Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is There A Future For Dog Shows?

Recently, I've discussed at length whether or not there will be dog shows ,as we know them now, in the future. There are many signs that there may not be. I'm referring directly to AKC events, not UKC. Since the AKC (American Kennel Club) appears to be in somewhat dire financial straits (can't quote figures here, only heresay), and the expenses to show dogs have increased rapidly over the past few years (gas prices and entry fees being the main component), plus the added pressures that nationwide anti-breeder laws have put upon those of us who consider our show breeding a hobby, all these circumstances have put a real damper upon the overall participation in the sport.

Not long ago, I felt that we could see dog shows disappear within the next 10-15 years...and now some are telling me it could come even sooner than that. What it will come down to, ultimately, is whether or not the clubs sponsoring the shows can afford to continue their events. With decreased entries per show/weekend, and the very high expenses incurred giving these shows (venues, judges costs, etc) and there not being enough money made to cover these expenses, some clubs are already saying "enough" and don't plan to continue to put on their show events in the coming years.

It won't die off in one fell swoop, but rather gradually...across the country, until there aren't enough shows to keep the sport going. I've heard it said that there are too many shows now, anyway. That might be the case. Perhaps, if the number of shows were to decrease, than they could survive longer. They'd attract larger entries, thus giving them the funds needed to pay for their clusters.

There is another area connected closely to dog shows that will also have to change...that of the professional handler. They make their living now going from show to show, weekend after weekend and are dependent upon the number of shows for their income. If the shows were to decrease in number, so would their income. It might become impossible for the majority of them to make a living handling. I actually, don't think this is a bad thing, in the long run, for the sport. Decades ago the sport belonged to the breeder/owner before the professional handler came into the picture. I feel it would be a good thing for it to return to the non-professional's sport for the sake of the dogs themselves. (strange coming from someone who handles for others). I know many professional handlers that take extremely good care of their clients dogs, so this isn't a rant against the welfare of the show dog! No, I'm referring more to the advantage of the breeder/owner who goes to the shows and takes full advantage of seeing what dogs are being shown, what are good dogs and what aren't, and the wonderful sitting around after the show just talking "dogs". If they don't go, and let their handler do it all, they miss out on all of that great education and mentoring. (note to self: write another essay on "what makes a good breeder")

I've mentioned to some of my handler friends they might be thinking about a "plan B" just in case the world of dog shows starts to fall apart.

There is a way to save the sport/hobby: reduce the number of dogs it takes to get a "major" (or do away with the requirement for majors altogether); do away with the "professional handler" in the ring, thus bringing more of the real hobbyist back into the fold; crack down on the politics involved and cut out the need for huge sums of money spent to "special" a dog; take shows back outside to parks and inexpensive venues, thus lowering the entry fees for each show; encourage more "duel" championships (obedience and agility, hunting, tracking etc).

Will any of this be changed? I doubt it. Instead, AKC will hope to hang on, weather the storms, and come out on the other side a survivor. Only time will tell.

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