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CHANGING YOUR PUREBRED DOG CLUB
The AKC Chairman said dog show entries are down and indeed there have been changes in purebred dog clubs that fail to serve their members and the breed standard.
November 2016 | TheDogPress.com
CinDee Byer, Breed Clubs Editor
Ronald Menaker wrote in his September 2016 American Kennel Club Chairperson's report: “The trends over the past ten years show us that Conformation is in a tenuous position. “The graying of the Sport” has become something of a buzzword in recent years, but we know that the issue is far more complex than the simple fact of an aging population.
“All-breed and conformation entries have been falling over the past ten years. Fewer conformation championships have been earned. Every year, fewer dogs are exhibited in conformation. Why is this happening?”
The answer is obvious. Although the following was my experience in the Doberman Pinscher Club of America it could be any purebred dog club today. We are told to change our clubs, their purpose (to protect and promote that breed) and to change our breed and breed standards. We are told we must change to fit the times.
Frank Grover “the father of the AMERICAN DOBERMAN PINSCHER” once said, “change is necessary for progress but all change is not necessarily progress.” Now with that in mind, let’s look at another very insightful person’s observation:
Now put it together for YOUR breed because indeed, deep roots are not reached by the frost… You may be in Poodles or Bulldogs or Mastiffs but if you have deep roots in the sport of purebred dogs, these names will sound familiar: Adelaide Combs, Frank Grover, Peggy Adamson, John Davis, Ruth McCourt, Peter Knoop, Forrest Bowels, Wilfrid Shute and Bea Rickert.
These were the roots, some of the first names behind the American Doberman Pinscher. They were the graying, accomplished people of the time. They, in the minds of many, became the foundation of the Doberman Pinscher Club Of America.
BREED EDUCATION was what they pursued within the club and it created positive progress. It turned a small, unknown club into a powerful parent club. It turned the Doberman Pinscher into a beautiful, respected and recognized American breed.
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The Breed Education committee of the DPCA (which I serve) was dedicated to writing and reviewing educational articles about the Doberman. These materials were distributed to DPCA club members with the goal to increase knowledge of the breed. Through this BREED education members were educated in a positive manner and through educated members, the public became educated in a positive manner. Though BREED education the purpose, personality, temperament, and physical details of the Doberman were made clear. It was understood by all that the standard of the breed needed to be followed in order to maintain purpose, function and history.
With long time breeders at the helm, knowledge flourished in the club. The mission of a Parent Breed Club back then was to encourage the breeding of quality specimens in order to ensure the future of the breed. There were at that time nearly seventy thousand Doberman Pinschers being registered each year.
In the early 90’s education directives from the AKC took a new direction, seeming to promote the sport and not the breeds. Registrations began to decline. In an effort to bring more interest to the SPORT, the AKC created more tests and events for all dogs, not just purebred dogs. Still, registrations continued their downward spiral. Entries in conformation events declined and club memberships began to drop. By 2000 breed-focused education has all but ended in the DPCA and concurrent with that, in spite of (or because of?) a new President, the new AKC direction flourished.
More changes were instituted to make the sport “all inclusive.” Purebred dog clubs were encouraged to give memberships to anyone, irrespective of breed knowledge or time in the sport. This inclusion allowed animal rights radicals to infiltrate our sport. These radicals and others who had no knowledge of or interest in our purebred dogs, could now vote on breed standards and breeding issues. All-inclusiveness allowed those with very different agendas to vote on club policies which promoted rescue over breed type, frowned on poorly bred dogs being criticized and mixed breeds somehow became a focus for many purebred dog clubs!
Radical thinking and lack of breed education resulted in judges who are no longer skilled at judging our breeds. These changes in Breed Club Boards produced judges who now put up specimens in the breed ring which clearly violate breed standards. These insidious but radical changes in the DPCA culminated into an invitation to an albino Doberman to participate at the Doberman Pinscher Club Of America National Specialty. This action created a deeper divide between the graying members and newcomers within the club. The DPCA had spent decades educating members about this genetic defect, having even created educational materials on why albinos were a disqualification in the breed standard. Fanciers were shocked!
What kind of thinking could change the direction of a purebred club, a major PARENT CLUB, no less? What internal changes led the DPCA, through its National Specialty event, to seem to be promoting white Dobermans?
The facts are, with a lack of breed education and changes in purebred dog club thinking, we now have a public who no longer understands the difference between a quality purebred dog and a mutt or mongrel which AKC now calls a “mixed breed.” They do not understand breed standards and the necessity of selective breeding for type, temperament, health, and function.
The public now goes to shelters, rescues and back yard breeders to find a family pet. This is what caused purebred dog registrations to drop so low that THEY ARE NO LONGER PUBLISHED. This is why interest in the sport and membership in purebred dog clubs is drying up.
The solution for our “Graying sport” is not adding more titles to AKC conformation. Repetitive titles just recycle old dogs. The “breed” ring is about BREEDING. Quality specimens should be bred. The pups produced then take their place in the BREED RING. It is through each new generation that our sport is revived and purebred dog clubs can survive.
Bring back BREED education and you empower the clubs. Empower the Breed Clubs and you build interest in the sport. Breed education is not dismissing the local, inexpensive all breed matches in exchange for a puppy match at the end of an eight hour show. It is not requiring a newcomer to decipher and fill out, at home, a show entry form two weeks in advance of a show. You will not bring new members into purebred dog clubs requiring them to and pay a large fee just to enter a puppy in a match and then compete against professionals. This does not build public interest.
Promote Breed Standards and strengthen purebred dog clubs. The problem breed clubs are having is that they find themselves promoting the "sport" instead of the BREEDS. I have spent thirty-five years as a student of my breed. I have studied under the best in our breed. I have had the privilege to have ”graying” icons of various breeds as my teachers. And as Frank Grover once said, "I am still only a student".
From my experiences I can tell you this… the public, old and young alike, enjoy learning the details about the breeds of dogs. They want to understand how and why each breed is judged by a specific standard. Times are changing and it is up to purebred dog clubs to explain to them why breed standards are maintained and how they are evaluated in the breed ring. It is only then that people become excited about owning a purebred dog. It is only then they want to become part of that process.
This is why our judges must be better educated and held to the contract they sign. Dog show judges must uphold breed standards or be expelled without pay. Purebred dog clubs must act to preserve their breed, not change a breed.
Without breed education from the graying members of our sport, newcomers will come and go. Purebred dog clubs must provide breed education or the purebred dog will become just another “mixed breed”. Without understanding and promotion of purebred dog’s breed standards, the AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB sanctioned show will become just a very expensive pet show.
Promote the purebred dog and the sport will follow. Arnold Palmer did not create the sport of golf but as an individual he created excitement for golf as a sport and thousands followed after him. Perhaps we need to take a page from that playbook and turn to the roots of the purebred dog club to create the same excitement for our sport.