates. It was a blow some people feel the show world has never fully recovered from.
Publicised at the beginning of July 1994, the cuts took effect in 1996. In all, more than 500 sets of CCs were lost, about 15 per cent of the total. Some breeds lost as many as eight sets per year, some shows as many as 27! One group show, Merseyside Gundog, lost championship status altogether.
This followed a KC ‘white paper’ on the exhibition of dogs. In the consultation, a ‘wide view’ was apparently expressed that too many CCs were being awarded, especially in the numerical smaller breeds. Over the previous 20 years, the KC had perhaps been somewhat generous in increasing the number of CCs, but in spite of this very few judges, then as now, ever found themselves in a position in which they had to withhold.
The show scene had then already passed its peak in terms of entries, but clearly the cuts did nothing to reverse the gradual downward trend. Certainly there is very little incentive for exhibitors to enter shows where their breed does not have CC status. Whether there has been any general increase in the quality of dogs shown, and especially in those that achieve champion status, is for others to decide.
Dog World’s main objection to the cuts at the time was summed up in the headline to the Comment: “It’s all so negative”. Talking about these and other changes which the KC had made to the show scene, we wrote: “How very dreary – when are we going to see something designed to encourage people to go to and enjoy shows? Is the KC trying to kill off the sport it is supposed to nurture?
“People ENJOY showing their dogs. Yes, a very few may go to too many shows for their dogs’ good, but in general there is a huge well of enthusiasm for participating in the sport at all levels, from a Sunday afternoon outing at a companion show right up to trying to win at Crufts. This enthusiasm needs maintaining and channeling by the governing body. So when can we see some positive changes to harness all that is good in the world of showing dogs.”
And that is largely what we have been saying in varying forms ever since. In our view the main harm done by the cuts was to allow this feeling of negativity to get hold of the show scene.
There is a working party in place to look at ways of encouraging greater participation in showing and we have been invited to sit in on a couple of the working party sessions, we must hope that something really positive comes out of the current discussion group to regain that enthusiasm among exhibitors old and new because what the numbers of people reading Dog World every week, or coming to our website, or watching the videos demonstrates is that there remains a huge number of people out there with an interest in pedigree dogs and dog showing, they want to be engaged and want something to be part of.