2013 Westminster Kennel Club Working Group
This morning I read two seemingly unrelated articles. The first was an essay debunking what author Jerry Weinberger calls, “The false theology of radical environmentalists”, i.e. the Chicken Little approach to environmental protection. The second was MB-F President Bobby Christiansen’s very well documented report on the decline of entries at AKC conformation shows.
I won’t engage on the latter as I know that the global warming/climate change debate is dominated by non-thinking zealots ON BOTH SIDES. Rather I will focus on the latter an area where I have some experience and knowledge. Mr Christiansen has ably demonstrated that the AKC conformation show is in trouble. It does not necessarily follow that the sport of pure bred dogs is in trouble. Mr Weinberger’s main thesis is belief that man can adapt and respond to any threat. I believe that dog lovers can too.
I have a deep love for the history and traditions of the American Kennel Club and am a self-appointed cheerleader for the AKC conformation game. However, I am first and foremost motivated by the love of the purebred dog. It is because of my respect for traditions and history that I believe the origins of our sport, i.e. the gathering of a group of breeders to compare their breeding stocks, is a foundation that will keep my beloved hobby alive. Whether AKC will be a part of that future is something that the organization must address. I think there are plenty of smart people in the AKC hierarchy. I hope that they can turn this trend around.
Nonetheless, I think that the future lies in the member clubs, especially, the breed parent clubs. First of all, those clubs are run by volunteer staffs that focus on advancing the interests of their breeds and the sport, unencumbered by business interests such as meeting a payroll or assuring pension plan contributions. Because of their limited resources these clubs are experts at prioritizing their efforts.
Mr Christiansen implies that the conformation show is the true barometer of the health of our hobby. It is certainly the part that I have focused on these past 47 years. I do agree that conformation is the most visible aspect of our hobby. The public knows what a Komondor is primarily because of the annual Westminster Kennel Club show and broadcast. While conformation shows are our face to the public, they are not a real demonstration of why the pure bred dog exists. AKC competitions should exist to validate successful breeding. Field trials, coursing, earth dog competitions, herding events, and therapy programs are all better measures of successful breeding programs than are conformation shows. I believe these events will be the purebred dog activities that survive the predicted demise of the conformations show.
Why do I have faith that dog competitions will not disappear? Because I believe 60,000 years of human/canine collaboration will not disappear with the demise of one organization. If man can adapt to a changing environment, man and dog can adapt to the demise of the AKC conformation show.