Are purebred dogs and dog shows headed for extinction?
AKC registrations and show attendance is in decline
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.
Give us your opinion on Are purebred dogs and dog shows headed for extinction?
Login to get points for commenting or write your comment below
Get New Captcha