Is Our Breed in Jeopardy?

As a Gordon Setter lover I believe there has been a call to action that has been largely overlooked or ignored. I’m going to introduce you to that call if you’ve not heard it, or reintroduce you to the reasons why there is a call if you’ve lost focus or need more incentive to find your voice and play your part.

Since 1992, the AKC registry has experienced momentous losses in dog registrations and the numbers are alarming. AKC’s peak year for registrations was 1992 with approximately 1.5 million dogs registered. In 2010, the total annual AKC dog registrations were 563,611. This was a staggering 63% decrease in annual dog registrations for the AKC, and the decline has not stabilized since then.

In 2010 the AKC registered 535 Gordon Setters, approximately .095%  of the total AKC registrations for all breeds. If we simply assume the breed has remained in a similar popularity ranking over that 20 year period, for 1992 we could estimate that AKC registered about 1,425 Gordon Setters. Now compare 1992 registrations of 1,425 to the 456 registrations of 2014 and we discover our breed has experienced a decrease of 969 Gordon Setters, a 68% decline in the number of Gordon Setters in the AKC registered population in 22 years. Last year, only 32% of the 1992 population were registered.GS Stats

Several issues have been suggested as having an impact on the decline in AKC registrations that would also adversely affect our breed:

  • AKC is experiencing more competition from other purebred dog registries and event organizations such as the United Kennel Club (UKC)
  • Economic downturns impacting the funds available to purchase purebred dogs. (rescue pets are less expensive to obtain)
  • Legislation restricting dog breeding and dog ownership at local levels.
  • Unfavorable publicity in the form of marketing campaigns by Animal Rights Groups and Rescue/Shelter operations regarding “breeders” who compete for a market share of new pet owners. “Adopt Don’t Shop” type of messaging, even informational publications like the AHA Pet Population Fact Sheet implies a negative message regarding the purebred and the incidence of cancer. Would you buy a purebred dog after finding them listed here specifically by breed? Cancer scares everyone…

From the American Humane Society – US Pet population Fact Sheet

62% (72.9 million households) own some type of pet

Most popular type of dog – Mixed breed 53% of all U.S. Dogs

Source of dogs: Family/friends 38%, Shelter Rescue 22%, Breeder 16%

Purebred dog registration has declined in the past decade with “designer dogs” becoming more popular (e.g., Cocker Pug, Labradoodle, Cockapoo, etc.). Pitbull-type dogs have also increased in popularity over the past decade.

Cancer is the #1 cause of death in dogs over age two. 1 in 2 dogs will acquire cancer, 1 in 4 will die from cancer.

Golden retrievers – 60% will die from cancer

Certain breeds of dogs are at-risk for certain type of cancer examples:

Greyhounds – Bone cancer

Scottish terriers – Bladder cancer

Pugs – Mast cell cancer

Bernese Mountain Dog – Histiocytic sarcoma

Boxer – Brain cancer

Collie – Nasal cancer

Chow Chow – Stomach cancer

Golden retrievers – Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphoma

Labrador retrievers – Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphoma

Poodles – Mammary tumors (incidence greatly reduced in dogs neutered prior to puberty)

There is a call to action to be heard here, for those who want to protect and preserve the Gordon Setter, and that call goes out to all who own and love them. I am not advocating that we begin to mass produce Gordon Setters by indiscriminate breeding and one should never interpret this data, nor my words, to mean such action should take place. The AKC however, is taking appropriate action steps to improve the reputation and increase the interest in purebred dogs and we can follow their action plans and their lead. The AKC cannot be successful on their own though, it will take the support of each individual who loves a Gordon Setter and that includes pet owners, breeders and hunters alike. We each need to heed the call to take action and do our own small, yet vital part, to promote purebred dog ownership and the benefits of owning a purebred. We need to join and support our National club and regional specialty clubs to do any small part there that we are able to contribute. At the next level the breed’s parent club, the Gordon Setter Club of America, also needs to visit this call to action to ensure that we, as an organization, are doing our part on a larger scale to promote the breed, interest in the sport, the preservation of our breeders and the development of a future generation of breeders.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ


5 thoughts on “Is Our Breed in Jeopardy?”

  1. Sadly, once again I see a comment that shelters and rescue groups have a negative impact on purebred dogs and that there is a competition between breeders and shelters/rescues for the same “buyer”. Indeed I am especially tired of hearing that rescued dogs are a cheaper, second class option for a family.

    If there were not breed rescues, there would be no safety net for purebred dogs when they are given up indescriminantly by some owners. Rescues work hard to identify the breeder of every dog that enters their program and notify that breeder of the need for assistance for that dog. Rescues provide housing, needed vet care and love for that dog, whether a breeder is located or not. And, many times even if a breeder is located, they are not interested in or able to take back that 5 year old, 8 year old or 10 year old dog.

    Families often take their first “jump” in to a breed through an adopted dog. And yes, the cost is less. The dog is fully vetted, spayed/neutered and usually housetrained, crate trained and has some obedience skills. Their next dog could be a breeder puppy, especially if the family has stayed in contact with the rescue and been included in rescue/club events. Not every family has $1000 or more for just the initial cost of a canine family member, and then add to that puppy or young dog vet care and training.

    And before it is assumed that shelter and rescue dogs are never registered after adoption, take a look at the numbers of ILP/PAL dogs and even “mix breed” dogs that are competing in AKC and UKC companion dog events. If an adopted dog is a recognized breed, they can register under that breed name, thus increasing the number of registrations in a calendar year. And rescue groups encourage and assist with such registration and training of their adopted dogs.

    And lastly, to take a negative view of any “adopt don’t shop” advertising is basically supporting unscrupulous, high volume breeders and dealers. Such publicity campaigns are not aimed at the reputable, ethical breeder with good evaluation of potential buyers and good follow up throughout the life of the dog they produced.

    So don’t be fooled into believing that shelters and rescue groups are a detriment to the purebred dog fancy. We are a partner in the continued welfare of the breed.


    1. Kathy, I hear your concerns and understand your passion for homeless Gordons. I am also dedicated to assisting and supporting our Rescue and have always done so. Unfortunately, all rescues and all shelters are not our GSCA rescue, and most do use advertising that does imply a negative message about “buying” a puppy instead of “adopting”. This has been, and is very effective marketing, it has increased the number of families who visit shelters to find a pet which is a wonderful thing for those homeless dogs. Adoptions rates have risen (and continue to rise) while the population of nearly every breed of purebred dog is on a very steep decline, so in denying that this advertising hasn’t also had impact on the decline in the demand for purebreds is to simply turn a blind eye to what has changed in the pet market. When a Walmart opened in any town the Mom n Pop stores quickly went out of business, because people bought their merchandise elsewhere. Supply and demand, there is only so much demand for dogs as pets, breeders are feeling the effects of those who now go to shelters instead of seeking out puppies, and we breeders also need to realize and implement an effective marketing strategy if we are going to preserve our breeds. There were no words in this article that implied that rescue dogs are a second class option and I am sad that you would read that into what was written. While I mentioned the price was lower it was not in a derogatory manner, it is simply a fact, and a factor in the equation.statement of fact, no fault finding, that’s just how it is and it again has an impact on the sale of purebred dogs.


  2. 535 Gordons out of 563,611 total registrations in 2010 = 0.095%, (basically less than a tenth of a percent) not 9.5%. Every Gordon counts, nonetheless. Support your local non-conformation dogs!!


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