Radio Silence

Wow! I just realized that I haven’t posted anything in this blog for 3 years. I did get busy with other things and haven’t shown since RoRo finished her CH in early 2014, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still go to shows or have opinions.

This excerpt comes from a rant I shared with a very patient friend in Texas who was musing about the decline in dog show entries, and who was wondering whether our aging demographic was a factor. I include it here, since it seems I had something to say after all.

We are part of a graying sport —- no doubt about that. Some people are retiring from breeding, but the pool of volunteers available to help put on shows is also shrinking — and along with it, it seems that AKC is demanding that clubs do more and more to attract new people without offering much support for the shrinking populations of those same clubs. (They really just care about revenue streams, but they cloak their caring in all sorts of “novice-friendly” ways.) Small local shows are going the way of the dinosaur; clubs are now forced to cluster together in order to have enough people to keep things going, and at venues that aren’t local to most of the club members.

On the other end, we have lost many new members to Xbox; dog showing is just not as interesting to younger people nowadays, especially if they don’t have a chance to get exposed to the sport through 4H or junior showmanship. It takes a commitment from parents and from kids to find (or be) mentors, keep dogs in condition, and show lots of weekends in different places — as opposed to spending them at soccer, T-ball, dance lessons, etc.

Fewer people even want to go there these days. If they do, they want to do the fun sports, like agility, where your own performance determines whether you “win” —- you can get legs and finish titles without a placement, and the judging is more objective.

Not only that, but when a single entry costs upwards of $30, people are more selective with where that $30 goes than they did when entries were $10 or less. Everything costs more, so clubs would be hard pressed to cut entry fees in order to attract people —- and you don’t see AKC turning down its cut to help stimulate the local economy.

So many of the articles critiquing dog shows and the shrinking of the sport just fall short of understanding what’s really going on. “We have to be nicer to new people!”, the headlines proclaim. “Dog show people are so snobby/mean/insular.” The truth is that there aren’t that many new people coming into the sport to be nice to (or not) — see $30 and Xbox above. Do show people have attitude problems? Some do, but there are a-holes everywhere you look, not just at dog shows. Also, with fewer people to work at shows, the folks who would normally spend time with potential new members are so flat-out busy running the show and complying with AKC’s burden of mandates that few have leisure time to talk to those mythical newbies.

“Dog shows aren’t inclusive/fun enough! You don’t offer OB/rally/agility/whatever!” is another common complaint — again, not generally coming from people who are busy volunteering. The pools of volunteers for those events are likewise shrinking, and especially among members who not only do conformation, but also do OB/rally/whatever and who are willing to give up days of showing to help run those events. The more events AKC mandates, the more people are needed to keep things running at shows, and the “extras” (such as obedience) start falling by the wayside. (Do NOT get me started about the National Owner-Handler Series and the logistics of finding enough warm bodies to run it at small shows.)

I’m happy to report that our little local cluster show in May had a slight uptick in entries this year. We offer a 4-6 Puppy special event plus the usual Best BBE/Best Veteran-type attractions, and the Golden Retrievers hold a match on one day after Best In Show. We do attract new people, and some are even brave enough to inquire after club membership — but most of them fade away when they realize that putting on an event involves WORK. People are already busy, and many just can’t/won’t commit the time and energy to helping out instead of just having fun. This spreads the work among the existing volunteers, who eventually have to drop out due to age or burnout. It’s a vicious cycle.

Memory Lane

Talkin’ ’bout