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Friday, May 29, 2009

Clean Run Editorial - June 2009 - AKC Invites Mixed Breeds to Play by Lisa Selthofer

Actual Article published in Clean Run, June 2009

Clean Run Editorial - June 2009 - AKC Invites Mixed Breeds to Play by Lisa Selthofer

In April, the American Kennel Club (AKC) took a bold step and created a class where mixed breeds could participate in AKC performance events, including obedience, rally, and agility. In listening to the feedback in the agility world, not everyone was as impressed with this step as I was. I was initially very surprised by the lack of enthusiasm from some mixed-breed handlers, but after thinking about it I can understand why.

During the last 125 years of AKC’s existence, the elitism that some people in the conformation world have fostered has turned off many mixed-breed owners. It’s true that some breeders look down their collective nose at mixed breeds, but it’s also true that other breeders have looked at all dogs as...well, dogs!

It’s not fair to label mixed breeds as inferior mongrels and it’s also not fair to label all breeders and participants in AKC events as snobs, especially those who focus mainly on performance events. I say this because performance events weren’t introduced 125 years ago, but are current creations.
For example, agility has been included in AKC dog sports for about 15 years and rally for a mere 3-4 years. For the most part, performance handlers have joined the ranks of AKC exhibitors with a much more modern, inclusive belief system.

Yet even those of us who participate mainly in the performance events have often joked that we are thought of as the stepchild in the AKC family. While times are changing and we’ve made a ton of progress, there are still those from AKC’s traditional days who just don’t understand or care about performance events. After 15 years, we realize that we’re not going to change any attitudes by acting disgruntled. Instead, we move on, continue to grow, act in a sportsman-like fashion, and have quietly moved our chair closer to the adult table each time the AKC family comes together. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but change does happen.

Some mixed-breed handlers are resentful they have to join the AKC family at the kid’s table. I can understand that. Still, we’ve all been inducted the same way. We all started with paper plates and plastic utensils; and as we “grow up,” we’re handed the china and silverware at the big table.

Is it right? Everyone has their own opinion, but from the AKC’s point of view, it might seem to be the prudent way to move forward while still keeping the peace within the base of the organization. Think of it this way: it’s the AKC family culture and just like my personal family, we don’t always make sense to those looking in from the outside.

If you handle a mixed-breed dog, I hope you will consider the the valuable lessons learned from previous performance event participants before you decide not to join in the new program:

• Even long lost family members need time to get to know one another. The AKC has extended an invitation to dinner and now mixed-breed handlers have an opportunity to either act to graciously accept or decline the offer. It’s as simple as that.

• Every relationship has to start somewhere. We’ve all heard stories of happily married couples who met under not-so-perfect circumstances, and years later they laugh together about that initial awkward moment. This could be one of those times.

• It is the performance event participants who are welcoming the mixed breeds. We’re the ones who have opened the door, greeted mixed breeds with a smile, and invited mixed breeds to come and play. We’re part of the modern, hip, new way of thinking, so don’t shun us because our AKC parents have some older beliefs that you don’t agree with.

• Just like an older brother or sister, performance event participants have helped pave the way for this new and exciting change. Come out and get to know us. In the meantime, all agility participants, regardless of which branch of the family tree their dogs come from, can come out and play together with the dogs we love. Heck, I’ll even arrange for this family event to serve finger food. No paper or china plates allowed!

Lisa owns the Premier K9 Club in the Seattle, Washington, area. Competing with and training dogs for over 13 years, she has judged AKC agility for over a decade with her husband Dan. Lisa is loved and owned by Dalmatians ADCH MACH2 Pinky, and newcomer Rouge; Border Collies MACH Spot, and Coal, AK, OAJ, OF, CGC; and Labrador Retrievers MACH Sadie and newcomer Burton. For more information, go to

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