Showsight December 2017

Lines From Linda: Candid Candidates Part II


Provide more tools to our Clubs to interact with youth in ways that best meet the needs of their community and recognize Clubs who are successful by creating Youth Engagement Recognition Awards. Strengthen the Junior Showmanship program by intro- ducing a role for college age young people. Many of our Juniors today drop out today upon high school gradua- tion and most don’t come back. We need to reconsider the age categories and the dropout rate of younger par- ticipants to see if some restructuring is needed to retain these youngsters. We must find ways for young people to have early success, so we must develop events that can result in success. One of the startling facts is that few children of parents who have participated in events participate themselves as adults. This problem will not have an easy fix. We need to learn why their children don’t participate and see if actions can be taken to reverse this trend. To date that has not been done. 8. How can we improve AKC’s image among its core constituents and owners of AKC registered dogs? There is no question that the fancy doesn’t always have a high opinion of AKC. That is likely because all they see from AKC are rules, regulations and event fees. Less than 30% of people at events belong to Clubs consequently carrying the message of AKC to the fancy is challenging. We must value participants as customers and find new approaches to reach them. Our Executive Field Representatives are in an excellent position to be the positive face of AKC as they attend 93% of our all-breed events. The strategy I helped develop and implement is designed to provide resources to bet- ter support our sport and reduce the burden on show giving Clubs. Once we can fund more of the event costs from those outside the fancy we potentially reduce fees. Reduced fees couple with better fancy communication and engagement will improve our image. It is troubling when I hear people say “AKC is all about the money.” After eight years on the Board I can tell you that simply isn’t true. Dur- ing my Board service, we strived to hold the line on fees paid by the fancy.Ironically, research shows registrants who are not connected to dog sports have a more positive view of AKC. A part of our strategy is to build a long-last- ing relationship with these pet owners and, in turn, find ways to make them an engaged part of the AKC family. 9. The conformation sport continues to decline. Do you have any thoughts on how to engage more peo- ple in breeding and showing purpose bred dogs? Participation in all AKC events must grow. Conformation has especially suffered. Entries peaked around 2003 but significantly declined in the 2008 time frame and confor- mation has declined every year since the recession. All our dog events must be approachable, have a level playing field, offer accessible training facilities, mentoring and ulti- mately affordable when compared to other recreational/ hobby choices. I will share some examples: Make sure that people know events are taking place. In a focus group people were

told about agility and many expressed interest. When told over the past couple of months there had been agility trials within 15 miles of the focus group site they were surprised. We don’t publicize companion events and thus people aren’t exposed to them. Without exposure, there is little chance they will participate. Level Playing Field-in conformation many feel the deck is stacked in favor of the professionals. At the Group level professionals seek the best dog and, with a monied client, can acquire the best dog in the world and campaign it. The heart of the sport is the Breed judging and it is essen- tial the dogs are judged against the standard and not who is on the lead. Training Facilities—our Clubs do a great job, but facili- ties and trainers aren’t always available when a person needs to train. Controversial I know, but relationships with professional trainers for companion events are necessary in some (not all) markets. These “trainers” should be considered a complement not a competitor to our Clubs. The more people who become involved in the companion event training the more people who will participate in the events our Club’s provide. Mentoring-conformation is a highly subjective sport. It is hard for a seasoned exhibitor much less a new exhibi- tor to understand why a specific dog wins. The average new person is out after five shows or less. Often, they never really interact with an accomplished breeder/ exhibitor. We must find ways to engage new exhibitors to hold them in the sport. Their first dog may not be “show” worthy but they love that dog. Helping them understand conformation is essential. It’s how my wife and I got started in Kerry Blues and we are still involved over 40 years later. I wonder if we would have been a statistic had we not been mentored? Affordable-this is both money and time and the best way to make this work is ring success which increases the value of the experience for the money spent. We can also use the tools the Clubs now have such as the 4-4-3-3 show concept or the two shows in a day. Neither is being used to any extent today. Exhibitors are a Club’s customers and shaping events to meet their needs is critical. We are competing for leisure time in a time-starved world. Maintaining the status quo will not increase partici- pation. Unlike many of our events conformation has a spe- cific purpose and handing out ribbons isn’t one of them. On the other hand, finding ways to allow new people to learn the sport and have some success in the process is going to be a critical component of growing conformation. 10. How do you reconcile the fact that often the AKC Board of Directors must make decisions that may not please the Delegate body yet may be necessary to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to AKC? Not every decision made by the Board is going to be embraced by the Delegates and/or the Fancy. The responsibility of the Board is defined under New York State law and carrying out those fiduciary duties will sometimes conflict with “popular” opinion. From my eight years serving on the Board I can state the Board


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