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.