Even AKC Has Gone "3D"
Finding New Ways to Discover, Develop, and Drive Registrations
The number of dogs the AKC registers annually has been declining for some time. The reasons for the decline vary from increased competition from smaller, less restrictive, and less expensive registries to the negative influence of animal-rights groups toward breeding purebred dogs, and the general downturn of the economy. During this downward trend, all eyes at the AKC have been focused on the question, How do we solve the problem of falling registrations?
But before reflecting on AKC attempts at solving the problem, it is important to consider some of the reasons why registrations are so important.
Along with helping your events remain affordable and keeping our beloved traditions alive, registrations support your American Kennel Club’s “good works” efforts that benefit both the purebred-dog world and the general public. A strong legislative influence has never been more important for those of us involved in the responsible breeding of dogs. Over the past three years the size of the AKC legislative portfolio, which tracks issues related to dogs, almost tripled in size and included many threatening proposals. With no end to this legislative onslaught in sight, it is key that registrations continue to help the AKC maintain a strong legislative influence on behalf of all responsible dog breeders.
Registration dollars also assist in funding another vitally important part of the purebred dog world: canine health research. Since its creation in 1995, the AKC Canine Health Foundation has allocated more than $24 million to canine health research, with the AKC proudly supporting the foundation’s efforts by contributing nearly $20 million to approved research grants and day-to-day program costs. Furthermore, along with AKC Companion Animal Recovery (CAR), the AKC has played a significant role in our country’s largest disaster-relief efforts. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, both AKC and CAR delivered vital aid and provided multiple airlifts for displaced dogs in dire need of help. Because of the organizations’ dedication to protecting our own, AKC breeders are assured of our aid should an unthinkable disaster occur. Promoting responsible dog ownership is another way the AKC gives to the public. Meet the Breeds, an annual event that takes place in New York City, is hosted by both the AKC and the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). Last year, tens of thousands of attendees became acquainted with the 160 dog and 41 cat breeds present and had the opportunity to talk with breeders about what it takes to be a responsible animal owner. Additionally, every September, AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day events are held throughout the country. Although each event is different, all are entertaining and educational, with many including agility, obedience, and rally demonstrations. Attendees can speak one-on-one with experienced dog breeders and trainers, as well as veterinarians and technicians, to learn what’s best for them and their dog.
You, the Breeder-Ambassador
It is important that the AKC makes every effort to secure all registrations. Over the past 10 years, the AKC has done extensive research regarding our registration business and ways in which to improve the declining rates. Efforts such as increasing the value of registration, tangible benefits like pet insurance, the AKC New Puppy Handbook, bundling registration with CAR Lost & Found enrollment, as well as an outreach program created and marketed by Proctor & Gamble, have all helped to a certain extent. We have worked with different marketing firms in efforts to develop user-friendly dog-registration applications that encourage new puppy buyers to register, and also improved communications and relationships with breeders.
Because AKC customer types vary so greatly, it became obvious over the years that one program or solution would not fix everything. One thing is certain: The AKC needs to engage all of its valuable breeders as ambassadors. Last year over 100,000 puppies from AKC-registered litters produced by fanciers went unregistered. Initiatives have been developed to try and meet breeder needs and increase registrations, such as the Full Litter Registration option, which allows breeders to individually register all puppies in the litter at the time of litter registration, and the Full Litter Offspring option, which gives breeders who have already registered their litters a second opportunity to individually register all the puppies. Created in 2007, the Unregistered Dog Program encourages breeders to supply new puppy buyer information through the AKC Online Record Keeping System and send completed Litter Record Forms to us. The Registration Pledge program was established in 2009 and works with AKC-member clubs to raise awareness about registrations and point out different ways to ensure that all puppies in each litter get registered. Also, the AKC is utilizing an “all-dogs” approach in many retail stores where non–AKC registrable dogs are enrolled in the Canine Partners program.
Over the past five years, an AKC priority has been its considerable investment in developing our Online Dog Registration system. Because it has made the process of registering a dog quick and simple, usage has increased to approximately 40 percent of all dog registrants. Online litter registration has also proved incredibly successful, with approximately 74 percent of all litters now being registered online. These past endeavors at finding the solution to declining registrations have collectively helped steer the AKC’s future plans in the right direction.
Realizing a need to build on these previous initiatives, AKC recently assembled the new Registration Development department. This new customer-research and development group—known colloquially as the “3D Team,” for Discover, Develop, and Drive—is composed of employees, each with a history in the fancy, whose sole mission is to improve the registration rates from assigned market segments. With fresh perspectives, the 3D team will:
- Discover the dynamic influences of the registration process and their impact on registration rates; customers’ motivations for both registering and not registering the dogs they produce; and the history of AKC-registration initiatives, with a critical eye on specific components.
- Develop ways to address current registration trends, including developing new initiatives or reengineering and redeploying previous efforts.
- Drive results through implementing, monitoring, analyzing, and if necessary, adjusting initiatives.
By working with other AKC departments, the 3D team will attempt to take advantage of those opportunities. While always mindful of the lessons offered by the AKC’s past, 3D will also utilize the latest, most detailed customer- and market-behavior studies to develop new customer messages, focus on our breeders becoming AKC ambassadors, utilize all communications avenues available, promote new AKC products and services, provide more benefits to registrants, and make registrations more desirable for all market segments.
Registration form pilots have already been launched, along with new initiatives seeking to increase the number of Litter Records (identifying unregistered dog owners) received from breeders to get a higher percentage of dogs registered, including an online version.
Other exciting initiatives are being developed and will be launched in coming months.
The AKC is responding to today’s challenges like it never has before, and if you have any ideas or thoughts on how we can reverse the trend in registrations, please e-mail the 3D team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
This story was written by Research Coordinator Katie Peralta, with contributions from AKC Registration Development Director Phil M. Guidry, J.D., and CHF Director of Education and Communications Erika Werne.