Monday, October 31, 2011

Kennel Club Problems? Compared to What?

Between 1946  and 2001, the AKC registered 42,280,840 dogs while increasing their breed count from 107 to 150.

That may sound like a lot of dogs (it is!) but today the AKC registry is in free fall, with total numbers plummeting by 60 percent in the last 15 years, and some suggesting the AKC may go out of business altogether by 2025

In recent years, AKC registration numbers have fallen so fast that the AKC no longer publishes them; the last breed-by-breed numbers were published in 2006.

Today, less than 12 percent of all dogs in the U.S. are AKC registered, while more than half are cross-breeds or mutts.

Of those dogs that are AKC registered, more than half are accounted for by just 10 breeds.

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Beagles
  • Golden Retrievers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • Shih Tzu

The rarest 50 AKC breeds combined represent just 1.2 percent of all AKC registrations, or less than 0.15 percent of all dogs in the United States (i.e. if we had a population of 2,000 dogs in front of us, a total of just 3 AKC-registered dogs would come from any of the 50 breeds named below).

  • Spinoni Italiani
  • Bluetick Coonhounds
  • Kerry Blue Terriers
  • Manchester Terriers
  • Redbone Coonhounds
  • Australian Terriers
  • Tibetan Mastiffs
  • Briards
  • English Toy Spaniels
  • Welsh Springer Spaniels
  • Irish Terriers
  • Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeens
  • Miniature Bull Terriers
  • Clumber Spaniels
  • Field Spaniels
  • Boykin Spaniels
  • Plotts
  • Black Russian Terriers
  • Affenpinschers
  • Lakeland Terriers
  • German Pinschers
  • Greyhounds
  • Bedlington Terriers
  • Scottish Deerhounds
  • Swedish Vallhunds
  • American Water Spaniels
  • Kuvaszok
  • Pulik
  • Curly-Coated Retrievers
  • Lowchen
  • Irish Water Spaniels
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdogs
  • Irish Red and White Setters
  • Ibizan Hounds
  • Sealyham Terriers
  • Beaucerons
  • Komondorok
  • Sussex Spaniels
  • Pharaoh Hounds
  • Glen of Imaal Terriers
  • Finnish Spitz
  • Norwegian Buhunds
  • Skye Terriers
  • Otterhounds
  • Pyrenean Shepherds
  • Canaan Dogs
  • Dandie Dinmont Terriers
  • Harriers
  • American Foxhounds
  • English Foxhounds

One take-away message from all these numbers is that a lot of dog writers today seem to be missing the forest for the trees.

Yes, a lot of pure bred dogs are health care wrecks.

But isn't there a bigger problem in the world of dogs that too many remain deadly silent about?

Consider this: more Pit Bulls are killed in U.S. shelters every year than ALL American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club registration combined.

If you are writing about dog welfare and health and are not talking about that, you are missing the canine story of the decade.

And it's not just an American story is it?

Consider this:  Last year less than 110 Neopolitan Mastiffs were registered with the U.K. Kennel Club, while down at a single shelter in London, they put down 800 Pit Bulls -- i.e. "Staffordshire Bull Terrier types".  That's about one-third of all the healthy dogs euthanized last year at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.  That's more dead Pit Bulls from that single shelter than the number of Pekingese, Chinese Cresteds, Portgese Water Dogs, or Boston Terriers registered by the Kennel Club that year.  And why did they put down so many "Staffordshire Bull Terrier types"?   Simple:  Because no one wanted them.

And yet these dogs are still being bred by people who say they love them. 

And they are still being acquired in droves by people who say they want them. 

And yet what happens next is all to predictable:  about half of these dogs end up on death row because they prove to be too much for their owners.

And what is the dog writing community, saying about all this? 

Not much.   The silence is pretty deafening.

And why is that? Mostly because folke are bullied when they do write about it.  Try to talk about solutions, and just see how quickly the Pit Bull denialists show up!

"Blame the deed not the breed" they wail.  

But they don't mean the deed of breeding dogs for quick cash, do they?  No, that's a sacred cow. 

Talk about a ban on advertising these dogs for cash sales, and suddenly there is no concern at all about the dogs.  Now it's all about property rights

The dead dogs? 

They offer up no solutions for them, other than to fire up the ovens and push a few thousand more corpses into the landfill while, like parrots, they squawk "ban the deed not the breed." 


branwyne said...

Thanks, Patrick. I have been a fan of your blog for a while, and your comments regarding the "pit bull problem" are right on. I'm from Massachusetts, a state where s/n education has worked so well, we no longer have a problem with dog overpopulation. In fact, we have a shortage of adoptable dogs and puppies, which is why many shelters and rescues are importing them from high kill shelters down south, and even Puerto Rico.

However, we DO have a problem with an overpopulation of pit bulls. Despite the existence of low cost, even free s/n, pit bulls still flood open admission shelters, are dumped on Craigslist, or are simply abandoned. The MSPCA, instead of supporting mandatory s/n laws for these dogs, has chosen to double down on the denial, and launch a PR campaign to make pit bulls "more popular" and increase adoptions. They are pouring resources into subsidizing pit bull ownership with free s/n, shots, microchip, training, etc. They refuse to educate prospective owners about the potential for dog aggression in the breed, and instead claim that pit bulls are merely "misunderstood".

I appreciate your weighing in on the issue. The real tragedy, to me, is when so many formally respected rescue organizations lose public trust because of their position on pit bulls.

bdalzell said...

Actually the numbers registered by breed are available at least part way through 2010 from the monthly Secretary's Page in the AKC Gazette magazine. However in the April 2010 board minutes which can be viewed online the board announces it would stop public publication of the numbers of dogs and litters registered.
I have the 2008 registration numbers posted at if you want them. I have a spreadsheet with a lot more previous years available should you want me to send it to you.

In my breed where I have tracked AKC reg numbers since the breed came into the AKC in the 1890's the long term numbers are very sensitive to larger events, major (world) wars and economic crises are almost immediately reflected in individual dog registration numbers. Up until 1952 the AKC actually published all the dogs registered in the official Stud Book publication so with patience would could count all of them. From 1952 on to the late 1990's when the AKC stopped publishing the stud book only dogs that were bred from are published. So the rise from 1946 to the early 1970's reflects the economic boom as much as anything else and this may also be true of the peak in 1992. From 1992 on there are some economic forces involved but also I think this reflects a rise in the promotion of the idea that one should get a rescue dog and "save a life" rather than purchase a dog from a breeder. In the breed I breed we are registering less than 700 pups a year nation wide (USA) yet 2/3rds of the inquiries I get are from people who "have always wanted a dog of this breed but want a rescue to 'save a life'". I have now started to see places that are breeding multiple breeds call themselves "rescue ranches" etc. I can send you a list of them privately.

The statistic that less than or around 1/2 the total number pf dogs registered are more or less within the top 10 most popular breeds is a longstanding aspect of pure bred dog registration. This table shows more interesting things about numbers;

75% of the registrations in 2008 were within the top 25 breeds (out of 158) and 99% of registrations were in the top 112 out of 158 breeds.

From the point of view of advising breeders on scientifically sound strategies for breeding healthy dogs - most of the breeds are poorly served by advisors who focus on the popular breeds. A major problem for maintaining health and resistance to disease is maintaining genetic diversity in a breed and for at least 1/2 the rare breeds registered banning integration of crosses to similar breeds can cause great harm because of progressive increased levels of homozygosity with each generation. Of course the average person who decides to produce healthier dogs by breeding crossbreds often neglects to do health testing on their breeding stock and also falls for the fallacy that you only need to do one generation of out crossing and then you can breed within your new closed gene pool and not see inbreeding depression.

If a dysplastic German Shepherd is bred to a dysplastic Labrador you still will have an excellent potential to produce dysplastic Shep-Labs.

bdalzell said...

This is a contiuation of my post as I wrote too long a post:

In addition to breeding a rare breed I have a boarding kennel in the Baltimore area and around 1/3rd of our clients are pits or pit crosses almost all from the local shelters. We have a set up so that we can - safely for us and without stress to the dogs - take care of difficult and dangerous dogs. Almost all the difficult dogs are pit crosses, Akitas or Rottweillers - although they are not a majority of the individuals we board of those breeds. Another thing I have been seeing an increase in is "American Bull Dogs" which are basically a breed created by crossing English Bull Dogs to Pits and selecting for the dogs with the Bull Dog size but with the longer muzzle so they can breath and not overheat. These dogs can be very schizophrenic in their behaviors. Mostly fine but capable of rather severe aggression without an obvious trigger.

I think that Americans tend to shy away from the idea that behaviors may be inherited - we are a "nurture not nature" society - why we even think it is in our constitution - "All people are created equal... " is as far as people read in the Constitution.

I think this is, in part, the basis of the "blame the deed not the dog" attitude. In addition I have found many of people I have met who are involved in rescue and shelter work to actually be poorly educated in terms of details of dog behavior and may never have studied a whole litter of pups to see the innate personality differences that can emerge even within a litter

Talking to people who have acquired their pit crosses from the people who bred the litter rather than from the shelter, often these pit litters are either unplanned or they breeder is selling the pups for a trivial amount - $50 to $100. In our area the shelters rarely have litters of pups so people who want a puppy yet do not want to or are able to pay the price that serious breeders want for their health checked pups at 8 weeks of age - have as their main choice these accidental pups.

To me it is analogous to wanting a car but not buying a cheap car which has passed inspection and costs $3000 used- rather you take pot luck by going to the junk yard and getting a $150 car hoping you will be lucky and it will actually run.