The Times They Are a Changin’

by Susi on June 4, 2015

in Breeders, Internet, kennel clubs, Marriage

Post image for The Times They Are a Changin’

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 one generation.

In 1970, the marriage rate in that age group was 84%. By 2007, the number dipped to 60%. Forecasters know by extrapolating the trajectory of this trend that the percentage of married couples will continue to fall. What’s significant here isn’t the number of people who are married; it’s how many people are single.

I leave it to sociologists to explain the causes, though we could all take guesses and probably be all correct. How this impacts us as dog fanciers is that it is sure to change our perception of the ideal puppy buyer. Breeders have typically “held out” for families and working couples to buy their puppies, but increasingly, the average dog owner is a working adult who lives alone and may choose stay that way. The new “couple” might very well be a single person and their dog, and the new family could be several individuals and their dogs living in the same household. Breeders need to rethink their decades-old policies to fall in line with modern demographics.

The proverbial plot thickens when we pay attention to what media trend forecasters are projecting as the coming “new age” of communication. Breeders who have heretofore shunned the Internet will find it necessary to move beyond what some might call snobbery and others regard as paranoia at public access they can’t control. Times are radically different from the days when breeders sneered at what they regarded as “substandard” or backyard breeders because those people advertised their puppies in the classified ads of a newspaper. Increasingly (and moving rapidly to “exclusively,”) potential puppy buyers get their information and their dogs from breeders with an Internet presence. Breeders who don’t “get” this are likely to be breeders who can’t place their puppies.

Kennel clubs, publications, and registries will also feel the impact of how they advertise themselves. In previous generations, it was possible to get a lot of bang for one’s advertising buck because one medium, say, print media, could reach so many people at once. The majority of the country watched the same TV shows, listened to the same radio stations, and got their news from similar sources essentially at the same time.

The Internet, cable, and satellite options have allowed us to opt-out of traditional mass media, while iPhones and tablets enable us to get information “on-the-go” and not be tied down to geographical boundaries. We may live in the Midwest, but we now have access to puppies in Kazakhstan while sitting in traffic in New York where can compare pedigrees, prices, and policies with other breeders from every continent without ever leaving our car. We’re a nation of highly mobile individuals who get different bits of information from alternative sources at different times, and depending upon the breed, few breeders can consider themselves to be “the only game in town“ anymore. As the number of single people overtakes families to become the face of the average American, anyone wanting to reach the public will be challenged not only by how they do it, but daunted by how expensive “scattershot marketing” is going to become.

The consequences will be dire if once again, the dog fancy has to play “catch up” in promoting itself. You and I know about the dedication of the hobby breeder. You and I know about the deceit and fallacy of the animal rights message. Many among us, however, have failed to see that what we do should be promoted in terms of how a “consumer” sees it. As dog clubs and breeders, we have this unique “product” that should have been “marketed” all along to ensure the future of our sport while protecting the legacy of our breeds. Sadly, we’ve come up short in communicating why predictability in a dog bred by an ethical breeder invested in their breed is a benefit to the owner and the dog. We failed to match and surpass the emotional appeal (albeit lies) of the opposition’s message, and we erred in assuming that the public would see through the fraud, fallacy and fiction of the animal rights message. We failed because as far as I can tell, we didn’t really try.

Mass media is shrinking, and the number of people who get their news the same way as everyone else is shrinking. As Roy H. Williams wrote in a column called the “Monday Morning Memo,” “the movement towards singleness is sociological, the erosion of mass media is technological, and each trend speeds up the other.” Media forecasters suggest that maybe there’s ten years left for traditional advertising methods to reach the public effectively. After that, it’s going to become very challenging and very expensive to reach the same number of people as before, and this will be especially true for the breeder. Prescient fanciers will start thinking now about how to create – and present – an appealing message about who they are, what they do, and why it matters to the new majority demographic of single people. If we fail to anticipate the changes ahead and fall short of effectively getting our message out the next time around, I don’t see us getting a second chance.

This article first appeared in Dogs in Review, May  2015

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Smith June 4, 2015 at 11:26 am

Another timely pertinent piece. I just st placed what was probably my pick puppy with just such a “single” as you describe. I’m happy I did.


Susi June 4, 2015 at 11:39 am

Thanks, Jennifer, for validating what my research has found and sharing your comfort in placing a precious puppy with a “singleton” (grin). Interesting times ahead, I think.


bestuvall June 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm

WOW you read my mind just posted this on the Bull Terrier members blog becaseu we were discussing how to get our puppies marketed.. Thanks Susi


bestuvall June 4, 2015 at 12:04 pm

BECAUSE damn keyboard LOL


Susi June 4, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Great minds think alike, Jan? (grin)


Alice June 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm

A good piece, Susi, as always. Creating a website is no longer the best route, either – social media has reduced the number of websites that are well maintained by the breeder. There has to be a better way. Not all people are on social media, but in times to come, they will be.


Susi June 4, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Much appreciated comments, Alice. My own research keeps pointing to “Vlogs,” Vimeo and You Tube as the future, particularly among the younger sector, but I suspect that in time, the “herd” will be thinned out by the marketplace and a future that won’t be kind to the breeders who insist on wire and paper communication. I totally agree with you.


Pam June 4, 2015 at 1:18 pm

As always, great and thoughtful. I was one of those then-singleton owners…having been the kid who always wanted a dog and whose parents (rightly) said no, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. I was lucky the breeder placed a retired show bitch with me, eventually convinced me to go to a show and I got hooked by showing and breeding. Jump forward 20 years and when a single, full-time working person came to us looking for a dog…I couldn’t say no. Couldn’t have asked for a better home.


Susi June 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Thank you, Pam, and thanks for mentioning your own story. How did the single, full time working person manage the puppy while they were gone (people will want to know, I’m thinking) ?


Diane Stille June 4, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Great, timely article Susi.

I’m currently screening potential owners for my upcoming litters, and am finding more single people that are looking for a puppy. Some will not be suitable, they forget that puppy cannot hold it all day. But the majority of people I speak with have done their homework. They realize the puppy will need social time, potty time, etc. while they’re at work, and they have made arrangements for a neighbor or dog walker to come in. One lady I spoke with last week only works a few miles from home, she’ll be coming home each day for lunch. These are people that have chosen to be single, and I think as a result, they’ve put contingency plans and have a real “can-do” attitude on how to make being single work with a pet.


Susi June 4, 2015 at 8:24 pm

A helpful reply, Diane, thank you! Sometimes, a few “singletons” avoid getting a dog because they’re not thinking “outside the box,” and your puppy people reveal that there ARE options!


Diane Stille June 4, 2015 at 8:18 pm

Oops, should have read litter singular, not plural 🙂


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