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Dog ads are more about politicking and who’s in the photo than about reaching potential buyers and you wonder why dog shows no longer serve the public?


Col. Sam Harper,  Dogsport Reconnaissance

September 24, 2013 | TheDogPress.com

Col. Sam Harper, Dogsport Reconnaissance


Now before you refute that, follow this trained observer’s point of view. It’s no wonder people go online or to shelters for a purebred pet. My daughter says everyone is worried and getting desperate for puppy sales. She didn’t really want my opinion, just somebody to unload on.


I understand why, I’ve been known to thumb through show dog magazines. I suggested that a would-be breeder looking for a purebred dog would have to stumble over the fact that there’s a dog show nearby. If a local breeder or family does go there, well, they are going to be disappointed because the dogs are either shut up in big rigs, being prettied up, or they are in the show ring. They can’t be touched and nobody has time to talk. She became thoughtful. I know the look.


Dog ads are more about politicking and who’s in the photo than reaching potential buyers or breeders.If a prospecting pet owner tries to strike up a conversation with the person holding the leash, they are politely rebuffed. She raised an eyebrow. I reminded her that I’ve checked the lay of dog show land. So I moved forward, observing that dog show folks only want to impress judges and each other. I suggested that dog clubs use their advertising budget to promote their presence instead of crowing about who is judging. The name dropping means nothing to folks looking to buy a family dog. To the dog-seeking public, dog show people appear as rich, snobby, self-indulgent owners and harried, short-tempered dog jockeys.


Let’s say I picked up a show dog magazine with the intent of looking for a purebred dog breeder in my state. I would find page after page of flashy dog photos but no contact information. I guess everybody knows everyone because, well, they are so pompously important. She sighed. “I know daddy, once upon a time people put their names, city, phone numbers and stuff like that in their ads. Now it’s uncouth, like they need puppy sales.”


“So what’s wrong with that” I said and she frowned, “I don’t know. People are afraid to advertise dogs for sale for fear of the animal rights groups or local animal control raids.”


My turn to be silent as I digested that concept. Finally she said “You know, I’m not sure I totally believe that because even before everyone got paranoid about being raided, they had already quit including who the breeder was, much less the bloodline, you know, the sire and dam.” Sure enough, I flipped though page after page that contained the handler’s email, website, or phone number but no way to reach the owners. We batted it back and forth, thumbing through magazines. Yep, all the dog ads start out thanking the judge.


Some ads even pictured two or more judges and enumerated wins under those judges as well. Show dog ads are clearly more about the judges than the dog. To the average page thumber, the dog is an afterthought. I said it was about marketing, including the judge, not about being proud of the dog.


She thoughtfully agreed “Yes we deny dog show politics and then we spend a grand to run ads that prove it exists.”


My kid got into it, laughing as we noted that the dog’s call name is always prominently emblazoned in the ad but the breed is never identified. She acknowledged the frustration a family must feel if they pick up one of those magazines at a dog show. Pulling a smirky-face, she said advertisers should state the breed “for judges unfamiliar with that breed.” Took a second but I got it.


To an outsider, it appears that the purpose of advertising is to publicly thank the judge and claim credibility according to the stature of the handler. In some ad layouts, usually those done by a professional photographer or advertising agency, it’s hard to find it the owner’s name. We decided the more prominent the name, the more likely it was an owner-submitted project, a “newbie” as she called them. I noted that most of the big wins carried a consortium of owners taking credit (and paying the bills) for the dog.


Rarely is any credit given to the breeder or bloodline. We counted, less than half the pages mentioned a breeder. I also learned that sometimes the dog’s registered name is deliberately omitted if it isn’t a “recognized kennel name.” I guess there’s nothing to be gained by having “discovered” a remarkable dog from an unremarkable kennel or breeding program.


What does all this mean? My objective assessment is that breeding show dogs isn’t the primary goal for most folks. My daughter demurred, stating that breeder/owner handlers can be successful in dog shows. She laughed when I pointed out that she still believes in the tooth fairy. No, I’ve chatted up enough folks at shows to draw the conclusion that dog show success depends on two things: one’s ability to do a lot of vanity ads (advertising the judges) and hiring a top handler to promote the dog. I also acknowledge that only the top handlers can recognize show ring potential in a young dog. They are the spotters for people who have no “breeding program” and thus, haven’t developed the eye for a winner.


So the dog show system produces professionals that don’t know about things like “Breed Type” because they only have to know how to market a flashy dog to judges until such time as they’ve made enough connections to become a judge themselves. Sounds more like climbing the corporate ladder than rising through the ranks…


The way I see it, if the dog stands still for the judge, then flies around the ring, and he’s a “showing fool” the dog handler will buy it for a client and with the right marketing, the dog will win, the handler gets paid, and everyone gets happy.


I just might come out of retirement and start up an advertising agency.


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