It may have started with the Baby Boomers, but it is a rare generation these days that isn’t somewhat narcissistic in its youth. Most young adults get over themselves as they get older, but the challenge facing dog fanciers is how to reach these potential fanciers while they’re still young.

There are six living generations in America right now, and broadly speaking, three of them, the “Gen-X-ers, “Millennials” and “Boomlets” don’t remotely communicate with others the way veterans in our sport did at the same age. These people have never known a world without computers, and some of them haven’t known a day without a cell phone. Cursive writing, now regarded as anachronistic, hasn’t been taught in many school systems for years. Newer generations don’t use a phone if they can e-mail, and they don’t e-mail if they can text. They get their news on-line, their gossip on Facebook, their entertainment on Netflix, and visit You Tube for instructional videos. WebAssign assesses their school assignments, they use Photoshop and InDesign to express creativity, and for inspiration, they go to Pinterest. “Selfies” are the new autobiography, and Instagram is the new family photo album. Sixty percent of the time they spend watching a TV program is “time-shifted,” meaning that they’ve programed a DRV to record something they’ll watch at a time that suits them, not a network.

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This is not written as a “slam.” Today’s young people are curious and creative and they pursue their eclectic interests with passion. The fact is, however, that because they’ve been using the latest in technology since infancy, they expect things quickly, and that includes knowledge. They are “on-demand “consumers who learn by doing, not by investing precious time reading instruction manuals or listening to lectures. These are the young adults whose interest we must pique if we’re to have any hope of passing the torch to people who will protect our breeds when we’re gone.

Lest you think these are sweeping generalizations, consider:

  • In 2015, a little over one in four people on the entire planet use a smartphone. In the United States, 98% of 18-29 year olds uses a smartphone, and for 15% of them, the phones are their only access to the Internet;
  • Podcast subscriptions on iTunes (short-form audio files) reached 1 billion people last year, and in the US, half of podcast listeners are between 12-34 years old;
  • You Tube has one billion active users each month, and the more frequent the visits, the younger the user. On mobile alone, You Tube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
  • 43% of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) use You Tube;
  • This grows to 58% of Generation X-ers (born between 1965 and 1980), and increases to 72% of Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000);
  • A staggering 81.9% of teenagers between 14-17 use YouTube routinely.

The people who frequent these sites see what they want, when they want to see it, and wherever they happening to be standing at the moment. That’s a lot of self-indulgence, and writer, Joel Stein, probably had it right when he described Millennials in a recent TIME magazine cover story as the “Me, Me, Me Generation.” It’s doubtful that Stein wrote this description to “dis” this demographic, however, because he goes on to explain that these people “aren’t a new species; they’ve just mutated to adapt to their environment.” That environment is cyberspace.

Sadly, the fancy has been slow to create a dynamic presence in their environment, and it still hasn’t tackled in practical terms how we’re to market ourselves to a demographic that doesn’t need us as much as we need them.

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Many of us still don’t have an Internet presence through which the public might learn about our different breeds, nor have we as individuals done a good enough job in giving compelling reasons why a prospective dog owner should opt for a purebred dog over a mixed breed from a shelter. The fancy is unlikely to make in- roads, let alone an impact, if potential puppy buyers find substandard breeders easier and faster than they can find quality breeders dedicated to their breeds. Long overdue is the time when we as individuals, and the sport as a whole, repackages itself and competes head to head in the marketplace with unethical people selling unsound dogs that doom both owner and dog to misery.

Make no mistake, we are also in competition with rescue groups that have become a cottage industry onto themselves. Promoting ourselves on-line isn’t selling out our dignity; it’s protecting our dogs and a venerable sport. Not to promote either amounts to selling out our breeds.

If Millennials, the biggest age grouping in American history with some 80 million people, is visiting You Tube, iTunes, Instagram and Pinterest, then each breeder, fancier, and club needs to be there, too. It’s never been easier to create a video or podcast, and who better to speak with passion about the “selling points” of our respective breeds than the people who love them? Podcasts and videos of interviews with the “elder statesmen” of our respective breeds need to be put on iTune, You Tube, Vimeo and Twitter now. Every breed club should consider adding a “Social Media Committee” now, not just to ensure the club’s presence on-line, but to actively and aggressively promote the unique and predictable attributes of their breed. The material writes itself when we look at what we admire about our dogs.

The National Study of Youth and Religion study found the guiding morality of 60% of Millennials in any situation is that they just want to be able to feel what’s right.  This plays perfectly into our message. “Heritage breeders” are, in reality, conservators preserving their respective breeds, many of these breeds at risk of vanishing in our lifetime. Owning a breed outnumbered by Panda Bears is a “feel good” act that holds its own when the sentence, “I saved this dog from a shelter” is met with, “I saved this breed from extinction.”

It won’t be a tough sell.

This article first appeared in the January, 2016 issue of Dogs in Review under the title, “Making Ourselves Relevant”



Now in the Rearview Mirror: Eukanuba 2015

December 16, 2015
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Don’t it always seem to go/ That you don’t know what you’ve got/ ‘Til it’s gone From “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell The 2015 Eukanuba National Championship is now in the rearview mirror, and Joni Mitchell’s epic “Big Yellow Taxi”  (in which we don’t always appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone)  reminds me […]

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Wow! You have a Great Face for Radio!

December 10, 2015

The conclusion that I have a great face for radio is something I came to determine on my own after having worked with a phone app named, “Periscope.”  What can you do. Aging comes to us all, and in the dog game, a weathered face should be regarded as evidence that the wearer has earned his […]

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Does This Bring You Joy?

November 12, 2015
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When I learned that a competitor from the group ring recently won her breed’s National Specialty, I was hardly surprised. In my view, her dog is the complete package: Sound, exemplary of breed type, showy – and a moving fool. That said, a National Specialty draws out many great dogs, and presumably, such was the […]

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Performance Anxiety in the Ring: The Great Equalizer

September 16, 2015

The Best in Show ring had seven marvelous dogs handled by seven experienced handlers, but one, a friend, was in trouble.  She was uncharacteristically sweaty and grim-faced, and her intensity was throwing her off her game. This was a new and unexpected look for a person who had as many Best in Show rosettes at […]

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It’s Not About the Donald

August 30, 2015
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I don’t know if Donald Trump is the solution to this country’s problems, or if he’ll even win his party’s nomination, but whether he is the solution or isn’t, wins the nomination or doesn’t, neither is my point, anyway. At this moment in time, Trump’s unexpected success is revealing something about the electorate, and trying […]

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The “Better Than Average Effect”

July 29, 2015
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It’s maddening to know someone who refuses to change their mind about an issue even when presented with evidence proving them wrong. Social psychologists call this “cognitive dissonance,” and as infuriating as it is for the rest of us, being wrong is so psychically uncomfortable for these people that they’ll avoid any situation that heightens […]

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The Times They Are a Changin’

June 4, 2015
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A Pew Research Center recently released the results of a study that are startling when looked at backwards. The percentage of single people who are American-born between 1971 and 1985 has gone from 16% to 46% in one generation. To rephrase: The number of 30-to-44-year olds who are single will have nearly tripled in just […]

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National Purebred Dog Day 2015: A Review

May 11, 2015

Now that National Purebred Dog Day 2015 is in the rearview mirror and there’s been a chance to assess and reflect, can the day be considered a success, and if so, by what measure? Did it have an impact, what can be learned from it, and where do we go from here? To answer one […]

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