Part 2 – Do breeders need to change?

There is so much to be said about breeders and our contribution to the world of purebred dogs, especially and most importantly when it comes to the “sport”, the shows and performance events we support with our purebred offspring.

Breeders hanging out and having fun together at the dog show! This is what it's all about... Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the photo memories!
Breeders hanging out and having fun together at the dog show! This is what it’s all about…
Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the photo memories! GSCA National 2011

I wish you could all see yourselves through my eyes, because even through my rose-colored glasses, I see that it’s breeders who hold power in the dog show world. Let’s see…

AKC – soon defunct without purebred litter registrations. Dog shows, Field trials, Obedience trials, Agility trials, Rally, any and all of those events – how many do you think John Q. Public would support if only mixed breeds competed and purebred dog breeders stopped participating? Dog Show Superintendents – “let them show mutts” perhaps? Well, good luck arranging those mixed breed Groups into some semblance of order. Judges – hello there mixed breed judging! At least one wouldn’t need to know a breed standard, it shouldn’t be hard to educate a judge, or would it be impossible as the parent breed clubs would be extinct? How will professional handlers earn a living if breeders aren’t producing purebred puppies – maybe they could show guppies – guppies might be good on the go-round shown in a round fishbowl – won’t take much in the way of handling expertise though so could be anyone’s game!

Photo by Sarah Armstrong from 2015 GSCA National
Photo by Sarah Armstrong from 2015 GSCA National

I know that what I just said probably sounded like nonsense to you, but “Hello Breeders!” You really are in a position where you could have more control, more clout, more voice, more power. Yet, when breeders talk we often sound like victims who are at the mercy of all the other players invited to our game; the judges, handlers, superintendents, and so on. Why do breeders continue to allow themselves to act and sound like victims instead of taking charge where and when it’s needed?

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Photo by Sarah Armstrong 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Well, I’ve felt those emotions and I’ve been in those conversations, so I do understand how they can happen. Why do so many breeders get so deeply involved in complaining and playing the victim instead of taking a stance, voicing an opinion, creating a solution and championing change? I’m just wondering you see, if as breeders, our majority took a more active role in the decision-making processes, if then the changes we seek would become a reality? How do breeders find our collective voice so we can clearly drive our sport in the direction we believe it should go?

I’d think that more breeders could start by speaking up and speaking out. When was the last time you took the time to voice an opinion to the AKC regarding any issue, whether it be about judges, qualifications for judges, registrations, dog show rules, handlers, any thing, any time? A few of you might have done this, but I know I haven’t done enough of it and I’m an average person so I’m guessing the majority of breeders are like me, and that most of us haven’t done enough to reach out to the right people, at the right time, to voice our opinion about things, any things! Too much apathy in the air and perhaps too many of us stuck in the victim role. If I didn’t like how things were run why didn’t I round-up a petition to voice a collective concern? And, why do breeders tend to look sideways at other breeders if or when they do take a stance on a topic? Why don’t we choose to stand up and stand together, be one voice?

Are we afraid people will see us as a big yellow chicken?

Photo by Sarah Armstrong from the 2015 GSCA National Specialty
Photo by Sarah Armstrong from the 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Competition does get in the way and so plays a role. Generally speaking, there are more losers going home from a dog show than there are winners, and so what naturally follows is that there is more negative emotion generated around an event than there is positive. Defeat. Disappointment. Jealousy. Embarrassment… so many different emotions, many of them painful. We’re breeders and we’re competing against each other in show rings, in the whelping box and when finding homes for the puppies we bred. How can we be human and expect to avoid all the negative emotions that will occur in an arena such as that created by dog shows? We preach about sportsmanship but then when our dog gets dumped or fails to win the coveted award we slip away to lick our wounds, heal our injuries and soothe our egos by finding fault with our competition, who just happen to be – other breeders and their dogs. People who are just like us in so many ways. And that begins the explanation as to why breeders feel we have too little power, too little control, and why breeders are seldom seen as, nor are we often heard as, the decision makers and the governors of our own sport. As breeders we do tend to spend our energy finding fault with judges, and fault with professional handlers, but mostly we breeders expend far too much energy in the pursuit of finding fault with our fellow breeders and their dogs.

When, I wonder, will breeders chose to take power back by ceasing the attacks on each other? When will we collectively group together and choose to use our power to create positive change in purebred dogs and dog sports? When will we work together to create change that could increase entry numbers, encourage people to buy that purebred puppy and get involved in the sport. Seems to me that we could make an excellent start if we simply agreed not to spend our energy attacking each other, and to redirect that energy instead to cultivate and practice respect for each other. With a true respect for each other you see, I believe breeders would then present a more united and formidable front that would create and drive change in the sport of purebred dogs. Change that may be long overdue. I know this kind of change would be cause for celebration, and everyone loves a party, especially Gordon Setters and their owners!

Let’s go have some fun at the dog show where breeders hang out, shall we?

Do Breeders Need to Change (Part 1)

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

When all else fails breeders get out the scorecards to give the judge a clue? Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the fun photo memory!
When all else fails breeders get out the scorecards to give the judge a clue? Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the fun photo memory from the GSCA National 2011

10 thoughts on “Part 2 – Do breeders need to change?”

  1. Well said! One of the reasons I got into showing and stayed in showing – the people I have met along the way! It is JUST A DOG SHOW after all, and at the end of the day, we get to go home with our fur friends, win lose or draw.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too Jerry! I’ve made the best friends and have enjoyed myself so much at dog shows. Some of my best memories of great times, win or lose, came with my dog show friends at the shows.

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  2. I agree with what you’ve said Sally in theory. What I see in this sport is too many people hungry for power or protecting “their turf” and not open to suggestion or trying something new. After all, who do these “breeders” think they are suggesting change? Exactly what have they done of any consequence? Suggestions for positive changes end with the suggestion and any further, well meaning attempts are met with resistance and those breeders are marked as “trouble makers”. This attitude is fostered by local clubs, parent clubs and even the AKC. When was the last time you saw a survey from the parent club or the AKC asking breeders for input improving our clubs or our sport. We are so bogged down doing things the way we’ve always done them and then those with the power to institute change sit back on their on our collective butts and wonder why we are loosing members and our events attract fewer entries. You can only knock on that door so many times before you ask yourself why you care and why am I doing this.

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    1. I was just working on another article Barb, and it falls in with your comments about surveys, changes and the like. It has to do with what was published just recently as a result of the July AKC Board meeting, where they discussed the results from a survey sent to All breed clubs regarding how to grow participation in events and clubs. You will find details about that in the July Board Meeting minutes (copy and paste this link to get there – http://www.akc.org/about/minutes-reports/board-minutes/) As a result of this survey material has been published on the AKC website for clubs regarding growth and development found which can be found at http://www.akc.org/clubs/promote. You’ll find the ideas AKC posted very interesting as they fall right in line with things that folks like you and I have been saying for some time now, and we didn’t need to conduct a survey to know it…just sayin…

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  3. Loved your article I’m not a breeder and can’t do conformation with my Red Gordon but I enjoy watching everyone in the ring and seeing those happy tail wags from all the beautiful Gordons. I’d like to second that comment about great photos makes me sorry I missed out on all the fun. I’ve met so many kind breeders at the shows and made new friends along the way.

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