The Good Things AKC Does

American Kennel Club takes action to boost registration numbers

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Dogs in Review

My guess is you read it first here: the American Kennel Club registered a total of 649,677 dogs last year. That’s the lowest total since 1964, a drop from 716,195 registrations in 2008, and barely 43 percent of the 1,528,392 dogs that AKC registered in the peak year of 1992.

Proportionately the number of litters declined even more sharply, from 352,136 in 2008 to 309,422 last year.

This is important news, but the figures were not included in the AKC press release and are not to be found on AKC’s website. The otherwise helpful public relations department at AKC was unresponsive to inquiries, and I have so far not seen the totals published anywhere. To get to the above numbers we in fact had to add up the registration figures from January through December 2009, as published in the monthly AKC Gazette.

If the free-fall continues, where will this end? It would be interesting to know what actions are taken to counteract the decline. So far, they have obviously not been successful.

BRIGHT INITIATIVES — IN THE DARK

In spite of the above, this month’s headline is not meant ironically: AKC indeed does many good things. The question is why we don’t know more about some of them. It is understandable if AKC no longer feels like trumpeting its registration figures to the skies, but it’s harder to understand why so little is known about so many positive new developments.

Here are a few of them:

On May 12, points towards the new AKC Grand Champion title will be available at all AKC shows that award Best of Breed and/or Best of Variety. This is big news, but no press release is available, as confirmed by AKC’s public relations department. In fact, the only reason I know about the Grand Champion title is that I’m an AKC judge and therefore received instructions for how Grand Champion points should be awarded.

So judges and dog show superintendents are informed of this new title, but not the fancy at large, many of whom rely heavily on the dog press for information. That’s in spite of the fact that we have repeatedly suggested in this column that introducing a Grand Champion title would be a good idea. Go figure…

The AKC and Eukanuba are cooperating in organizing a “Breeders Sweepstakes” throughout 2010. Starting on Jan. 23 at the Rose City Classic in Portland, Ore., and continuing at selected shows through the year, breeders are invited to compete with teams of three dogs from at least two different litters they bred. There are money prizes for the first four placements in each group, the BIS team earning a total of $750, plus a trip to the finals at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, Calif., on Dec. 4-5.

This is another terrific idea that we’ve suggested in the past. It deserves to get as much publicity as possible, yet again no press release was sent out. In fact, I only found out about the Sweep-stakes through an item in my parent club’s newsletter.

(If it all sounds a bit familiar, that’s probably because the Breeders Sweepstakes is very similar to the new initiative started by Santa Barbara Kennel Club last year, highlighted in the October 2009 issue of Dogs in Review.)

Did you know that AKC awards Silver and Gold Medallions to breeder-owner-handlers of five (silver) or ten (gold) different dogs that have become champions of record and received an original Bred-By Medallion through their participation in AKC events? That’s wonderful recognition for talented, dedicated dog fanciers — yet I have never seen anything published about it. This has been going on since 2008, but I had to search for the details on AKC’s website: go to www.akc.org/events/bbe/medallions.cfm#%23 and look at the list of winners — I bet you will recognize some of the names.

AKC also has a so-called Mentor Program that supposedly matches new fanciers with experienced exhibitors. What a good idea — why no big headlines about it? This is what I found after searching on AKC’s website for awhile: “Seasoned handlers and exhibitors share their expertise with those expressing an interest in entering the exciting world of AKC dog show competition.” I must confess to complete prior ignorance of this excellent initiative. How much did you hear about it?

There may be more — who knows what other good things that AKC does I’ve missed? Those of us who make it our job to inform the rest of the fancy of what goes on in the dog world must obviously dig out the facts of AKC’s bright new ideas for ourselves.

It all plays into the common perception that the powers in charge at AKC want as little to be known about as much as possible. That may work in other countries, but not in America, where we pride ourselves on openness and access to information. And sometimes it just doesn’t make sense: AKC is not exactly hiding its light under a bushel in other cases, so why not let us know about the good that the club does in so many areas?

It’s not as if AKC doesn’t care what we write. They do, very much. Only last month, in New York for Westminster, I was accosted by an AKC official who was upset about something in this magazine’s coverage of the AKC/Eukanuba National show. (I checked, and the facts turned out to be correct as published.)

Disappointing, though, that there was not a word of appreciation for the 16 editorial pages of almost unalloyed praise for this wonderful show.

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