Chairman's Report

August 2012

--"Keep On Keepin’ On"--

In his insightful and highly acclaimed biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson chose to capture a defining characteristic of Jobs by giving him the last word on his own life. Jobs, who proved to be a good student of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s philosophical insights, used a Dylan lyric to explain his belief in personal growth.

“You always have to keep pushing to innovate. Dylan could have sung protest songs forever and probably made a lot of money, but he didn’t. The Beatles were the same way: They kept evolving, moving, refining their art. That’s what I’ve always tried to do — keep moving. Otherwise, as Dylan says, if you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.”

That philosophy is one that most certainly drives our best breeders in their determined quest for constantly improving their lines, and subsequently, their breeds. Like those breeders, the American Kennel Club is on a determined quest to improve events, and subsequently, our sport.

The last two years have seen relentless positive action delivering new programs, new events, new outreach, and a new system to help clubs manage all the change, including:

  • Grand Champion Program – a continuation of competition for champions of record with a new title, new achievement levels, and a new ranking system.
  • National Owner-Handler Series – recognizing and showcasing the quality dogs being exhibited by owner-handlers and a venue for owner-handlers to compete against their peers.
  • 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy Competition – providing the opportunity for training, socialization, and competition leading to a Certificate of Merit suffix title.
  • Open Shows – informal sanctioned conformation events at which dogs, exhibitors, stewards, judges, and clubs gain experience needed for licensed events. Certificate of Merit points are awarded.
  • Junior Showmanship Master Class – a new class for the most competitive participants.
  • First ever Junior competition at both the Obedience and Agility Invitationals.
  • Beginner Novice optional titling class – very popular combination of basic obedience and rally.
  • Starting in 2013, “Companion Events Extravaganza,” a multi -day event that will feature Championship events for Obedience and Agility and a new national competition for AKC Rally.
  • Time 2 Beat Agility Class – A unique, “hybrid” titling class.
  • Coursing Ability Test – a fun and healthy event modeled after lure coursing that is open to all adult dogs.
  • My Dog Can Do That! Experience – an exciting new outreach program for new owners and their dogs to try different companion events.
  • Online Competition Management System – a new way for clubs to manage event details and judging assignments that provides simple, real-time management of the most complex events.

Each and every one of these innovative initiatives was borne out of an understanding of customer needs and desires. AKC Staff is focused on leveraging those insights about every aspect of our sport into desirable programs that engage, excite, and expand participation in the AKC world of dogs and sport.

As Jobs noted, “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they want before they do.” And that is exactly the approach we at AKC have used so successfully.

Our focus on “relentless positive action” continues daily. Will all the programs be as successful as these? Maybe not. But another Dylan lyric - “Keep on keepin’ on” - guided Jobs in this exact challenge. Whether we have a success or a failure, we must keep moving forward – we are and we won’t stop.

You can help, too. Since we all participate in our sport, we all have insights into our participants’ needs and desires. A simple, yet powerful example is the insight that led to the Grand Champion program. By understanding the desire many exhibitors have to continue to compete in a meaningful way after achieving a conformation championship, we were able to develop a complete program that engaged and excited participants and expanded the timeframe for their competition, yielding increased entries.

We’re always looking for a few more good insights that might lead to an innovation in our sport. If you have one, please send it to me at: atk@akc.org.

For as the Beatles, another favorite music icon of Jobs, reminded us - “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Sincerely,


Alan Kalter
Chairman