Why is it so hard to engage breeders in breed club health initiatives?
In September I had the pleasure of making a presentation to the Breath Health Coordinators of The Kennel Club, in the UK: I asked them to share with me their biggest challenge relative to their work on the health of their breeds and with breed clubs. Many said their greatest difficulty was getting members of breed clubs to engage actively in health-related efforts, specifically in sharing accurate data on the occurrence of health problems. This problem has been raised by many breed clubs, in various countries.
Why is this such a challenge? Here’s a partial list that comes to my mind:
- Denial – if we don’t talk about ‘it’ and don’t count ‘it’ maybe we can pretend the problem isn’t that bad.
- Protecting my line, my brand – not wanting to admit that there are any problems in my dogs.
- Afraid of the fall-out that might come with honesty; worse now with social media.
- A feeling that others won’t be transparent, so why should I?
- Wanting to celebrate the good aspects of the breed, of the dogs… to have fun with shows and breeding and not focus on the ‘negative’.
- Perhaps not understanding enough about health issues or recognising problems.
- Frustrated with results of previous attempts?
- Maybe it all just too overwhelming.
I can really understand the desire to go to shows, have fun looking at beautiful dogs; to have puppies and enjoy them and that whole process. But dog breeding should be seen as a great responsibility, not simply a right – not something to do just because you can. And we should all think that beauty is not just skin deep – a truly beautiful dog / breed must be healthy and have good temperament, be free of issues compromising welfare and quality of life – and maybe even have a good chance at a long life.
With this attitude, there would be commitment to the tough stuff, not just the fun. And understanding that the responsibility includes collaborative work with others to improve and maintain the health of the breed – health in its most holistic sense. Collaborative is an important term here… none of this can be done by an individual – it has to be a collective group effort. But then, data sharing, for example, must occur in a respectful, supportive – even compassionate – environment.
But let’s face it… this is a somewhat idealistic picture. Everyone is busy, could use some support and we all want to see results. Is all this work paying off?
What if you could find those working in other countries on the same issues? What if you could share the load and have fun making a difference with other like-minded individuals? What if you could help prevent someone from making the same frustrating mistakes you made? And what if you could learn from others' successes and challenges?
So… here’s what we are doing on DogWellNet.com. Welcome breeders, health committee representatives and breed clubs to share information with us - e.g. on their breed, on health surveys and data collection efforts and to help pass it on to others who are interested. We are also looking to share experiences and expertise - stories about successes and failures, what has worked and what has not. We also will endeavour to connect those who share a breed, or interests or challenges from around the world. Strength in numbers!
At DogWellNet.com we can also provide restricted-access or open forums for discussions - by breed, by project, etc. We can help you get talking internationally. Collaborating and sharing with an underlying goal to support actions to enhance health and well-being.
If you have material to share let us know! If you have comments, we would love to hear them.
In the Spotlight section of our latest Digest, see what breeds’ reps have joined us lately and also some of the great work being done.