Delegate’s Corner June 2019
Don James, Delegate
Leonberger COA

A new word has found its way into the Delegate body vocabulary…….sustainability, more specifically, breed sustainability.

An easy definition but an increasingly difficult goal to achieve.

I’ve written in recent Delegate’s Corner reports, about Dr. Carmen Battaglia’s studies on low entry breeds as well as AKC’s efforts to highlight this problem with a 10-year study of the numbers behind each of AKC’s 194 recognized breeds. The gist of the Battaglia report is that fully 60% of AKC breeds are considered low entry (fewer than 3500 conformation entries in a given year). While it’s disturbing to see these figures, what’s even more unsettling is the data AKC’s reports are providing which provide a pretty good idea as to why we’re facing a sustainability problem.

AKC breeders are simply not breeding enough dogs to put any appreciable dent in Dr. Battaglia’s findings. I’ll share some numbers with all of you that might be surprising:

There are estimated to be somewhere between 60 and 80 million dogs in the United States.
The average lifespan of a dog is approximately 10 years, meaning 6 to 8 million dogs must be produced each year to replace those we have lost.

Among other data, the AKC report tallies the average number of dogs produced by AKC Member breeders over the last 10 years. This is broken out by individual breed, breed group and total.

Would it surprise you to learn the AKC breeders, as a whole, produce fewer than 8% of the 6 to 8 million dogs need to replace this average yearly loss………<8%!!!!!

In order to help LCA members assimilate this data, I am going to make those 10-year studies available to all of you via the LCA website.

The Delegate body has created an ad hoc group tasked with studying this issue in an attempt to develop a workable plan to begin attacking this problem. I joined this group which meets the evening prior to the regularly scheduled quarterly Delegate meetings. No solutions have been forthcoming as yet. The first three meetings have centered on just trying to define the scope of the issues involved and trying to figure out why we’re losing breeders and why the ones we have are not producing even 10% of the overall demand for puppies.

In order to begin tackling this issue, we need to determine why the number of litters produced by AKC breeders has fallen so precipitously. In 2008, the first year of the study, AKC breeders produced 353,305 litters. In 2017, that number had fallen to 240,061, a decline of almost 32%.

And, of course, here’s the problem. The demand for puppies is not lessening just because AKC breeders are producing 32% fewer litters than they were 10 years ago. That demand will be filled by puppy mills, commercial breeders, backyard breeders and through importation of puppies from foreign countries by local humane societies across the United States.***
You can’t ask breeders to simply produce more litters and you can’t just implore people who don’t want to breed that they should all of a sudden change their minds. There are many issues which have resulted in the situation we’re now facing. Would it surprise you to learn that many AKC National Breed Clubs do not welcome new members or make the requirements for membership so stringent that they might as well remove that welcome sign. Hard to believe but it’s true. One would suppose that breed clubs would be actively seeking new members because it makes sense that the more members you have, the more active breeders you will have producing puppies who meet the strict standards set down by most AKC Parent Clubs.
It should be interesting to see what comes of the efforts of AKC and committees like the sustainability sub-committee that I’m a part of come up with. The simple solution is to get more AKC breeders breeding dogs. The path to that solution is very much more difficult.

Something to consider.

*** If you’d like to look at the statistics for all AKC Breeds, all Working Group breeds and all Leonbergers over the past 10 years, use this link:

Archives of
Delegate Corner Reports.