A few months ago a short piece aired on HBO (Home Box Office for them there fancy folks) charmingly titled ‘Unnatural Selection’ on their ‘Real Sports’ program. The theme, was of course, supposed to be Dog Breeding, showing and the pitfalls therein. Not really a friendly topic in dog circles, but it is topical if somewhat delayed from the ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ kerfuffle from a few years ago and more recently its sequel.
The reality of the program however it was… well not.
While PDE was incredibly well researched and maintained, while not a balanced but a mostly fair critique (To a point) of the dog breeding establishment, the folks at Real Sports took a different tack. Their overwhelming hypothesis as it turned out was “The American Kennel Club sucks hairy herpe-d balls so neener neener”.
Honestly, the general content of the program was laughable The bulldog owner was clearly a dumb-ass (You get not one but two English Bulldogs and you expect them to be a paragon on health? Come the fuck on.), Mr. UKC came across as a dillweed* (Seriously dude, discretion is the better part of valor) and the AKC PR machine clearly screwed the figurative pooch on interview prep for that one but the biggest assholes were by far and away the “reporters” involved in the pap that they passed off as hard-hitting docutainment. Their fact-checkers were clearly either ocupado or set on ‘What the fuck ever. This isn’t football’ mode. So we’re here to clear some things up.
1) The AKC is first and foremost a registry business
Boogie on Down
It’s a 130 year old business to be precise. The AKC is paid to keep the records, run the events and be the governing body in the American Dog Fancy. In return they dump a lot of that right back into research and lobbying and bigass events to raise more money for more of those things.
2) The AKC does not mandate breed standards.
Those AKC standards that people keep harping on about? Those are not created nor altered by the AKC. Who can alter that shit? That would be the breed clubs for $500, Alex.
3) The Breed Clubs are not the AKC
The breed clubs function with basic autonomy from the AKC proper. They follow their rules (mostly) and they can play their games and earn their titles. What the breed club deems acceptable is what is in the standard and more importantly what is acceptable in the fashion which you can kind of think of as the unwritten expectations in many breeds.
4) The fashion is what drives extremity, not the standard
Standards, go figure, are open to interpretation. Different interpretations can give you massive type distinctions within a single breed. If one dog of an extreme type becomes inexplicably popular the fashion is then set and the vision of some breeders will shift to adapt to this new shiny ideal. How do you stop the shiny object drift? Easy, education.
5) Judge and Breeder education is mandated by Breed Clubs
Again, not in the AKC’s purview. Breed education is set forth by the clubs themselves. Judges need to learn the extremes and they can’t do that if the clubs aren’t showing them what it is they should reward.
Clear as mud?
Now, all that being said, we are hardly apologists for the AKC. As a registry and arbiter of dog events, there is certainly room for a lot of improvement and these are just our off-the-cuff ideas.
1) Some tighter reins on the breed clubs who are being deliberately ridiculous (I know, dog people being insane? Say it ain’t so!) would be nice. We’re not saying they have to shove modifications of the standard to reduce extremity and mandatory health testing down the breed clubs’ throats, but holding them down and making them chew on it a little isn’t the worst idea.
2) A more concerted effort to educate John Q Public on what “papers” actually mean and how a registration number doesn’t actually equate quality. Or even better, make “papers” mean something again. See above point.
3) Infuse some youth into the organization. We’re not saying the Board of Directors is a Crypt Keepers’ convention but they could certainly be mistaken for one. The old guard has great value and should always be a part of the dog fancy, but in neglecting the reality that is a severely aging population of dog fanciers. They will cause their own extinction.
4) PR isn’t just for nightclubs and politicians. Playing catch-up is fine and dandy but a proactive move in supporting and hell, praising, your good examples of responsible breeders and why they are needed in the first place? Probs a good idea.
4.5) Also, AKC, you should probably stop sending reps to dog auctions. It isn’t helping anyone, but that’s a whole other topic for another day.
When it boils right down, the reality is there will likely never be a documentary that can truly and fairly capture the sport of dog showing and dog breeding. (Unless Best In Show counts, they pretty much hit the nail on the head) There’s an incredible amount of time, money, passion, and insanity that goes into the sport and it really just can’t be captured in ninety minutes by a filmmaker that has already decided on an angle he wanted to pursue going in to the filming.
“But TDS,” you say. “The AKC is horrible and murdered my dog/my mother/my garbage man!”
To you we say, “Pish Posh!” if you have an issue with the AKC either don’t play, or even better, join an AKC club and begin the change from the inside. We’re all for impotent bitching when it’s relevant, but the case of the AKC, lots of decisions are delegate driven. Of course it’s not perfect, and it never will be, this is the life of human-driven hobbies. It certainly however, can’t get better without working together rather than fracturing into 1000 useless pieces. We are all in this shit-storm of zero or just plain bad PR together, and even the most uptight among us has to admit, this is a hobby for odd ducks.
… So we’re stuck together no matter who’s in charge.
*Fang regularly plays in the UKC and this interview was a serious turn-off. There is no functional difference between people who breed AKC or UKC dogs. They both have good and bad breeders and they both are registries which means driven by money. Presenting it as the avenging angel vs. the big bad Goliath… no. Not cool Wayne and a massive disservice to the UKC. If you can’t make your point without dragging down others, you probably need a better point, and the sad part is, you do have a good one buried under the vitriol.