Are purebred dogs and dog shows headed for extinction?

AKC registrations and show attendance is in decline

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Nobody likes bad news, so let me answer the question right away: No, the drop we’re currently seeing in registration figures is not an indication that purebred dogs and dog shows are going the way of the dinosaurs. The fact that this has been suggested by some otherwise reputable writers shows a surprising lack of faith in the deep appeal of our sport, and in the abiding love so many of us feel for our dogs. We’ve bounced back from difficult times before, and I’m sure we’ll do so again.

Having said that, some of the figures are troubling. The exact numbers aren’t easily available; AKC would obviously prefer that they shouldn’t be generally known, as indicated by the fact that last year’s registration figures were not made available to the public. Of course anyone could find the information anyway in the AKC Annual Report, available on AKC’s own website, as pointed out to me by a diligent reader.

Personally, I believe everyone needs to know where we (or perhaps just AKC) stand. It’s like when you’re sick: if you don’t know what ails you, there isn’t much you can do to get better.

So grit your teeth and wrap your mind around the following figures. AKC registrations climbed from just a few thousand per year a century ago to around 50,000 in the mid-1920s, tripled that figure by 1945, exceeded half a million in 1962, and reached a million by 1970. The annual total then remained relatively stable until the mid-’80s, reaching an all-time high of 1,527,392 registrations in 1992. Since then the figures have kept slipping: in 2001 the total was back at around a million, by 2008 just over 700,000. Last year’s 563,611 registrations is the lowest annual total in almost 50 years, not much more than a third of the 1992 figure.

What all this says about AKC’s hold on the pet-buying public I’d rather not think about. Nobody believes dogs are less popular than they used to be, so perhaps it’s true that the “other” registries, the United Kennel Club and the much-reviled “commercial” pet registries, are picking up the million or so annual registrations that AKC lost. That’s something we’ll try to look into in the future.

However, other than affecting AKC’s budget, the registration drop doesn’t seem to have much impact on the core group of breeders and exhibitors. (Of course, AKC’s economy concerns all of us, but I’m reliably informed that this is still a wealthy club, with solid, multi-million dollar investments.) Unless registrations drop below the 150,000-200,000 dogs estimated to be shown or bred by the active dog fancy, there probably won’t be a major change.

Perhaps those who argued that AKC should become a “boutique registry” and devote itself only to a rather narrow group of active dog fanciers, not even trying to be “the dog’s champion” (at least not all dogs’), are going to get their wish?

The fact is that dog show entries have remained pretty stable at around 1.4 or 1.5 million per year for the past couple of decades. They have certainly not dropped more than the general economic downturn could explain, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll see at least a small increase for 2011, although those figures won’t be released until next spring.

For those of us who are part of AKC’s breeding and exhibiting community, things remain much as they used to be. Commercially bred puppies have never played a big part in our world. While we are concerned for their welfare, their numbers are far greater than their impact on our activities.


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jack   Gainesville, FL

11/17/2011 8:38:34 AM

I do believe that pure bred dog ownership is on the verge of extinction due to the constant threat of animal terrorists who have taken control of local and state government by convincing the public that anyone who has a litter is a detriment to society. Sadly this group has a strong foothold with the public because they serious dog breeders think none of the claims deserve their personal attention. In short, doing nothing about the problem leads to fewer pure bred dogs.

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Debbie   Birmingham, AL

11/17/2011 5:09:11 AM

No, I do not believe purebred dogs or dog shows are headed for extinction. I am a dog fancier and enjoy showing my dogs in many AKC events. Some are not happy with AKC and have moved to UKC. Most have there breed's parent club that they are also members of. I think if anything it is the economy. I have been limited to 1 show per month only showing 2 dogs. And, because to the cost of fuel have limited my traveling to those states that touch my home state. I am amazed to see how much money people will pay for a "designer" dog which is just a mixed breed. Although, most of todays breeds are decendants of similar genetic tamperings to get "just the right" dog. And after decades of breeding AKC will accept them as a valid breed since now they allow mixed breeds to be registered for performance venues. I'm not a purest, but I think there are many pure bred dogs that are out there waiting for homes. It is the responsible breeder who gets hurt by legislation. The puppy mills and the irresponsible pet owners who do not have their dogs altered are the reason there are so many dogs in shelters. Sorry, I'll get down off my soap box now.

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Rita   Baltimore, MD

11/16/2011 1:51:34 PM

Your article has missed the topic by a mile. AKC's numbers are dropping off a cliff due to the animal rights movement. In many communities around the U.S., breeders now face jail time if they dare to have a litter of puppies. Animal rights terrorism raids of breeders are taking place every day across America with purebred AKC registered dogs seized, sterilized, and sold off across state lines. Until AKC faces the fact that their customers are getting slaughtered by the Animal rights crowd one by one, their business will ultimately fail.

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