Outside the Bubble: Preserving the Whole

Featured photo: John Ricard (C) AKC
show entries - Irish Red and White Setter


As we move into 2023, people are still somewhat landlocked by the weather but plenty of discussions have been going on across the Internet about the future of dog shows and breeds.

One thing that did happen recently was the “Meet the Breeds” event held at the Javits Center in New York City. This was put on by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and was an amazing success. I did not attend, but people I know were among the volunteers who represented their breeds with their dogs. Everyone agreed that it was a resounding success with people of all ages, from children to older adults having the opportunity to see and meet dogs of many different breeds—often, breeds that they had never seen before.

This is what we need, events for the general public who need to see purebred dogs that are well behaved, good tempered and healthy, that people can see and touch. If people see Poodles that are not in a show clip, that’s great. They may decide that they want a Poodle after all, instead of a doodle! I hope more of these events take place around the country to give the widest cross-section of the population an opportunity to see many different breeds that they would normally never be able to see.

This is what we need, events for the general public who need to see purebred dogs that are well behaved, good tempered and healthy, that people can see and touch.

It’s too early to tell how dog show entries are going to be developing this year (the same as last year, better or worse), but we need to look at ways to improve the situation. Perhaps some of those thousands of people who attended Meet the Breeds will go on to visit some actual dog shows, and hopefully, find it would be something they would like to do.

One of the reasons that we are where we are today is that in the past, too many breeders have been unwilling to introduce new people and work with them. We all had to start somewhere! My first Afghan Hound was a pet. I am sure that there have been many other pet owners who could have become exhibitors, breeders, or trainers if they had been given the opportunity. You can’t tell me that in a country of 330 million people that only a handful have had the potential interest or ability to do any of these things.

Even when someone is interested, I have seen how the “keyboard warriors” have used the Internet to give people a negative opinion of the dog show world. This needs to stop. Even if they do start to show a dog, they are discouraged from becoming future breeders and are told that only champions should be bred. This is ridiculous, as it would seriously limit the number of potential litters of every breed—even the most populous—and limit genetic diversity.

What else could have added to the problem of show entries? Too few dogs and the fact that too many shows are now held in the same place, making them less accessible to some exhibitors due to time and distance. I know that for myself, I had to limit myself to shows within certain time and distance limits, as I’ve lived on my own and could not stay away overnight because I had to be home the same day to take care of the dogs at home. (Don’t worry, they were not kept in crates all day. I had a better set-up than that, but I still had to go home.)

So, what can “we” do individually about the doodle craze? Work towards changing the trajectory—what goes up has to come down! What started it in the first place? The first cross was a Labradoodle, and the creator now says that he wishes he had never done this, and when animal rights activists and others with an agenda started telling the world that purebred breeds were all an inbred genetic mess destined for oblivion, it opened the door for “designer breeds” which would have “hybrid vigor.” These were followed by every combination of breeds that you can think of, now referred to collectively as “doodles.”

So, what can “we” do individually about the doodle craze? Work towards changing the trajectory—what goes up has to come down!

If you talk to someone and they say they are going to get a doodle, ask them why. This gives you an opportunity to suggest a breed to them, not your breed, but something else, perhaps one that looks like whatever their answer suggests. Ask them if they have ever heard of that breed, and if not, tell them what a wonderful breed it is and why they should think about it. Make it sound special by saying that it might be the only one in their local town! If you suggest one it can help a breed that has low numbers, and that would be good, too.

Groomers, you could have a tiered price. You may do this already, but put it on a sign with the price for the purebred breeds and a higher price for the doodles. When they ask why, you can explain the problems with having two different coat types on one dog.

The other discussion that has taken place on different Facebook groups is how we differentiate breeders from each other as to their main purpose, and how we often become very critical of others. We have descriptions such as show breeders, working dog breeders, hunting dog breeders, and preservation breeders. Each group will have very definite opinions as to what they are and what they represent. Sometimes the discussions are very positive, but some can even involve people in the same breed who have different goals, such as show versus work or performance. These can become quite contentious.

They are all very good topics for discussion, but at this point, following on Meet the Breeds, in my opinion, the important thing is that all breeders in our community, no matter what it is that we choose to focus on, are all part of the whole. It is important that we all stick together so that we can preserve all purebred breeds for posterity.

  • Stephanie Hunt-Crowley started showing and breeding dogs as a teenager back in the UK. Her “heart breed” has always been the Afghan Hound, but she was also one of the early breeders who helped to introduce the American Cocker Spaniel to the UK. Her Am. Ch. The Agitator (Imp. USA) won Best AVNSC at Crufts before the breed had classes there, and the first year CCs were on offer she won the bitch CC with an American import. Stephanie started writing about dogs, contributing to breed note columns in the weekly dog press, and producing a newsletter for the South Afghan Club. Chandhara exports have won championship titles in several countries, but Stephanie also imported Afghan Hounds from the United States and Spain. She was approved by the Kennel Club to award CCs in the breed, and the year after that she relocated permanently to live in the United States. Stephanie has also judged the breed in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. She was a regular columnist for the American breed magazine Afghan Hound International and a contributor to Afghan Hound Review. She also wrote for Dogs in Review. Stephanie bred a number of American and Canadian show ring and lure coursing champions. She now lives in rural France.

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