I was going to give the usual wrap-up of the year with the successes and failures, achievements and future plans. However, when I look back on 2022, it was not a year of happenings but one of recovery.
After the disastrous years of 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 became the year of returning to normalcy. Note, I use the word “returning” not “returned.” Through the previous two years, the pandemic created havoc in the dog world. Dog shows were cancelled across the country, and those that managed to stay active had very limited entries. Social constructs were impacted with social distancing, mask wearing, and local health regulations. Interstate and overseas travel became a nightmare if air travel was involved. By the end of 2021, everyone was waiting for this all to be over.
The big question that still remains is: When and how will things really return to normal? Furthermore, how should we define “normal” or should we take this as an opportunity to create a new—and better—“new normal?”
For several years now we have all been retreating into our own little private bubbles—me included! I became aware of this recently when I saw an alert from AKC about pending legislation. It was something I was unaware of, and the only reason I found out about it was because it was posted to a Facebook group. The alert was about a bill re-using an old name, the Puppy Protection Act, and which had been continued from 2021. Why had I not seen it before? What else has been going on that we may not know about? Social media has given us a vast audience with an ever-expanding potential number of friends, but at the same time communication about important matters seems to have been lost. This is one of the things that needs to change.
Over the course of 2022 things slowly returned to normal, and by year’s end people were planning ahead for future dog shows and entering in the normal way. But in the meantime, show entries had taken a big hit. Post-COVID show entries at major all-breed shows have been way down, and in the Midwest, shows that had been limited to 2,000 dogs were lucky to get 1,200 entries. Specialty clubs have been hanging on by a thread and some are not even sure that they will be having shows in 2023. We need constructive ideas as to how this can be turned around, not just for this next show, or this month or this year, but sustainably into the future.
What else has been going on? We all know that purebred dogs have been under attack for the past several years, with a big push being given by a shockumentary that was broadcast 14 years ago in the UK. This all came to a head in Europe this past year with onerous regulations that put the future of dog shows at risk in some countries.
In the US it has not yet affected the dog show community, but the negative messages from activists who would like to see the cessation of all purebred dog breeding have convinced the public that mixed breeds are healthier and have so-called “hybrid vigor.” This has helped to give rise to the “doodle” craze. We need to think of more ways to promote the benefits and value of owning a purebred dog, and to look beyond the Top 10 most popular breeds. If we can do this, one person at a time, it may not seem like much. But like ripples on a pond, each person reached can talk to another.
What have been the main issues discussed on social media and in private conversations? The decreased dog show entries, of course, and the number of privately-owned veterinary clinics and hospitals being purchased by corporations are two issues. This has discouraged breeders in some parts of the country from going ahead with their breeding plans, with many of the emergency clinics now being corporate-owned and with fixed policies that an emergency C-section must include a full spay.
Professional groomers have lamented the number of clients that have dogs with genetically mixed coat types that are a nightmare to maintain—especially when the owners had no idea what they were getting into. Groomers have been seeing the owners of purebred dogs becoming the minority. We need to make better use of modern technology and social media if we are going to get the right messages across to the general public. Yes, to the public; the owners of pets and companions who own the vast majority of dogs.
I came into the dog world long before social media existed and when breed clubs produced newsletters using copy machines. These were sent by post. I was living in the UK back then and paid a subscription to join clubs in the US, just so that I could receive their newsletters! Clubs could do the same today—and send the newsletters by e-mail. This could be especially valuable for newly recognized and rare breeds.
All-breed clubs can (should) make outreach one of their goals. We need to look at non-showing owners differently and welcome them in—and not shut them out. I was trying to find out how many clubs have been making efforts in this way, with a web presence, and it seems that such clubs are in the minority. I would like to provide an example here of what can be done.
Joy Atkins-Miller told me that the Missouri Rhineland Kennel Club, Inc., has a website as well as two Facebook pages: one private for members only and another FB page.
“Anytime we donate something, we try to get the county paper over to take pictures that go in an actual paper and their e-paper,” Joy reports. She also went on to say, “Being from a customer service background, I look on our exhibitors as such; they can go elsewhere. They don’t have to attend our shows, so I am trying to lead the club into being a friendly, fun, must-attend event, besides providing a community service for the canine community.”
All-breed clubs can (should) make outreach one of their goals. We need to look at non-showing owners differently and welcome them in—and not shut them out. I was trying to find out how many clubs have been making efforts in this way, with a web presence, and it seems that such clubs are in the minority.
Now that Christmas has passed and the New Year is ahead of us, I would like to start the year off on a positive note and ask everyone to think of what we can do, individually and together, to minimize our problems and achieve our goals in 2023.