Editor's Page: Are Good Dog People Falling Through the Cracks?

At a time when the fancy desperately needs to cultivate new participants, the atmosphere at shows seems especially unfriendly. For the very survival of our sport, we need a collective attitude adjustment, and soon.

By Allan Reznik | Posted: July 16, 2014 8 a.m. PST

Allan Reznik Editor
Photo courtesy Julie Lynn Mueller.

A nice family that’s done its research and found what it believes to be the right breed approaches a big-winning breeder about an upcoming litter. Instead of a warm, appreciative greeting, the husband and wife are met with an icy reception and a barrage of questions. "How many champions have you finished?” (None. But we’ve had three well-bred dogs that each lived to 15.) "Do you have any idea how to maintain a show coat on this high-maintenance breed?” (We’re willing to learn if you’ll teach us.) "Will you agree to a three-way co-ownership, paying for a professional handler and having the dog’s semen collected?” (Hmmm. Your puppies aren’t even born yet. We’ve been to a few dog shows, and they look like fun, but we were hoping to try showing the dog ourselves and having our daughter do Junior Showmanship. This is all beginning to sound very complicated.) When the litter is born and the breeder emails the family, they tell her they’ve bought a puppy from someone else. ("She’s a total amateur!” hisses the breeder. "She sells puppies outright and doesn’t care about controlling her bloodline.”)

A breeder-exhibitor who’s moved out of state contacts the kennel club in his new city, interested in joining and volunteering. He has extensive experience serving as show chairman for his previous club. At his first club meeting, the members size him up, and every offer he makes to work on a committee is rebuffed. It’s clear from the discussion that the show chair has already missed some critical AKC deadlines for filing paperwork and the judging panel, but when the prospective member politely points that out, the show chair bristles, then smiles tensely and reassures him "everything is under control.” During the coffee break an older member reminds him that "nobody likes a know-it-all,” and "our show chair has been handling this job forever. She does it herself. Helpers would just get in the way.” The prospective member starts doodling on the back of his application form, then throws it in the wastebasket at the end of the meeting.

The delegate for a breed parent club is ready to step down after 10 years in the position. Her husband is an avid traveler and has planned a few major trips for them, now that they are both retiring. There have been some touchy issues between the club and the AKC that went totally over the delegate’s head. Two longtime members, both AKC-approved judges, hope to be considered for the delegate’s opening. The club president surprises the membership by circulating an email saying that a replacement delegate has already been found. She has co-bred litters with the outgoing delegate but is no better informed on club matters or constitutional protocol. She misses more meetings than she attends, and members are skeptical that she will resolve the outstanding issues.

How many of these scenarios do you recognize? At a time when the fancy desperately needs to cultivate new participants, the atmosphere at shows seems especially unfriendly. Judges scowl at new exhibitors, muttering their directions inaudibly. Parent clubs resistant to change and run by boards with control-freak tendencies scare away fresh faces who might have something to contribute. For the very survival of our sport, we need a collective attitude adjustment, and soon.


From the July 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine, or call 1-888-738-2665 to purchase a single copy.


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Marcha   Battle Creek, Michigan

6/18/2015 4:32:59 PM

Oh yeah... I have experienced similar scenarios and worse. But i have also experienced being treated well and helped. I guess that is why I am still here.

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Larkin   Dayton, Ohio

6/15/2015 2:15:49 PM

I was going to post this on our club's page, but then I had second thoughts. Certainly the first scenario about the puppy is possible, but not the norm. I think ANYONE who came to a kennel club meeting the first time and started telling the club everything they were doing wrong would be a prospective member every kennel club would be glad to see leave. As to delegates-- it really boils down to who is willing to travel to New York for very expensive meetings and report back to the club. I would be more suspect of "two AKC judges who wanted to be considered" because they are more likely to want the position for their own networking and advancement rather than to serve the needs of and represent the desires of their club as a whole. Two sides to most coins, there Allan. Fact is, there are still lots of wonderful dog people around. (And just as many rotten ones as there ever were.)

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Kathy   Quebec, Canada, International

6/11/2015 2:25:38 PM

Dog sport is very much a "clique". But by the same token we too often have come across the obnoxious newbie who doesn't understand why her wonderful little Fido isn't winning, "after all he's the best one" when in reality he is just one or two notches above a pet dog.

But breeders need to educate their puppy buyers and not belittle them as so many do.

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Donna   Port orchard, Washington

6/10/2015 11:15:55 PM

As a new exibator at my second show I was loudly and publically chasten and berated by the judge for asking for my dogs arm band by his name. I almost left without even showing that day, I was so embarrassed. had it not been for another exibator I would have just gone home and may not have shown my own dog again.

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