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Who benefits most from dog shows? Why do puppy mills prosper and show breeders give up?  Is your breed or dog club thriving? Here are some selected comments from our readers.


Robyn Michaels July 16:  I don't have a dog to show in conformation, but I support the fancy & am currently competing with a dog in Rally. While I realize that venues & judges are expensive, why doesn't the AKC see this? Paying over $5 for parking is outrageous...but that is not my biggest complaint. That would be so many clubs not having rally/agility/obedience. that's what the public comes to see. otherwise, it's just a beauty contest and silly to the average person. How are we going to get around this----dog shows being too expensive? 1. Every show should be like international used to be----with sweepstakes cash prizes; 2. Classes for spayed/neutered dogs; 3. Usable prizes for winners.


Ethicalbreeder July 8:  I too have been showing for almost 60 years and seen tons of changes in AKC and in the last10 years, not for the good. AKC is all about the money now! I never thought I would see the day that non registered non pure bred dogs would be allowed to show at any AKC event.

     As for mentoring, I have mentored several people in my breed and only two have not turned around and stabbed me on the back as a thank you.

     I like the limited registration. My puppy people are quite willing to have their puppies spayed or neutered and still do obedience, rally, tracking, nosework, barnwork, agility and lure coursing. My contract states that they must be spayed or neutered before they are 18 months and my show contract states only that the dog must be shown and make a concerted effort to finish and must have all health testing done before they are bred. So I do not know why that one person thinks breeders need to get off our high horses. I do know that there are breeders who want the earth and back for their puppies. That is ridiculous! Some of these even want one or two puppies back! They even want you finish a dog that can’t possibly finish.

     The breeder you pick should be there for you and help you even if yours is just a beloved pet. If you look you will find them!

     AKC is depending more and more on handlers and mixed breeds. Again money. Separate the handlers from the owner handlers? I do not think it will ever happen and AKC is pricing us regular people out of the dog shows. Clubs are asking more and more for entries and reserved grooming. Prices for catalogs and even parking. Judges used to put up the best dog not who was at the end of the lead! There have always been politics but it used to be very discreet. Not any more. Judges now put up handlers because they used to be handlers. Some are even paid to put up certain dogs. Or you have big expensive ads in dog magazines which sends free copies to all the Judges! In our breed there are now almost all handlers at the shows with only one or two die hard owner handlers. I am so tired of all the changes in AKC that are not for the good of the ordinary breeder. I am seriously considering going to only UKC shows and then getting out of breeding altogether. I am 68 and have shown dogs since I was 10. I have been a breeder of merit and health tested all my dogs before breeding. I belong to a National club, a local club and an obedience club. Too much crap to put up with AKC. Prices just going up and up. I wish each and every honest, good, ethical breeder out there best of luck.


Mia July 8:  I would just like to state the truth as I see it. I have been breeding and exhibiting for many years. Before the dawn of the professional handler take over, it was breeders and owners against each other.

     At that time the judges had to judge the dogs against each other!

     There were very few familiar faces in the rings each and every weekend. It was fun and a pleasure to attend the shows at that time. Then came a time of a few pro handlers and it still was worth entering your dog because there were still MORE owner and breed handlers than pros. Today a ring may have one or two owners or breeders with the rest being pros, and it is VERY HARD to beat them. Now I know AKC will NOT accept this concept because they make lots of money on the multiple dogs the handlers bring to the shows with them. I have sat at group rings with the same handlers and their dogs at five day shows and the same handlers are in the ring every one of those days with the same dogs battering it out for placements. Yes there may be a few owners or breeders in there but it is rare to see them get a placement no matter how good their dogs are. They need to have shows for just handlers and shows for breeders and owners, then you would see a change in entries!

     These are my observations and my two cents!!


Linda December 14:  I am a newbie in the dog ring. I love going to the shows, seeing the dogs, and meeting breeders/owners/handlers. The judges don’t know me, and my boy has lost to lesser dogs. I was told to hire a professional handler, but I can barely afford to show. The breeder is the only one who has encouraged me, supported me, etc. Without Slaton Saints, I would have dropped out after the first two shows. Once I showed an interest, Shirley coaches me in grooming and Joe continues to demonstrate his amazing handling skills. I have learned so much from the two of them and the other breeders I have met through them. As it is, I don’t know if I can afford to continue showing my beautiful baby, but if i stop, it will not be because of lack of support from the breeders. It will be because of the unfair advantage of professional handlers.

     After investing in all that is needed to compete, going against professional handlers seems unfair. Since I have a long-haired Saint Bernard, costs are high, and paying a handler is not an option. Also, I will never be as good as a professional handler. I don’t have the time to spend preparing at that level. I would love to see AKC separate the competition by amateur and professional handlers. It would level the playing field and make it about the dogs instead of the handlers.

     Until I joined a local dog club, I never knew of nose work, Rally, therapy dogs, etc. Our club exists to promote performance and service events, with some conformation training offered. This makes sense, since all dog owners can participate in the performance events, and those few who are dedicated to the furthering of excellence of the breeds can practice for the show ring. The performance events draw crowds and bring in cash to support the non-profit club. They also give the conformation participants a venue for breed awareness and promotion. There is a lot of crossover in participation and this definitely creates interest in conformation. Local breed clubs should consider what appeals to the public, bring this to them, and once they get them in the door, they will be able to promote awareness and interest.


The Scarlet Pimpernel June 18:  “No other sport allows professionals and amateurs to compete against each other in the same game.”

     Really? I thought it was about dogs competing against each other. Silly me!  Goes to show that it IS about the handlers, and not about the dogs.


BOH April 5:  As an breeder/owner/handler I am beating a fast retreat away from AKC conformation events. Regardless of the quality of your dog, unless you can have them out every weekend (handler or no) you no longer stand a chance in the breed or group ring. The backbone of dog fanciers – those of us willing to spend ~$5-$10K a year or so competing at AKC conformation events are deciding there are more rewarding ways to spend that money on your dogs. Recently we’ve taken up nose work, advanced rally, herding, tracking, and barn hunting – at a fraction of the cost & greatly increased enjoyment. Having participated in performance events that reflect the origin of my breed – it is doubly troubling to see breed type evolving away from the standard & into the “generic” show dog. I keep hearing about dogs that are “showy” but incorrect from judges & exhibitors alike…… it’s sad when judges you are mentoring point out the numerous faults of a dog & say “I’d put him up over the other (standard conforming) entry because it’s showy”

     Be that as it may……..AKC could woo me back if they made substantive changes in the way they manage & promote shows, and calculate rankings. I’m one of the ones they sucked back in for the GCh, & the AOH series, but that’s just throwing a bone at me to encourage more entries – which benefits AKC & show giving clubs not the exhibitor or the breed. Oh… but you got select….. just doesn’t quite have the elan I was looking for…….hey you were best AOH in breed isn’t quite the same as BOB. I think folks need to declare their dogs at the start of each season – as an amateur or a professional. I also think rankings should be geographically based – when you declare your dog, you also have to declare the region in which you will count your points. Doesn't mean you cant show in other regions, but points don't count except for your home base & then it’s limited to a certain number of shows/year.

     Points need to be normalized for rankings, or perhaps a weighting factor for the amateurs (or handicap for pros) to even out the playing field. I’m all for a 1.5X DD for AOH specials – so if the pro BOB dog has 22 DD (both sexes) and my BOS or select has defeated 14 dogs of the same sex – my amateur dog gets 21 DD points.

     Now none of that is going to happen, because the dog show game has moved lockstep with the current “free market frenzy”. Today’s dog show economy mirrors the larger one in the country. It’s all about JOBS. That’s right, handlers are accepting lessor dogs into their strings, AKC wants to keep cranking out registrations & accepting new breeds, judges are scrambling for assignments, photogs, magazines, vendors, everyone is trying to stay employed & the only way to do that is to keep the money dogs winning. A nice owner handler dog may only generate X dollars, but those pro handled, consortium owned, private plane flying dogs with publicists and teams of assistants generate X times a zillion $$ and those $$ are JOBs.

     Well, my JOB as a BOH is to breed the best dog I can, make sure they have a forever home, participate events that provide joy to dog and handler, and promote all aspects of the breed. It’s unfortunate that my job is in conflict with the current Dog Show Economics.


50 years in dogs April 2: We bought our first stud dog at a dog show. That’s right well over 50 years ago. We went to see the dogs and hopefully find one we liked for sale. AKC, in my opinion made several HUGE mistakes. Among those mistakes is that a dog or puppy can’t be at a show (unless it is over 6 months and entered) and also puppies can’t be at the show to be evaluated by other breeders and handlers. Why not? If you want people to pay for admission and parking then let them see puppies and allow those who want make transactions do so. At least the gamble that the public might find what they are looking for might entice the public into spending the money and taking the time and drive to go to the show. Next GET RID OF THE LIMITED REGISTRATION. What did it do that was good for dogs? Cause designer breeds? Add to the number of dogs registered to alternative registries? Create more breeders from Russia exporting to the USA? In my opinion it opened the door for worse breeders in the designer category etc. The limited is “PROTECTIONISM” at its worst. I understand, who wants to sell a dog to someone in their town only to compete for puppy buyers later on? Who wants to get beaten in the ring by a second generation of the dog they spent 5 generations creating? No one. But the TRUTH is once the dog is sold it is NO LONGER THE BREEDERS. Hate to say it but people have to learn to let go. Even our children’s children belong to our children, not we old grandparents. Rights are pretty slim at the grand parent level. That said if all these dogs should have limited registrations because they are faulty, than any dog that produces more than 2 puppies with limited registration out of two different litters should automatically be relieved of being able to produce puppies with any registration. In other words if breeders are limiting registrations because there is something wrong with the dog they should not have bred it, and obviously should not be breeding it again. BUT that is not why we limit registrations. We limit them for PROTECTIONISM. Protecting ourselves from competing against our own, in either the ring or for homes of offspring. Well, the limited has protected breeders alright, right into oblivion, or should I say extinction. No where we would see a dog out of one of our own, we instead see a mix, a designer dog, a shelter imported from another area or country, or some new breed the AKC grabbed onto in order to boost registrations. When will mankind ever learn that rules, and limiting things will come around to bite the very people who set out to protect themselves with such rules eventually.


Kimm McDowell March 13:  I believe AKC missed the boat when it became apparent that the popular trend today was either to #1 ADOPT a rescue which gives the impression that choice is more noble than researching and purchasing a well bred puppy from a reputable breeder or #2 to take different breeds, combine them, and form your own “designer” dog while charging ridiculous prices for your “mutts”. Why hasn’t AKC spent money to PROMOTE the BREEDER that runs their entire business? Why aren’t they spending advertising dollars educating the public that it is a good decision to research breeders and purchase a well bred puppy from someone who has often spent years perfecting the best litter they can produce. With that advertising show them that if they buy a well bred puppy from a good breeder what different avenues they can go in, from showing in conformation, rally, obedience (oh wait, now mixed breeds can do that anyway). If the AKC does not become pro active, they will become extinct.


acidwit March 10:  I too am more interested in obedience and rally and such like. It seems the only fair competition there is, where the dog is scored and not the handler or how big the magazine advertising is. It has gotten to bad even the judges are complaining about the fixes. I heard though that one judge turned in a handler for TEXTING can you believe it? What a sure thing they thought that was.


Janet March 10:  Having been a long time exhibitor although out of the rings for a while, I was shocked and appalled today when I TRIED to go to the Seattle Kennel Club show; $12 for parking and $14 to get in! I ended up not going and can’t imagine how a family would attend! How does that attract people?

     I think the Meet the Breeds are critical; what if they held them in “waves” so the lesser groomed dogs would start them as they finish breed judging in the ring relieved after a few hours by the more groomed dogs as they finish in the ring. Don’t have all the breeds all day which would reduce fatigue and the really bad crowding. I think more would be able to support their breed’s Meet the Breeds if it wasn’t going to be an all day thing.

     Completely agree about utilizing the press! One of our news stations had an 83 picture photo essay on their website covering Saturday’s show in Seattle. Unfortunately, 20 of the photos were misidentified as to breed or not identified and few shots were obedience or rally but they were THERE. (I sent him a list of breed corrections which hopefully they will fix) I think more non-dog show dog events as someone else mentioned would also make a great outreach. Folks not so stressed because of show concerns and having more time would be very helpful. LOVE the idea of renting empty stores!


Felicia Luburich March 8:  The aim of a real breeder is NOT to produce pets for the public. It is to build & maintain a bloodline over a lifetime which will deepen the quality overall litter by litter. Eventually such a person whelps a pup that becomes a SMASHER & enhances the overall quality of a breed. Not every SHOW DOG, even many Chs should be bred. A 1 or 2 dog owner tends to breed what they have even tho it is unlikely to have superior get. Knowing stastistics will tell you that a dog does not produce its quality but the average of the quality of all its littermates. So if you have an 8 dog but the littermates were 4 & 5s.. guess what? You are unlikely to get any 8’s from him unless he is bred to a 9 bitch that had all 7 & 8s littermates; & even then unlikely. PROFESSIONAL breeders are the ones who really enhance the breed & should be cherished & patronized. Instead the other exhibitors are jealous of the real Pro that consistently shows up with the best & beats them in the ring. They invent excuses for why that person wins, inc. that if a female she sleeps with the judges. Also on the E coast if a female has short hair & wears pants suits she is judged as BUTCH and marginalized. Kennel Clubs with a web site need to have an educational part; showing puppy mill facilities & photos of the trash they produce & explanation of why it is trash & how those bad things impact the owners, plus photos of correct dogs & why they are desirable. Their sites must be keyed to bring ANY search for a purebred dog of any breed to THEIR web site FIRST IN LINE. I’ve seen many dog club web sites & they DO NOT make any effort to pull in pet seekers. An invitation to handling classes & someone to explain things to them & a lending library, & & &… lots of things to do that are NOT done, Bringing pups to a show under 4 1/2 months is dangerous, esp for Parvo prone breeds. Besides, keeping pups in crates for 2 days or more is not a good idea… or exposing them to germs & parasites so rampant at shows.

     The average exhibitors span is 5 years. That is not enough time to accomplish anything in a breed. It takes time to learn bloodlines & what they produce; learn enough medical, handling, etc to really become a pro. I could go on & on. An overhaul is needed. The AKC is a Corp with Board Members…. no longer mainly interested in promoting high quality dogs. Nothing stays the same forever, but the dog world has plummeted.. very, very sad. Why shouldn’t a pro be compensated? I had to have a night job to support my dogs. When I gave handling classes for the local KC I never even received a thank you letter. I lost the income from those days I gave the lessons Which I could ILL afford to do. The sadest part is I KNO people will continue to be ignorant & act stupid & the dogs will be the one to suffer. If I were young & starting out I’d go to Europe where they have mandatory Quality Control & where the clubs are operated for the benifit of the DOGS. Yes, there are politics there but NOT the low level of quality en mass as in the US. We buy flimsy Chinese products instead of making our own. We mass produce dangerous food. Wall St & tghe banks get away with MURDER !! & the whole world is sent into a nose dive. I’m glad I’m old & going out instead of young & coming in. As far as I can see the USA is in a rat hole & likely to stay there for some time.. esp. since the average IQ is 100. YOICKS !!


MonaKarel March 7:  One time specialties are NOT considered when figuring point schedules. Numerous regular specialties are, or getting together to build entries. What’s distressing is the lack of understanding about the ‘fly over’ states. In the heavily populated areas, two hours is local, in New Mexico, it extends to six hours. And you’ll get the same judges rotated through that six hour area. It’s acceptable by AKC requirements, which were set up with the east coast in mind. But it’s a mess when you’re trying to attract entries.


Robin March 6: Dog show conformation judging has become an event of favoritisim.

     The costs keep going up and the opportunity to finish a dog keeps getting further out of reach as point schedules get skewed by breed specialties one time large counts. Even pro Handlers get frustrated when a better known Handler shows up and nearly ALWAYS wins.
Spectators and potential exhibitor hopefuls get discouraged when the better dog gets bested by the better known handler. I think there would be a tremendous paradigm shift in show politics and better breeding as well as more active owner participation if AKC went to a Euro style judging format whereby each dog is judged against his Standard, with a written score of each attribute and by more than one judge. There would be a feeling of honesty and transparency if a judge had to provide documentation as to why he chose this or that dog and a lot less focus on the popularity of the Handler. Pros would still be employeed, but they would have to tell their clients to bring them better bred dogs. I also wish AKC would spend more of our fees on fighting anti dog legislation rather than their current format of emailing out a notice of what bad legislation is due to pass in a given community. It would be huge if AKC would SHOW UP at some of the bigger hearings on anti-breeding laws. Breeders need to come down from their arrogant ideals and realize that forcing puppy buyers into complicated and controlling contracts literally sends them rushing to the mills for a no-strings puppy. There are people in my breed who are shopping the mills in Europe to get show prospects because they cannot find a breeder in the US who will sell a show hopeful without a huge contractual committment and a huge price tag for the pup. Breeders NEED to sell show prospects and mentor their buyers into the ring if they want to continue to have this beloved hobby. Ask yourself….how many newbies have you brought in to AKC showing? If it’s none, then you aren’t really a show breeder….and you’re part of the problem of throwing our hobby under the anti-pet, animal rightest bus. Additionally, mentoring your pet puppy buyers how to properly care for an INTACT pet would be a marketing coup for that breeder because there are veterinary studies coming out almost daily showing that altering young dogs is not beneficial to their health or longevity.


JoAnn Stoll March 6:  My recommendation would be more performance events to attract the general public. Maybe even fun events of some type like Dock Diving, or plexiglass earth tunnels for the terriers to travel through like they featured on animal planet. Just suggestion off the top of my head.Think outside the box and provide some fun exciting events the general public would enjoy.How boring is it even for dog fanciers to sit through hours of watching dogs trot around a show ring. Conformation is only relevant for dedicated fanciers. How about asking the general public what would bring them to a dog show. People work all week and want to have fun on the weekends. Make it a fun event for them. Definitely more promotion in newspapers etc.


ThunderRun k9 March 6:  For me, the largest barrier to showing my dogs (and I have been to handling classes and entered a match) was the constant barrage from other handlers that “You will never win because the judges pick from the handlers they know, and they don’t know you.” I have been told that I have the wrong leash, the wrong lead, the wrong grooming table, etc for the judges to take me seriously. So I compete where it appears that my dog’s skill and not my infamy make the difference, like DockDogs, agility, and rally. So I pour my hobby funds into those events, where people bring their own dogs if they want and make a day of watching the dogs.

     I honestly have not joined a club, because I’ve found them unwilling to mentor in performance sports and just concentrate on shows (and I’ve been to lots of meetings). So if I can’t get a mentor, and I can’t win in the ring bc I’m not a “handler” then I’d rather spend my money joining agility clubs and dock diving teams.

     If shows want to come back economically, they need to cooperate with performance events that bring in spectators. Watching a dog run around a ring is boring for regular people. But having multiple events at a venue will demonstrate versatility in breeds, allow one breeder to enter a diversity of events, and bring in more retail vendors.


Dominic March 6:  If an individual needs compensation as a incentive to share there passion, I’ll keep looking down the road… Regarding Kennel Clubs just hanging on.The All breed club I belong to had a few lean years, that’s until some of us members totally revamped our Events. We are now doing extremely well. Changing with the environment and thinking on your feet seems like the way to go.


Caroline Hair March 6:  My obedience club stopped charging admission yeasrs ago. We found we get more public attendance if it’s free and we don’t have to have someone selling tickets and monitoring exhibitors going in and out. Most exhibitors find this very annoying. We do some pre trial publicity, mostly listing in the local paper’s “Community Happenings” column. Sometimes it’s more…depending on the initiative of the person in charge of publicity. We usually get entire families attending to watch and talk to people. Same for agility, which always creates public interest. We usually have a poster giving our website where classes are listed and the public can sign up for Basic obedience.

     As for having a Meet the Breeds at every breed show, I don’t think that is realistic. I have a breed which requires extensive grooming and doubt there would be time. I have participated in these held in stand alone events and find that is much more conducive and enjoyable for dog owners and public alike.

     Most clubs have websites these days, but it would help if they gave more publicity to these. I also think AKC should go back to requiring clubs have at least one show yearly in the local area. The local kennel club, of which I’m no longer a member has two all-breed shows a year…..over a hundred miles from here!


tam March 6:  Recently a large cluster was held in a nearby city. Not a word on TV before or during, only BIS after the last show. In addition no admission was charged. This the week after the Garden, when awareness is high.

     Rather than shunting obedience and rally off into a dark corner they should be front and center. Every dog owner can enjoy them.

     How about posting a judging schedule online or in the paper, or both?

     A meet the breeds should be a feature at every show. I still remember my first dog show, over 60 years ago. Benched at Navy Pier in Chicago. It started a life-long love affair with purebred dogs.


Click here to read the original questions EST 2002 © 164



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