Back in July Dog World launched a survey of its readers.   We asked them a simple question “what would make you exhibit more often?”

The decision to run the survey was an easy one, every weekend our team is out at shows and every weekend we hear the frustrations of exhibitors who believe no one has their best interests to heart.  Those frustrations also come to the surface on the letters page of our print edition and in the comments left on our website and on our facebook groups.

This week the serious business of analyzing the many hundreds of responses we have received to our survey got underway. It is going to be interesting in the coming weeks to look at the ideas and suggestions people have and to consider whether the views and opinions of exhibitors and breeders here in the UK are shared by enthusiasts in other parts of the world.

It is fair to say that we thought it was about time that someone actually asked the people who keep this sport alive for their ideas on how to make the sport more appealing. We are seeing declining entries at shows here in the UK and there are many factors that contribute to that. The economic slump in recent years has not helped matters but it is too easy to blame everything on the recession.

In the aftermath of the Pedigree Dogs Exposed TV program it is fair to say that exhibitors and breeders felt unloved and to an extent abandoned.  Many people felt the Kennel Club had been too quick to capitulate and even now people still express the view that they don’t feel the KC did enough to make the case for pedigree dogs and stand up for breeders and exhibitors.

Those exhibitors and breeders also feel that nobody has been listening to them far less ask them for their ideas.

What has been staggering to all of us here at Dog World has been the level of response; more than 1,000 people took the time to complete the questionnaire. And that was not a simple task because we didn’t present the survey as a series of multiple-choice questions nor did we just ask respondents to rank other people’s ideas in order of preference. No, for this survey we genuinely wanted to hear what people had to say.  We wanted to encourage some ‘blue-sky’ thinking.

We wanted to hear ideas that no one had previously thought of, we wanted to know the kind of things exhibitors thought could be done to make people want to get back to dog showing – in short, we wanted to know what would make you exhibit more often!

Just taking a brief look through some of the completed questionnaires confirms that many responses have clearly been well thought out with respondents thinking through their ideas to resolve issues that might otherwise render what they suggest impractical. Other surveys have just as clearly been completed by people who quite obviously have been nurturing thoughts for many years but either didn’t know where to go with them or did not have the confidence to take those ideas further. Oh and there is a third kind of respondent: those who believe there are some simple and straightforward solutions to all the sport’s ills and among those ranks the anonymous respondent who wrote just six words:

“No more allrounders judging the breeds!”

It’s all very well conducting the survey but what is going to happen now?

Well first off I’m not going to highlight what appear to be the some of the key themes that are coming through because that would be anecdotal and the last time I did that I received a mild rebuke from Steve Dean the KC chairman who said a survey was nothing without a statistical analysis and who can argue with that. It’s going to take a few weeks for us to correlate all the information but when we have completed that work it is our intention to present a comprehensive report to the Kennel Club that sets out our readers’ ideas and thoughts on improving this sport for everyone involved and that will be backed up with a statistical analysis. We know already from experts in the field that the sample numbers (the number of people who have responded to survey) is a statistically very relevant sample.

We believe that this survey is the single biggest project to gather the opinions and ideas of dog show folk that has ever been undertaken in the UK and for that reason we also contend that the KC has a duty to listen to what our readers have been saying.

Which brings us to the question of why the KC itself has never surveyed the dog show community in quite this way? Does it not value the people’s opinions? Or does it just not want to know them?

Stuart Baillie is the managing director of the British newspaper Dog World, a Best In Show Daily partner.