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I admit to being a little off center. I’m not sure whether it is born out of that left brain/right brain thing or simple naiveté. In discussing the dog fancy, I find that the majority of insiders have difficulty looking at our sport from the outside. That’s not surprising, but it is dangerous. Imagine, if you will, that Ford Motor company built cars based solely on what those inside the company thought would make the perfect car?

When I was working as a consultant in the 1980s, the term “stakeholder” was in vogue. Stakeholders are groups of people who have a vested interest in a product or service. So who are the stakeholders in the dog game? I would say exhibitors, breeders, owners, handlers, judges, AKC, the superintendents, vendors, AND the show-going public, including those who follow the fancy in the media. It’s that last group that often is ignored. Now there is no doubt that most of those within the show community know much more about the game than does John Q. Public, but just like that guy that buys the new Mustang convertible keeps all those Ford engineers & executives employed, it is the dog-loving public that allows us to participate in AKC events.

I find many of us are like the haughty shop girl at Bergdorf’s looking down her nose at the taste-challenged customer who dares to disturb her perfectly arranged display of cashmere sweaters. We don’t want to deal with the ignorant, uninitiated hordes at the shows or in our neighborhood that disturb our training sessions at the park. Now, it is not just that segment of the public that purchases purebred dogs as pets that I’m talking about – make no mistake, our world would not exist if the public did not purchase AKC-registered dogs as pets. I’m talking about two other important segments of the public.

The first are those who might fall prey to the animal rights crazies. It is a seductive movement, appealing to the very core we share, the love of dogs. Everyone of us is opposed to animal abuse and wants to see all dogs in loving homes. It’s these people that we want to direct to rescue organizations sponsored by AKC’s national breed clubs and local clubs. We want to keep them away from organizations like PETA and HSUS. Despite what you may get from the general media, dog owners still outnumber the animal rights supporters by a huge margin. However, they aren’t as vocal as the minority. We need to give that majority a voice.

The second group is that segment of the dog-loving public that can be recruited into our sport. We need converts! I believe that everyone in the sport is responsible for identifying and mentoring at least one person into their breed. Over the past four decades, I have seen several successful breeding programs, all of which took decades to establish, disappear after the breeder retired or died. It is one of the great tragedies of our sport that so many of us fail to plan for passing along our good works.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in the dog fancy during the last 40 years, but the sport still retains most of the traditions and pageantry of the past. It is something that I find very comforting. What are you doing to ensure that the next generation will get to enjoy a weekend at a dog show? 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.
  • Chan Kuhn March 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Billy! I so agree…I never would have got interested in dog shows if not for my daughter, Pilar…whom you know…She loved Bouvies and had a lovely girl Emilie–a pet, and then she met the Southern California Bouvier Club and it was all over! She was single at the time and I often went with her to shows (and helped with expenses) and began to see how nice the dog show owners were…friendships began and I became hooked…Of course there was the Eukanuba 2008 where Rod Ott took one look at her and decided it would be nice to have another look…and look what happend! I now have a wonderful son-in-law who brought Scotties into our lives!
    I have been able to have friends join us at dog shows and they get hooked…so you’re right…we all need to get others involved!

    Dog shows and the opera are like eating salty peanuts…you just want more!

  • Kari March 3, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Excellent article and I agree, although I am an AKC performance exhibitor/competitor. My standard poodle boys are obedience, rally and agility performance dogs, AKC of course. While we are in pet trim, we take our job as ambassadors of the breed (by keeping the boys looking like poodles) as well as competitors in the sports quite seriously. Well, ok, we train seriously then try to have as much fun as possible at the trials.
    Anyway, we need to work harder to encourage others to join these sports. At my day job, people don’t seem at all familiar with dog competitions of any sort. I should be better at advertising the local shows, and competitions. The sports and breed trials need to grow!

  • Cindy Fleenor August 16, 2013 at 3:24 AM

    Well written article, thank you!

    In order to get and keep converts, we need to make the show world welcoming and fun for the newbees. My personal challenge is dealing with a judging system that makes it very hard for newbees, and owner handlers, to have fun. Far too many judges make their decisions based on who is holding the lead, rather than the merits of the dog. If our newbees are constantly dumped because they are not professional handlers, it is less likely that they will stick with the sport.

    Let’s make this sport welcoming to all.

  • Jo Ann White August 16, 2013 at 6:39 AM

    I would very much like to reprint this article in our club’s magazine and post it on the ASTC website? May I have this permission, and would it be possible for me to get the article as a PDF?
    Thank you,
    Jo Ann

    • kayla
      kayla August 16, 2013 at 8:50 AM

      Hi Jo Ann, of course! We’ll get both to you next week.

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