Getting the word out about a fantastic, but vulnerable breed requires effort from all who love them.
How do you get people interested in a rare breed? Those of us who are campaigning to get our vulnerable breeds more exposure have asked ourselves this question time and time again. I believe that there isn’t one clear way to get people interested in your breed. The saying “throw enough mud at the wall and something will stick” comes to mind when I brainstorm ways of increasing the visibility of a rare breed.
As a fairly new owner of a rare breed I do my best to promote the Dandie Dinmont Terrier
. From my daily walks where I’m stopped constantly and asked “what is it?”, to handing out “Dandie business cards” that link to the Canadian breed club’s website, to posting my Leroy’s pictures on social media to bringing him on the Global News Morning Show to share tips on dog care, I believe that many little acts add up. I work in entertainment, so some of the things I am able to do are a bit larger than what someone not working on –air can. This doesn’t mean that smaller acts aren’t as important. I personally have this analogy that spreading the word of your breed is like creating a ball of tin foil. Each time you find a way to introduce someone to your breed, you wrap a sheet around the tin foil ball in your mind. How big is your ball? Did you bring your Skye Terrier into town and let a stranger guess what type of dog she is? Did you bring your Bloodhound to a show and remind the public and the fancy alike how great these incredible dogs are? Did you bring your Clumber Spaniel on a hunting trip and show your fellow hunters what they are capable of? Is your Manchester Terrier an agility star? These are all great examples of getting your rare breed’s word out and thus enlarging your ball.
Social Media is a fantastic way to get to educate the public and get folks interested in your breed. Posting photos of your dogs on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook will get them seen, but why not add a bit of copy to that adorable picture and let your friends, family and followers know a bit more about your dog’s heritage?
If you have a public page, a hashtag goes a long way. A hashtag uses the # symbol and it precedes word or words that will properly lead individuals to conversations and discussions pertaining to a specific topic or theme. One isn’t limited to only one hashtag either. Use a bunch and see if you can get people talking and asking questions. An example of some hashtags would be: #otterhound #otterhounds #otterhoundsofinstagram #otterhoundsofig #otterhoundsrule . You can also use hashtags to connect with people already in your breed both locally and internationally.
Millennials shop largely on social media, so using social media like a catalogue to showcase your breed is smart. Instagram is now sort of what a magazine used to be. Let the folks in the market for a new puppy know that there are many great breeds that they may have never heard about before. Graciously accept compliments on your gorgeous dogs and answer queries as those posing them might be future owners.
PR and Correspondence
When you have an at-risk breed, I believe you must be willing to talk. To basically everyone and anyone asking. You would be surprised at how many people stop to ask me what type of dog “the little one is” (I also own a Standard Poodle
). I’m still at times surprised at how frequently it happens. Especially during my way before dawn walks thanks to my morning radio job by someone asking out a car window. Even though I’m sometimes thinking “seriously dude, it’s quarter to five” I always answer questions with a smile. You never know how interested a passerby could be.
Breeders of vulnerable breeds must especially try their best to respond to serious inquiries from potential puppy buyers via telephone or email. I have heard stories from several people looking for a puppy, some already within the fancy who reached out to a breeder of a rare breed and even after a second or third attempt, received no correspondence.
Out where the action is
Getting your rare breed seen by the public involves finding out where the public is and figuring a way to include your dogs. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier has a “Dandie Cuddling Parlour” they put up at events including Pet Expos and dog shows. The booth was started in 1984 when the Metropoliltan Kennel Club has a breed booth competition. The Dandie club had its members bring in furniture to make the booth look like a living room and the parlour showcased the Dandie’s relaxed nature and to allow the public to learn about and interact with this breed. The club won the competition and those who visited got a far more memorable introduction than a book (or website) could offer.
Glen of Imaal Terrier
In 2008, to coincide with the first Specialty they held at PawsWay (which, being part of Toronto’s Harbourfront tourist area, attracted 5,000 visitors), the club president’s husband donated a professional pop up booth with stunning graphics, which they used for the first time and for every specialty thereafter.
Cultural festivals are a wonderful spot to set up a booth and get people acquainted with your breed. Does your town celebrate Oktoberfest? Set up a fun German Pinscher
booth? The Dandie Dinmont Terriers join the Scottish Deerhounds
, Skye Terriers
and more every summer at a Scottish Festival. I often see Irish Wolfhounds
walking proudly alongside their owners in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, but why not also include the Irish Water Spaniels
and the Glen of Imaal Terriers
? Lean into it and get creative!
To save a breed from extinction, I believe we must “plant seeds” and hope something great will grow from those seeds.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier booth. Photo courtesy of Mike Macbeth
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of Canada knows how important it is to plant seeds. So much so that they decided to plant some in the minds and hearts of Junior Handlers. Throwing a Junior Handling competition with some prize money might just be what it takes to get young people interested in a rare breed. The Dandie Junior Handling competition happened at the Toronto Christmas Pet Expo and was for Juniors in the senior level (14 -17 years old) to demonstrate both their handling skills and knowledge of the breed standard. Watching the Juniors connect with a Dandie (most of them met a Dandie for the first time that day) was awesome. Hopefully the connection they made will stay with them and they’ll choose a vulnerable breed when they are old enough to buy their own first puppy.
Every little bit helps when you are trying to promote a rare breed. How are you growing your tin foil ball? Let me know what you’re doing to get the word out about your breed in the comments below!