Post image for The Dog Fancy’s “Sticky” Problem

I’m ecstatic at being able to write this because last weekend, I very nearly blinded myself.

I needed to spray paint a paper mache box (you see where this is going, right?) and had assumed that the can of spray paint purchased specially for the project would work like other cans of spray paint.  To that end, I shook the can vigorously, pried off the “easy remove” lid with a screwdriver, my teeth and a beer can opener, detached the plastic pin from the valve button –  aimed, then pressed the nozzle with confidence.

The blast of paint to my eyes was immediate and direct.  The minutes that followed involved panic, a lot of water, a heart-to-heart with God, a call to poison control, more water, and a husband who wondered why I hadn’t gone looking for him after he found me with my head under the kitchen faucet (I love my husband, but let’s think about this: Should I have immediately flushed out my eyes just sprayed with a toxic chemical, or bumped into walls “looking” for a husband who could be anywhere in the house to tell him what had happened. What to do, what to do….)

In my defense, it was an easy mistake to make for someone who hadn’t read the directions. I had assumed that all nozzles work the same way and proceeded accordingly.  Now I know they aren’t all the same.  Now that I’m not blind, I can chuckle about it (but only just now). The name of the paint color was, “Pimento Red,” and I must have looked as if I’d taken a direct hit to the face by an overripe tomato, if not a musket ball.  After the dust settled and I knew my eyes would be okay, I reflected on how close I’d come to dodging a life-changing bullet.  I had gotten it all wrong.  

Don’t ask how I make connections between utterly unrelated things, I just seem to, and I was struck by the correlation between the spray paint incident, a book I’ve been reading, and the realization that while trying to protect the future of purebred dogs, we’ve been getting it all wrong, too. 

In the book, Made to Stick, the authors, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, explore why some ideas “stick,” while others never catch on.  I imagine it was written with advertisers, marketers, and politicians in mind, people invested in having their ideas resonate (or stick) with the public.

The authors cite the Texas Department of Transportation as a good illustration of how a flat idea was reshaped into one that “soars.” Texas used to have a terrible problem with roadside garbage caused mostly by good old boys of a certain age with whom, “don’t litter” appeals didn’t work. The state developed a clever campaign that recruited native Texans, George Foreman, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson to record commercials in which they said, “Don’t mess with Texas, ” a message that implied that tossing trash out the car window violated the macho ethos of Texas.  It worked.

If ever there was a group of individuals that needed a similar public perception overhaul, it’s the dog fancy.  The sport is in trouble, the future of purebred dogs is at risk, and everything that’s been done to counter the animal rights message hasn’t worked – in part because not much has been done at all.  We expected an organization entrusted to protect the dog fancy to do its job, but when it has done something, it’s been too little, too late.  The “heavy lifting” has fallen to individual dog owners, and we’ve made mistakes. The biggest, as I see it, has been in failing to persuade our fellow fanciers that all of us are at risk regardless of our level of involvement. Our second biggest mistake has been in assuming that our adversaries are like us, and therefore, apt to be persuaded by statistics, data, and the hypocrisy of animal rights and hostile rescue organizations.

How’s that working out for us?

What follows are a few of the book’s points that have “stuck” with me and are ones I think have relevance to the dog fancy:

  • A few months ago, I wrote that’s it’s all but impossible not to see something once you know where to look. The authors call this same thing,  “the curse of knowledge.”  Once you know something, it’s impossible to “unknow” it.  As dog fanciers, we’ve allowed the opposition to define us. They’ve used photographs of woe-eyed dogs behind bars to suggest that because of us dogs are suffering and dying. Show dogs are portrayed as voiceless commodities schelpped from one dog show to another only to languish at the end of a grooming arm wearing snoods, hair wraps and rubber bands.  We haven’t done a good enough job of replacing those images with ones that show what we’re really about.

Here’s a quickie test for those of you who are dog fanciers: Conjure in your mind images of happy, healthy purebred dogs (you pick the breed) horsing around in a backyard, or of healthy puppies nuzzling against their mother in a whelping box. How about one of show dogs working as therapy dogs in a hospice, or breeders interviewing a young family to make sure they get right breed for their home.  I’m betting it’s easy for you to imagine because you’ve seen it.  Much of the public hasn’t, but once they have, it’s impossible for them to not remember such vivid pictures when animal rights proponents tell them how evil purebred dog owners and ethical hobby breeders are. 

Healthy puppies reared in a loving, clean home environment. This is the best story never told.

Healthy puppies reared in a loving, clean home environment. This is the best story never told.

We have so much going for us and we’re squandering it. If every fancier posted on Twitter a picture similar to the ones I described above just once a week along with captions like: “The life of a well bred dog,”  “a show dog at home,” “what show dogs do for fun,” and so on,  I like our chances of reversing public perception. 

  • Pictures tell a story, but there’s nothing like story telling to shape opinions.  A thousand words ago, I told you that I nearly blinded myself. What was I painting? What color was the paint?  What did I do in the minutes that followed the accident?  I bet you remember. I bet you even recall what my husband wondered when he found me under the faucet.  

You remembered my story better than if I’d written that somewhere in the world, someone goes blind every five seconds and that at least 7 million people go blind every year.  And yet as dog people, we continue to cite statistics to prove our opposition wrong: HSUS spends less than 1% of its charitable contributions on shelters; PETA killed 29,000 dogs in the last ten years at its Norfolk headquarters, HSUS spent, $17.3 million lobbying governments between 2005 and 2009, and so on. I do it myself all the time.

Statistics, however, put people in an analytical frame of mind and less receptive to embracing an idea. We need to make our message “emotional” to make people care because feelings inspire people to act, and for people to act, they have to care.

The Humane Society of the United States knew this when they created the gut-wrenching commercials with which we’re all familiar.  They don’t glaze our eyes over with numbers that indicate an “overpopulation” problem in shelters – they tell their version of a story by showing sad pets caged in shelters.

An anecdote told at a conference a few months ago will “stick” with me for as long as I live, and it fuels me whenever I grow weary of pushing back against those who mean us harm. As the story goes, it was in the course of examining dogs and puppies imported from other countries to fill demand in this country that airport workers came across a crate containing a litter of puppies that had been spayed and neutered before their eyes were even open. I don’t think there was a person in the audience who didn’t cringe or tear up upon hearing this.   

 That is the power of story telling.  

This is the PETA story they don't want you to see. In 2005, two PETA were charged with animal cruelty.

This is the PETA story they don’t want you to see. In 2005, two PETA were charged with animal cruelty.

If I were the AKC (say, now that’s a good title for another article), my version of an HSUS-type ad would acknowledge the plight of shelter dogs but make the point via a “voice over” that the best way for a dog to avoid becoming a rescue in the first place is to ensure that it’s the right fit for a family, and no one does that better than an ethical breeder dedicated to their breed. The television viewer would be shown a caring breeder sitting with potential owners in a home environment, happy health puppies playing at their feet.

It’s not likely that the AKC will make such an ad, but we can by using the video cameras and cell phones most of us own.  Uploading to You Tube is free, and the cuter/funnier/better/more poignant the video, the more apt it is to go viral. Money can’t buy the kind of attention a video-gone-viral gets because it’s authentic and organic. Our passion and our access to good dogs who love us give us advantages professional ad agencies don’t have. Are we using the advantages we have to help ourselves? 

  • Self Interest.  For an idea to truly “stick,” it has to matter to people, and at the end of the day, what matters to people are themselves whether they admit it or not.  Buying a dog from a shelter makes people feel good about themselves, and telling friends that their new dog is a “rescue” makes them feel even better.  

We, on the other hand, are so busy telling anyone who will listen that they should get a dog from an ethical breeder that we forget to tell them why.   What’s in it for them?  In what way does owning a dog bought from an ethical hobby breeder make them feel good? How does the dog benefit? 

We all know the answers, and we should be shouting them from the rooftops. Instead, we grouse about the APHIS regulation, the latest hit piece on the AKC, etc.  Is that working for us?

Yes, it’s a tough time in which to be a hobby breeder or show fancier.  Get over it. Each of us is a soldier in the frontline, and if we fail, it’s the beginning of the end for well-bred dogs.

As a “foot soldier,” are you able to respond to the person who wonders why it matters if some breeds go extinct?  After all, we don’t bait bulls anymore. No one herds sheep as a livelihood, and we don’t need Arctic breeds to make serum runs when we have helicopters and snow cats. Are you prepared to explain why it’s in their best interest to preserve our breeds in a way to which they can relate?

At some point, I have to wrap this up, and I do it with the final point that the easier it is for us to relate to something, the better chance of it has of becoming a “sticky” idea. As someone who has written about the emotionalism of animal rights proponents, I have to adjust my own approach in light of what I’ve learned from this book because using logic to refute misinformation isn’t working.  I’ll continue to gather statistics and use them as another tool in my arsenal when appropriate, but taking a page out of the opposition’s playbook is long overdue.

Needless to say, I recommend reading “Made to Stick,” but a brief synopsis can be found here.  Let’s learn from this. Let’s “stick it” to our enemies.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlee April 25, 2014 at 7:09 pm

And like most brilliant ideas, so simple…….wow, I think you need to spray yourself in the face w/ regularity!


Susi April 25, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Uhhhh, can’t I do something less permanent, say, dye my hair?


Miranda April 27, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Hmm, pimento red hair? My hair’s red enough on it’s own, but I think your hair would stand out even more than mine with that color! Heehee.


Susi April 27, 2014 at 9:26 pm

It took olive oil to get the paint off my skin, and truth be told, I looked like I’d been shot in the face by a handgun. I’m glad my husband found me under the faucet. If he’d seen me any earlier, I think it would have been HIM I’d be taking to a hospital.


Miranda April 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Sheesh. Careful, Susi. We need you in one piece! I’m extremely accident prone and I don’t read instructions usually. Perhaps we should both read labels, eh?

Joyce April 26, 2014 at 6:13 am

Wow. Simply wow. I find myself sitting her wanting to slap myself upside the head saying “Doh!” why haven’t we thought of this sooner?


Susi April 26, 2014 at 10:38 am

Well don’t hurt yourself, Joyce, I didn’t think of it sooner, either! I was smug with my statistics and data – and then I read the book. It’s really human nature when you think about it. I will still recite my statistics because there are always going to be people more persuaded by data than emotion, but I’m rethinking my own approach, that’s for sure.


Linda Hendricks April 26, 2014 at 8:38 am

Wow. I can’t believe the shallow comments I just read. This is not a joking matter, and as you are laughing, lobbyist groups like HSUS and PETA are busy taking away your right to even own a pet. I am still seething at the moment about your reference to animal advocates and hostile rescues. As a breed specific purebred only rescuer, I am not hostile, except to being cslled


Linda Hendricks April 26, 2014 at 9:07 am

Well, thatt posted before I was done….. Unfortunately, I am familiar with the hostility you reference. Without fail, those individuals are not rescues, but self proclaimed animal welfare supporters, aka keyboard coward drama Queens with no interest in truth… Kinda like HSUS and PETA. I wouldn’t count on AKC for help. At least they have the decency not to show their face while they LIE. How can an organization who claims their breeders breed for the betterment of their breeds refuse to register a dapple piebald (cross pattern breeding) that looks exactly like the accepted double dapple… Well, except for the millions of genetically defective double dapple Dachshunds who can be distinguished by their deformities. The betterment of the breed? Or greed? Unfortunately, responsible breeding depends on the integrity of the individual, not the kennel club. Responsible breeders are not the problem. Puppy Mills (registered AKC) and the big culprit, the backyard breeder ARE. So, responsible breeders, roll those videos. You ARE a minority, but without good breeders breeding good dogs, we wouldn’t have any! (the goal of HSUS and PETA)


Susi April 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

Well THAT’S a relief, Linda. I read “shallow comments” and wondered if we were talking about the same article! You’ll get no disagreement from me. We ARE on our own and we DO need to be proactive. An an FYI, I started a Facebook page called National Purebred Dog Day a few months ago. It was created out of disgust at our situation and an interest in creating an environment where purebred dog pet people, show fanciers, performance participants, and breed specific rescue (I’m calling it “re-homing work because rescue has become a word grossly misused) are welcome. The page’s mandate is to educate through humor and entertainment and also open a few eyes about the true animal rights agenda which, I agree, IS the elimination of dog ownership. I’d like to think I’m filling a niche: The page now has almost 17,000 pan fans. I invite you to join that Facebook page – May 1st is our day and we’re gearing up to celebrate purebred dogs on that day.


Leah Swatko April 26, 2014 at 9:11 am

Wow well written. A picture says a thousand words is fact. Looking ads to understand how they speak to the viewer in one image is brilliant. It goes directly to the emotional centers of the viewers brain. Think back in the day Kodak commercial song plays Turn around… and images of a baby growing into a young adult can still get me all weepy. You are absolutely correct we have videos at our beck and call. Time to do some pr gorilla tactics. We will make a difference with these kinds of snippets from a breeders life. I am sure all of us have had some serious front line incidents that ripped our heart out. Others that made our heart take wings and fly as a child connects with a dog and it is a bond made that no one can break.


Susi April 26, 2014 at 10:11 am

Thanks for writing, Leah! I remember those Kodak ads, and yeah, I got choked up by them, too. It’s so frustrating to see fellow fanciers do nothing at all to push back against the animal rights agenda when we have so much at our fingertips that requires hardly any effort at all. If I can get even a handful of people to speak out, post pictures, tell their stories…..well, it’d be pretty cool.


Jennifer Smith Touchgold Kennels April 26, 2014 at 10:14 am

Suzy at least you’re writing and helping to open people’s minds. I saw on Facebook that AKC had been attacked again just like on the Today show, or so I thought. My first reaction was oh no, I’d better jump on the AKC bandwagon. Well this morning I watched the Soledad O’Brien report on HBO with Bryant Gumbel. I generally like this show because they do an in-depth job with most of the stories. I had to say that it was a well done and relatively thorough piece of reporting! I agree with what it was saying about Bulldogs, and what it says about inbreeding. If we can’t take a hard look at ourselves, how will we be able to encourage others to get into our sport? What Crufts did wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for us to do. We certainly want our dogs to be able to breathe! We show dogs because we love them. Its up to us to care for them and to care for the breeds we promote. I was really disappointed in the AKC PR person, however the vet they had brought along did a good job of describing what its like to take good care of the dogs competing at the highest levels.


Susi April 26, 2014 at 10:36 am

Thanks for the pat on the back, Jennifer. Yes, the AKC (and all fanciers) were under fire again last week, this time by HBO. The AKC at least made more of an effort to defend itself this time, and its response to the Bulldog question was handled particularly well on its Facebook page (they posted several pictures of Bulldogs from over the last 100 years and challenged people to match the dog with the date, the point being that the breed hasn’t much changed contrary to HBOs assertion. I fear the AKC’s response is too little too late and most of us are pretty disgusted with them. That said, I agree with you in part. We do need to “police” our own and speak out when we see something not in the best interest of a dog. I’ve only known healthy free breathing Bulldogs and feel that like anything from politicians to scout leaders to breeders, there are good ones and bad ones.That said, I wouldn’t want the Crufts situation here. The Kennel Club threw its breeders and fanciers under the bus when it should have stood by them and worked with them following the Pedigree Dogs Exposed hit piece. The Kennel Club owns all the breed standards (unlike this country where the standards are owned by the parent clubs) so in my view, there’s also the potential for unhealthy leverage, if not a conflict of interest. I’m glad you wrote!!


jan dykema April 26, 2014 at 11:06 am

great idea for an ad.. my idea is this:
Young family. boy (or girl or both) say Dad/Mom can we get a puppy? D/M says yes but only if we look for the right one of us. quick flash to children studying the AKC book of dog breeds. back to family driving up to breeders home, bunch of cute puppies, flash to breeder waving good bye.. quick flashes of children growing up with do. ( I think it works better with one child) play9ing, feeding doing tricks etc, child grows up goes to school comes home loves the dog but dog is growing old..quick flash to marriage fo child and birth of a new baby grows up to about 5, asks for puppy.. and same family is shown returning to same breeder for the next cycle of love! family leaves with new pups and breeder wipes a tear form her/his eye.. How do I know this happens?/ because it has happened to me as a breeder.. AKC get on it..we all have great ideas out here in the real world!


Susi April 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

I love this, Jan. You’re right, we have so many stories among us, but we have to start telling them on our own. It takes big money to create a slick ad, but I think we can do effective ones on our own with cell phones and video cameras and a computer movie-making program like iMovies on a Mac. You inspire me to consider a contest, but for that I need great prizes…..thinking thinking thinking….


jan dykema April 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm

The AKC can afford some big bucks.. if you want to stay in business you must keep up ..


Lynne Dahlen April 26, 2014 at 11:20 am

So… I posted a short video of my puppies playing with my husband in their fenced-in, secure, graveled play area. Yes, gravel because it is more sanitary then cement. And you know who called me on it?? A full-time groomer who told me it was awful that we let those pups run on gravel and how awful it was that I was a breeder. Gave me all the AR rhetoric and blasted me for being irresponsible. I’ve been a breeder since 1985, breeding a litter once every other year or less. AKC Champions, only sold with contracts, reference checks, health tested, raised in our home, etc., etc.. Now, isn’t it hypocritical for someone who makes their living grooming dogs to criticize breeders? See what the AR people have done?? Makes me so angry and very sad.


Susi April 26, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Take that anger and build on it, Lynne. I honestly hate to sound all grandiose and all, but history is filled with stories of those in the right persecuted by the ignorant or just plain evil. WE know what we’re about. WE know we’re nothing like the substandard breeders that bad legislation is intended to impact. And only WE can tell our story. Yes, what happened to you is twelve different ways of crummy, vile, wrong AND hypocritical, and there’s a whole world of people just like you who know it. They need to be encouraged to act. All we have to do is look at the the animal rights movement did and replace every strategy they used but with OUR message. Yes, it takes money, money none of us have. But we use what we’ve got, and something the “other” side doesn’t: Well bred dogs raised by conscientious breeders doing it right.

I’m always struck by the dead silence I’m met with when I tell a “do-gooder,” that I hate substandard breeders as much as they do. The puppies are sickly, the motivation is greed and it makes the good guys look bad. Why is my disapproval of these breeders met by surprise? It’s abysmal how little the other side knows about us.

I was working social media at a televised dog show last year and was fielding questions coming in through Facebook. I was asked if the dogs were eaten after the dog show. And the question was asked out of concern and with complete sincerity. I also had to educate scores of people that dogs did not have to be debarked to be shown at a dog show. The level of ignorance is astounding. We reform these people one person at a time, and it may take another generation to complete the task, but this is nothing more than a fight for freedom. If they can take our dogs away, what’s next? The nutty aunt? Caffeine products? Sugar? Repeat after me: I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.


chienblanc4csi April 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm

You mean like this, Susi?

You are right, and that nasty hit piece on HBO the other night is a prime example of how vulnerable we all are to clichés and today’s poor excuse for journalism. The whole thing was an agenda looking for an example, and the AKC fell right in line. Four years ago, at the first legislative conference in Raleigh, we were all shown a powerful emotional video just exactly like you described – service dogs, hunting dogs, pets, lovely scenes – it brought a hush to the audience, then thundering applause. It was a PSA, could be edited in various lengths without losing the message, it was amazing! No one ever saw it again, and I don’t think anyone knows what happened to it. Someone said the music had copyright issues, but that is something that could be easily fixed, so I don’t think that meant anything.

I came into the show ring and the breed club from the performance venue – obedience, agility and tracking. It took me a lot of time to figure out how dog shows work for 90% of exhibitors. I believe a huge huge problem we all have is that the only thing the general public/dog owner ever sees about dog shows is Westminster and the Thanksgiving show, where the entire event is hype and flash and all about the Best in Show competition. TV ratings and clueless reporters seem stuck on the idea that a dog show is just like major league sports – you can hear it in the commentary and read it in the media, how this is all twisted around. For me, that is not what dog shows are about, and I recognize a similar side effect from BIS that we saw years ago in obedience, with the addition of the OTCH and A and B classes. People see that level of competition and then the real purpose of a dog show or an obedience trial is simply drowned out by the flash and hype. This is unrealistic, a manufactured controversy that has nothing at all to do with the real purpose. Even people who show their dogs seem to not quite understand what the AKC does and what it doesn’t do.

I’m not saying this well, I’m not explaining this clearly – but I figure you and your readers will understand.


Susi April 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Well I disagree! You stated it VERY well and very clearly and there isn’t a thing I can add. You said it all.


Dan Bandy April 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I have to say that Jennifer Smith’s comment on this article are a fine example of why the AR agenda will always outpace the efforts of lovers of pure bred dogs. We all love to look at other breeds, or even other breeders within our own breeds, & point out how much better we are than them. Yes, “THEY deserve the condemnation but certainly WE don’t. WE do everything just right, THEY should have to change.” is so typically of so many involved in pure bred dogs today. It is disheartening.
No, the HBO piece was not a “well done and relatively thorough piece of reporting!”. It was, as all of these recent “in depth” reports have been, a sensationalistic, AR skewed & highly edited propaganda piece attacking ALL pure bred dogs. Just because this particular smear campaign was targeted at Bulldogs instead of Jennifer’s Golden Retrievers shouldn’t give her any comfort.
I am always completely amazed at the pronouncements other dog people make about breeds about which they know little or nothing. It is not the Bulldog standard that promotes the production of unhealthy Bulldogs. Just a little further into the Standard than the sentences Ms. O’Brien used to condemn the keepers of the breed you will find the requirement that a Bulldog’s “…general appearance and attitude should suggest great stability, vigor and strength.” In direct opposition to the claim that the Bulldog Standard calls for a dog of extremes, it states “no feature being in such prominence from either excess or lack of quality that the animal appears deformed or ill-proportioned.” When describing proper movement in the breed, the Standard calls for a gait that is “unrestrained, free and vigorous”.
It is not the Standard, or the sincere and reputable breeders who strive to follow its guidance, that are responsible for the poor quality Bulldogs who are not true representatives of the breed. It is financially motivated individuals who will breed any Bulldog with reproductive organs with no regard or even knowledge of what is called for in the breed Standard or any concern for the health of the resulting puppies. And it is ignorant, impatient, fad-following buyers who provide the market for those pups who have been produced with no regard to their quality of life. All dogs when bred indiscriminately can produce issues in health & temperament, even Golden Retrievers.
So instead of buying what she was spoon fed in a program that was not a “”well done and relatively thorough piece of reporting!”, I would encourage Jennifer & others to consider the ultimate result of falling for this type of propaganda & becoming a tool for the elimination of breeds they may not be involved with; I am not involved with your breed either & I’m sure you would hope I would do my homework before jumping on the bandwagon of criticism when the shoe is on the other foot. And believe me, some day it will be.


Susi April 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I appreciate having your comments here, Dan, as they need to be said. There’s not a thing I can add to your remarks, you said it all eloquently enough. I know of no standard that calls for extremes, save the GSD’s call for “far reaching,” but even that, in the hands of experienced dog people, is approached with an eye to balance. I’ve been fortunate to know only sound, lovely Bulldogs which shapes my opinion of the state of the breed, but to be fair to Jennifer, if she’s only seen unsound Bulldogs, that, too, will shape her opinion on the breed. It saddens me that newcomers to the world of the dog fancy (or even “sophomores”) aren’t encouraged more to “go over” as many dogs of all breeds as they can, there’s so much to learn. Thanks for writing, Dan. You’ve actually inspired a few more ideas.


Dan Bandy April 26, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Thank you Susi.
I would let you & all of your readers know that the Bulldog Club of America is making strides in encouraging its members to incorporate health testing into their breeding decisions.
Change in dogs, and sometimes in breeder’s attitudes, is generational. There are many Bulldog breeders that have come into the breed in the past 10-15 years who have joined with those long-time breeders who have been promoting a health agenda for decades. The tide is turning and there is an ever increasing peer pressure among reputable breeders to thoroughly test their dogs & incorporate those results in their efforts to improve the breed. We worked with the OFA to establish a database of Bulldog trachea x-rays that provided them with the information needed to establish a Trachea certification which is now available. Bulldog breeders worked with researchers at UCDavis to isolate the gene responsible for inherited Hyperuricosuria in the breed & that DNA test is now available for breeders. We have adopted a national program to recognize health tested Bulldogs at different levels. Each year those that have reached the highest award level, which requires the dig to pass at least 5 out of 6 OFA certifications considered appropriate for the breed (Cardiac, Patella, Thyroid, Trachea, Hip and Elbow) are recognized at our national banquet.
This information was provided to the producers of the HBO smear campaign through the AKC & none of it was mentioned. They could have made a difference by informing their viewers of these efforts and the importance of researching any breed you are considering adding to your household & any breeder from whom you are considering purchasing a puppy. Instead they chose to slant their report against purebred dogs in general. Their agenda was set from the beginning.
If anyone would like to see the actual interview of AKC spokesperson Chris Walker & Theriogenologist Cindy O’Connor DVM, which will open their eyes to the agenda-driven editing that resulted in the program that was aired, they can view the entire interview at
Health & breed type are not exclusive – .
I applaud your article & will share it with my Bulldogger friends.


Susi April 26, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Your paragraph contains so much information, Dan, that I hardly know where to begin, but a loss for words has never been an issue for me – sigh. That said, perhaps one of the most interesting things that you wrote was this: “Change in dogs, and sometimes in breeder’s attitudes, is generational.” I believe you are spot on. We don’t see as many people “going over” each others dogs as we once did. Our seminars aren’t selling out as they once did, and our teachers are aging, if not discouraged. When was the last time you heard someone under 30 say, “I’d love to get my hand on him” and have it refer to a dog? The lessons we learned from hard bitten horsemen has diluted with each generation, I fear, and in addition to clubs hemorrhaging members, they’re not attracting new ones or worse, younger ones. How are we to make changes where change is necessary when we lack the personnel to whom we’d pass the torch? There is so much we could be doing, and aren’t……


Pam Cobo Unger April 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Thank you for this article, Suzy. It’s rather obvious the AKC has basically “abandoned” the cause FOR the purebred dog rather than make an honest effort to counter-act the PETA and HSUS mainline, so it IS up to us to act.

I am fortunate that I am “networked” with a lot of different people via my job (grooming school instructor), my husband’s job and my son and DIL. I can tell you that every time I bring one of my Ch. purebreds to the grooming school (or anywhere else), I hear a lot about how people have always “HATED” the breed in question but they adore my dogs. I explain that this is the difference between a properly-bred and raised dog and all the rest. Do I convince all of them? No, I do not. But I DO convince enough of them that it makes a small difference.


Susi April 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Well done, Pam. Never diminish what you do because if EACH of us did our small part, those small parts will eventually touch each other making one big piece. I do believe this, but it will take all of us to make waves. For my part, I APPRECIATE the time you take to explain your dogs because like it or not, we’re each of us ambassadors, and most people do remember the person who took the time to explain something. Your work makes one less person left for ME to reach, as I see it, so again I say, well done.


Miranda Young April 26, 2014 at 10:24 pm

(I’m glad you’re not blind. Yikes!)

After deciding to purchase my first purebred puppy a little over a year ago, I thought I was only getting a “show quality puppy with lots of drive”, but I really got was a whole new perspective and a new world was revealed. I was always on the fence about getting a puppy from a breeder as we’ve always gotten our family pets from rescue organization and my family thought I was bonkers when I told them about purchasing a puppy from a breeder. Reluctantly, they eventually agreed that it was a good choice. Most of the dogs we’ve ever owned were from the local shelter or rescue organization so this was a big deal and foreign to all of us.

As you know, most of the general public has no idea that there are reputable breeders out there. Even if they did know, a lot of people are following the “adopt don’t shop” motto because of those sad commercials that pull at our heartstrings. I mean, ASPCA has Sarah McLachlan singing “Angel” to convey emotional responses in order to convince people to donate and whatever. I hate to say it but HSUS, PETA, and the like have really advertised and they use emotions to win people over. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

I agree that if each one of us changes the opinion of at least one person then we are at least heading in the right direction. YouTube videos can spread like wildfire. I mean remember a couple of months ago there was a video going around on FB and there was a lady filming six(ish) Bassetts coming out of a dog house and she compared to it as a “clown car”? That video was all over the internet! I highly doubt the owner realized how quickly that video would be shared. That could easily be any of us with any of our videos/photos of our dogs outside of the limelight of dog shows since our dogs are pets first and foremost and a member of the family.

It’s like you said, statistics and facts will only get someone so far. It needs to be personal and something the average owner can relate to. Something that sticks out and an image they surely won’t forget…


Elaine Holley April 27, 2014 at 11:20 am

I think this is one of the best pieces you have written so far! That is saying a great deal as I love you writing. Well done! I am going to share the link to all my dog groups.
Keep on keeping on!


Susi April 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

Gosh Elaine, thanks! Perhaps I should take out a chain saw next to see what inspires me…..uh, no. I’m dangerous enough with cuticle cutters.


Dorey April 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I can easily picture a PSA where a family brings home a rescue dog that eats their couch or attacks their cat. And the family wondering why the dog wasn’t grateful that it was rescued. Then the family getting a dog from a good breeder and it’s a match made in heaven. I think this type of ad would definitely work.


Susi April 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm

It would work, I agree, Dorey, but I suspect the public would have to be “softened” first. If the ad you describe were to appear on TV today, the hue and cry from outraged rescuers and AR people would be deafening and the ad would blow up in our faces. They would say, I’m betting, that the commercial pits rescue dogs against purpose bred dogs and honestly, I think all WE are asking for is to have the choice to chose the right dog for us without guilt trips and recriminations. I wonder if the better tact early on would be to play up well bred dogs gotten from ethical breeders without saying a word about rescue dogs?


Miranda Young April 27, 2014 at 8:51 pm

(I’m glad you’re not blind. Yikes!)

After deciding to purchase my first purebred puppy a little over a year ago, I thought I was only getting a “show quality puppy with lots of drive”, but I really got was a whole new perspective and a new world was revealed. I was always on the fence about getting a puppy from a breeder as we’ve always gotten our family pets from rescue organization and my family thought I was bonkers when I told them about purchasing a puppy from a breeder. Reluctantly, they eventually agreed that it was a good choice. Most of the dogs we’ve ever owned were from the local shelter or rescue organization so this was a big deal and foreign to all of us.

As you know, most of the general public has no idea that there are reputable breeders out there. Even if they did know, a lot of people are following the “adopt don’t shop” motto because of those sad commercials that pull at our heartstrings. I mean, ASPCA has Sarah McLachlan singing “Angel” to convey emotional responses in order to convince people to donate and whatever. I hate to say it but HSUS, PETA, and the like have really advertised and they use emotions to win people over. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

I agree that if each one of us changes the opinion of at least one person then we are at least heading in the right direction. YouTube videos can spread like wildfire. I mean remember a couple of months ago there was a video going around on FB and there was a lady filming six(ish) Bassetts coming out of a dog house and she compared to it as a “clown car”? That video was all over the internet! I highly doubt the owner realized how quickly that video would be shared. That could easily be any of us with any of our videos/photos of our dogs outside of the limelight of dog shows.

It’s like you said, statistics and facts will only get someone so far. It needs to be personal and something the average owner can relate to. Something that sticks out and an image they surely won’t forget.


Susi April 27, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Miranda, I’m delighted (DELIGHTED!!) to hear from you, not only because of the substance of what you’ve written, but also because I happen to know that you are the future of the sport, if not purebred dogs, because of your “newness” to the sport. You’ve provided a valuable perspective to us all, and one I hope everyone will give heed. We ignore it at our peril.

I vividly remember the Basset Hound video, and I’ve come to decide to “up the ante.” If dog folks need incentive, I’m going to find a way to give it to them. Oooohhhhh, mystery.


Miranda April 27, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Yeah, still trying to figure all of this stuff out. It’s a lot to take in for a newbie. 😉 Eh, what can I say, I’m all about learning new things and ideas. I was raised with dogs my whole life and I’ve been passionate about them since day one so it’s kinda cool to find other people who are equally as passionate.

If all of the dog people posted a video that shows just how these purebred dogs lived, then it really could be a big deal. I mean, look at how popular that Bassett Hound video was and it was, what, a minute long at most? YouTube/Facebook could be our “in”.


Dawn-Renée April 28, 2014 at 9:34 am

This is exactly why I share cute puppy pix all over creation like a “pet” person (well, I AM a pet person) and why I jumped at the chance to live stream my current litter on The Pet Collective channel on YouTube. It’s not all about stacked pix and GCH blah blah blah. I want the GP to know most breeders do care about the puppies they bring into the world and those pups definitely aren’t seen as a commodity. I also never use that hateful word and I don’t breeder bash. It only hurts me in the end.


Susi April 28, 2014 at 9:53 am

Well done, Dawn-Renee (just be careful there’s no way to trace your location through the live streaming or pictures, there are some truly dangerous, whacky people out there). You have the right idea and I applaud you!


Jennifer Smith April 28, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I am glad to know that many bulldogs are healthy-I hope so! I do know personally of a whole motor home full of show bulldogs that died from heat exhaustion while thier owners went out to dinner when their generator died-to be fair Texas summers are hard on all dogs. Instead of being so defensive why not acknowledge the point that maybe we go to far sometimes in the name of beauty? Why not explain what we’re trying to accomplish. Maybe you can educate me Dan on the truth of the assertion that bulldogs can’t have pups except by cesarean?


Dawn April 28, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Jennifer-in case Dan doesn’t see your response and questions/comments I would first like to point out that almost any breed of dog could die if left in a vehicle that wasn’t running and was closed up with no air conditioning running. It’s a known fact that the temperature inside a vehicle (motor home included) can far exceed that of the outside air temperatures and that’s why it’s illegal in many states to leave your pets locked in a vehicle. Bulldog or golden, you expose them to extreme temperatures (as would be in TX in a locked vehicle) and any pet can die if heat exhaustion. On your comment of c-section being required, that’s again a large fallacy that runs rampant in the uneducated public. It is not true that bulldogs heads and shoulders are too large to pass through the canal safely, it’s not true that bitches must whelp via c-section. What is true is that like basset hounds and several other breeds there is a potential, while rather remote, that a bitch could be carrying a water puppy. This puppy can block the way for other puppies. Rather than having to react to an emergency that could be disastrous, most breeders opt for the easier and safer route of an elected c-section, much like many human mothers who opt for c-sections. It’s not required. Many breeders do still free whelp, and many bitches decide to free whelp even when the breeders prefer they don’t. I have had a bitch that delivered two puppies on the way to the vet. It’s more proper to say now that many breeders are so used to doing c-sections that they aren’t skilled in managing a free whelping situation. So again for question on a “truth” is again repeated propaganda that’s been spewed on the general population. I have had bulldogs for 15 years now. I am on my third generation of bred by stud dogs that are all ofa cardiac, patella and trachea clear and also HUU normal. The stud dog that sired my first BBE champion stud dog himself was health tested. I have been x-rating hips and spines for as long as I’ve been in the breed too, even tho those weren’t submitted to OFA because the request putting a dog under anesthesia to take films and I haven’t opted for chemical sedation when it’s not necessary. I have had bulldogs that lived to be 12 and 14 years of age that still climbed stairs till the near end. I’ve had a male that showed outdoors in group and best BBE in show in 90+ degree weather and kept up with all the sporting and working dogs. I find it sad that you, like many others, have decided you know all there is to know about bulldogs rather than getting out there and meeting some of the fantastically wonderful healthy bulldogs out there. If I formed my opinions on goldens by the two my aunt had I would believe they had poor hips and joints, were crabby and unfriendly, and died at 5-6 years old. Instead I choose to believe I haven’t seen the best that goldens have to offer.


Jennifer Smith April 28, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Dawn thank you-glad to have your response about the csection issue-that’s the kind of answer that AKC should give to the HBO report. Goldens do have health issues but we do a lot of health testing and research to figure them out. Cancer is one issue that is just starting to be tackled in our breed. I haven’t decided I know everything–quite the contrary–I’m looking to have a conversation without having it be ” us ” vs. “them.”


Jen P & her Pack May 18, 2014 at 8:51 pm

OMG I just have to add my two cents’ worth…
I am a service dog user. Luckily for me, I used to be “normal” and was already involved in the sport of dogs- and they fell into the work. I have GSDs. And a couple white models too.
So here’s the scenario: person in check-out at any store gushing… “Oh he’s so beautiful!! What kind of dog is he?” I say, “A German Shepherd Dog” “oh really, I didn’t know they came in white… How come he isn’t all broken down in the back end and seems so short- aren’t you worried about his having bad hips like GSDs do?? But he sure is stocky!” “Yes they come in white; he’s a UKC best in show winner & also a grand champion as well as having performance titles and health clearances in the top 10% of the breed. .. He’s bred to work and to breed standard. (Always trying to educate,) You know, there are 39 other dog breeds with hips worse than the GSD .” I say… “Oh wow- he must be such a pleasure to have… How long have you had him?” And it all ends with “I caught him when he was born. He was created in hopes of doing this job for me”. They look at me like I’m some alien!! WTF people- what do you think service dog organizations are doing?!? Trolling the shelters for prospects?!!? I think not! Both of his parents and 3 of his grandparents were seizure alert dogs (& much more) too– and is why I was able to have the expectations I did for this dog. I was just lucky to already have dogs & be a competent trainer before my accident with dogs who fell into the job. My seizure alert/response dog means my freedom to me, and the expectation that I can carefully plan a new worker for myself (and others now too wow! I’m honored) can’t be gotten without a well planned breeding program as well as having predictable stock– something one doesn’t get with using non-purpose bred dogs. I have another whole rant about that last part. Maybe I need to start a blog outside of my workplace!
Glad to be able to read with like-minded people who are apparently all aliens since one must be to have “such well behaved dogs” always- perhaps it’s because they were responsibly & ethically bred with a plan for their creation? And placed with an owner who was prepared to cultivate that pup into a well mannered & trained dog? Gee what an apparent novel concept to john & Jane q public! We must do more to change that idea of ALL breeds of dog. Though many breeds aren’t my cup of tea, ignoring BSL and things like the KC health check for certain breeds are things I CANNOT IGNORE AS THE HOBBY BREEDER & EXHIBITOR!!! Letting the AROs and that ilk get their grubby fingernails under the legs of target breeds, it will be that much easier for them to try to take my beloved breed away from me too! It’s already started- GSDs are on some “banned dog breed” lists for home insurance companies! Yes- dogs who help serve & protect the community can’t go home to an insured house with many companies in many states just because he’s a GSD!
Maybe as a positive advertising scheme, service dogs of all kinds (work) could be featured- we all know certain breeds are used as service workers because their breed-inherent aptitudes make them more likely to perform… …wishing I lived in a populus area so I could take photos/video of dog & man at work as one just for it…
Thanks for listening but not sorry to rant!
Jen P & her Pack including SD “Matthew” and plebe, “Ru”


Susi May 20, 2014 at 10:27 am

No analogy for “ranting” is necessary, Jen, these days, a lot of us are doing it! You are certainly not alone in your thinking, but your voice to the chorus is necessary as you offer a unique perspective as a fancier and one who relies on her service dog. You betcha that we stand to lose our dogs if the ultimate goal of the animal rights agenda is realized. First they guilt us into purebred dog ownership, next it will be the ownership of ANY dog since we’re immorally enslaving another “sentient” being. Scary times.


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