Top Notch Toys August 2018

panel of judges representing several countries. At least there are panels of biased judges in these competitions and the highest and lowest scores are discarded, so one person’s opinion does not carry as much weight. In dog shows, winners are selected by only one person, with no controls on per- sonal biases. I do not mean this as a criticismof dog show judges. I person- ally believe most do an exceptional job of applying their knowledge of breed standards to their evaluations of breeds. It is more a critique of a sys- tem that opens up our competitions to harsh criticism from spectators, who refuse to view what we are do- ing as sport. The teamwho shoots the most baskets, has the most hits, or the person who scores the most points wins the game. In their minds sports are objective and dog shows are entirely subjective. If we are not a sport, but an evaluation of breeding stock, or an adjudication of an art form, then what is our next step in promoting our competitions? I would like to return to the original concept of dog shows that sold our venue as an evaluation of breeding stock. While I believe there is cer- tainly an element of art in the show part of what we do, I firmly believe the emphasis should be on the con- formation evaluation. Let the com- petitive dog grooming world worry about the artistic sculpting of hair. I want to see us evaluate the conforma- tion, structure and movement of our dogs. I want a championship to mean that these dogs have been judged and found to be worthy of continuing on in a breeding program. I like Howard’s idea of professionalizing breeders as the producers of quality livestock, not just people who walk around in left-handed circles with a cute dog. We need to be the experts the public and other professionals like veteri- narians turn to when they have ques- tions about our breeds. The animal rights organizations have been try- ing to demonize us for years and it’s time we stop allowing them to frame our issues and define who we are and what we do. The public needs to start

asking some real basic questions, like, “If all dogs are spayed and neutered, then where will the next generation of pets come from?” Isn’t it better that our pets be produced by profes- sionals who know what they are do- ing and take pride in the dogs they produce, rather than by people who just produce puppies for profit alone? Why is a dog intentionally bred to make money better than a dog inten- tionally bred to preserve breed-type and health? Howards comment apparently struck a nerve withmany of the delegates be- cause it generated a lot of discussion during the delegate meetings the next two days. Hopefully the delegates and other people who attended the Edu- cation Summit will take this and oth- er issues back to their clubs to begin some real substantive discussions. Now is a good time to start, while we still have a few people who want to continue breeding. Now is the time to connect in earnest with 4-H groups and FFA (Future Farmers of Amer- ica) and promote ourselves as breed- ers of quality livestock, not Mothers of Tots in Tiaras. As theEducationSummit progressed, it became clear to me that there has been a shift in perception both among breeders and with the AKC. We can no longer isolate ourselves from the wider public and we need to be bet- ter at allowing them in to see what we really do. The pet-loving public is not our enemy. In fact they are the people who are most likely to keep us from falling into extinction as they tire of the language of animal rights rescue and the heartbreak and ex- pense of living with poorly bred dogs. We need to educate them about the importance of finding professional breeders, not just professional dog sellers. We need to be proud of our professionalism and encourage young people to join us in our professional livestock breeding. The Summit also encouraged clubs to reach out to their show exhibitors to become club members and encour- aged shows to include venues like dock-diving, barn hunt and fast-CAT

to draw in spectators and perfor- mance event competitors. Our own club, Kettle Moraine Kennel Club added both dock-diving and barn hunt this year and our conformation entries increased by 200. We want to bring in a fast-Cat competition next year because a lot of our conforma- tion exhibitors are excited about that venue. We continue to invite the pub- lic in to see what we offer and we are beginning to make progress at getting the attention of the Milwaukee me- dia, though we could still use a lot of help in that department. For the first time in 20 years, I have allowed myself to feel the optimism of a future for professional dog breed- ing. I think the ship has turned. It was a long, slow slide into near oblivion, but I think perhaps a renaissance is near. Maybe we are not on the Titanic after all. The 2018Education Summit was a gateway event. The AKC TV channel will be playing segments of the event and I encourage people who could not attend to seek out the pro- gram. Clubs and breeders still need more help and AKC needs to grow the departments who help clubs, breeders and public relations. The AKC must be bold, now. It must go into troubled clubs and help mediate solutions to their problems and it must learn from the clubs who are growing organi- cally. They all need to get out of their offices in New York and Raleigh and attend the small shows in the Mid- west, South and Pacific northwest to see what’s really happening in the dog show world. The big, glitzy shows don’t tell the story, the small shows do. We invite you to attend our shows and our meetings and help us to tell our stories to a media that has been educated by animal rights activists. We invite the AKC to pave the way to- ward better relations with the schools and organizations that work with the kids who love livestock breeding. I think we finally have the AKC’s ear. Let’s just hope they keep listening and don’t become deaf to the clamor they are about to hear.

36 • T op N otch T oys , A ugust 2018

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