THE 2018 AKC EDUCATIONAL SUMMIT— WHAT NEXT! by JACQUELINE FOGEL
T his June, the AKC hosted a one- day educational Summit for all member clubs. They encour- aged every club to send at least one representative and they sched- uled it for the day before a regularly scheduled delegate meeting in New Jersey, so many clubs had their del- egates attend. Other clubs sent vol- unteers to attend. The cost was nomi- nal—$75.00—and participants were given a gift bag from Royal Canin, lunch and summary materials. The Summit was well-attended with about 400 people representing clubs from every segment of the AKC’s venue of supported activities. Mostly the attending participants were in- vited to listen to presentations from AKC staff and volunteers who were prepared to talk about issues facing all-breed clubs and breeders specifi- cally. Mostly the audience listened to presentations, but after each presen- tation the audience was invited to ask questions of the presenters. Thank- fully, the moderators limited the time available for questions and the day progressed quite smoothly. My fu- ture hope is that they include time for break-out discussion sessions along with presentations. I came away from the meeting with a general sense that the AKC has finally begun to realize the challenges facing breeders who work in isolation from other breeders and all-breed clubs who struggle to find members, volun- teers and tools to help themkeep their
shows going. It is a good start and cer- tainly welcome. However, as I look at the aging populations that attend these meetings, I am worried that it may be too little too late and the AKC may not be devoting enough attention to these issues instead of things like Urban Doggie DayCare Centers. The size of the staff in each of the signifi- cant departments: club communica- tions, public education, club devel- opment and government relations is woefully small. In some cases, they have only two to three people work- ing throughout the country to assist the hundreds of clubs and thousands of breeders. We all understand tight budgets. And we all understand that if the sport of purebred dogs is going to continue, we need to find better ways to do things and communicate with the public. I think these departments will need to grow to become signifi- cant to our sport. Sport. I used that word twice in the last paragraph and it brought me back to a really great comment made dur- ing the Summit by Howard Soloman from the Bedlington Terrier Club of America. Howard raised an issue af- ter a presentation on Breed Preserva- tion. He wants us to consider whether or not our conformation shows should be considered a sport at all. All-breed shows are really not a sport in the sense that teams or individuals com- pete and winners are determined by an objective accumulation of points or scores, in a predeterminedmanner.
What we do is actually much more like the livestock events at county and state fairs or the adjudication of works of art at an art show. Howard’s com- ment suggested that if we returned to calling what we do an evaluation of livestock, then perhaps it might bring more credibility to the breed- ers who are professionally producing those animals who compete for rib- bons based upon the quality of their dogs. Right now the public thinks we host hundreds of beauty pageants and winners are just the lucky par- ticipants the judges find attractive enough to send to Westminster. I can understand why. We are not clear about the way judges examine and evaluate the dogs they see in relation to their breed standard. This is par- ticularly true in the Group judging, which is the venue most often seen by the largest number of TV spectators. We all accept that the professionals at county and state fairs understand the breeds they are judging and we accept their wisdom in the placements of the animals. That same level of under- standing is absent frompeople watch- ing dog judging. They think we are just picking the next “Dog of the Uni- verse,” in our pageants. We are having a lot of trouble sup- porting the concept of conformation dog shows as sport. The closest events I think resemble what we do are the Olympic free-style gymnastic or ice dancing competitions which include a lot of subjective scoring from a
34 • T op N otch T oys , A ugust 2018
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