More dogs available to be shown, but far fewer getting to the ring. How does this relate back to BCA membership? Ms. Canalizo’s article reminded me that BCA’s membership is, in effect, a derivative of the membership levels in all the local bulldog specialty clubs. Most people join a local club first and graduate to BCA. So BCA’s membership challenge is almost certainly a result of membership declines experienced in our local clubs. I believe there is an explanation that ties all these facts together. Our local membership challenge and the decline in bulldogs being shown both stem fundamentally from changes in what breeders are doing with the puppies they raise.
We as breeders are not sufficiently identifying puppy buyers who might be candidates to join the local club and show their new dog.
Why is that? Here’s my hypothesis. Most indicators suggest that demand for bulldogs is stronger in 2019 than it was a decade ago. Both the number of puppies and puppy prices are higher. Demand is so strong
that breeders maintain waiting lists for puppies, and so the little darlings go from whelping boxes directly to wonderful new homes. It’s a simple and efficient process. But what’s missing from this picture?
By attempting to satisfy the growing demand for bulldog companions from pet buyers, we’re bypassing the chance to use outstanding puppies to attract new participants to our sport.
Here’s an illustrative example. I spoke earlier this year to a well- regarded, successful breeder who whelped eight litters last year. This individual kept a handful of nice puppies from the litters and said they will provide that breeder with show prospects for the next three years even without whelping another litter. What about selling some of the puppies to show homes? This individual chose not to go down that path. Instead, they get great satisfaction in knowing that every puppy sold is going to be treated like a member of the buyer’s family and should live a wonderful life. Show dogs may not fare as well. Besides, why put yourself through the aggravation of selling an eight-week old puppy to be a show dog when you have plenty of pet buyers that will provide great family homes? No one can guarantee that an eight-week old puppy will mature into a show dog anyway. It’s also time consuming to mentor new puppy buyers about what is entailed in turning the family pet into a show dog.
This breeder may accurately describe the situation, but if BCA breeders don’t identify and cultivate show home buyers for their best puppies--in particular buyers that would represent new participants in our sport--then our local clubs lose their most important source of new members. Ultimately, BCA suffers the same fate as shown in the numbers above, and AKC loses out too because there are far fewer bulldogs being shown.