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Dog Show Severs Ties with Pedigree
A little too much sad reality

I don’t feed my dog Pedigree dog food, but I am a huge fan of their ads. I know the company is pushing product, but I admire all the time, attention and high-production effort they give to promoting the adoption of shelter dogs and celebrating mixed-breed pups. Some of their ads are funny and celebratory; others make me weep in my cups (above).

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show had ended its long-running relationship with Pedigree as a show sponsor. According to several stories, dog show honchos felt the adoption/shelter message and associated images of sad-eyed shelter dogs was too big of a bummer, a little too much reality.

The real bummer is the American Kennel Club’s disconnect from the problem of too many homeless dogs and outrageous euthanasia rates. The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show doesn’t happen in a vacuum even if organizers might want to pretend it does—and kicking Pedigree to the curb only highlights that reality.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

Thumbnail: Screen shot from Pedigree's "All Dogs Are Champions."

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Submitted by Missing Cindi | February 13 2012 |




Submitted by Lisa Wogan | February 13 2012 |

Should not have decided to quit coffee today!

Submitted by Elliott McNiel | February 13 2012 |

There has to be more to this story. Things like this are never that simple. Since the Mars Company's headquarters are in this area, they sponsor just about every dog related event around here. I've never heard anyone say anything about their ads being too depressing.

Submitted by Finness | February 15 2012 |

I assume Purina offered more money so WKC happily kicked their 24 year sponsor to the curb. They are the 1%! Just heard on NPR that an owner shown dog has not won since 1986. WKC is about dogs as investments. I know whose side I'm on.

Submitted by Ronnie | February 13 2012 |

This news item really bothers me. I commend Pedigree's efforts to encourage shelter pet adoption. Their commercials and print ads always bring a smile (or tear) to my face. I love to watch the Westminster Kennel dog show every year. But I'm sad to hear that the "real life" of mixed-breed and shelter animals is just too "sad" for the kennel organization. I won't be watching the show this year with as much enthusiasm as I have in the past.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 13 2012 |

You present only a biased half of the story, as usual. The Westminster folks are just as much dog lovers as you are. Until all the commercials shown at the Oscars are of sad-eyed, hungry children, squalling about not seeing sad-eyed dogs during Westminster commercials is just wrong. Put the commercials on Animal Planet where they belong.

Submitted by Autumnglory | February 13 2012 |

Going to a movie doesn't cause a child to be left squalling and homeless; thinking that only purebred dogs are quality dogs does, however, result in increased pet store sales and overpopulated shelters. Pedigree is not challenging the right to breed or own purebred dogs; they are, however, pointing out that there are other dogs needing homes if you care to provide one.

As a proponent of the "one of each" school of dog parenting, I've got one purebred and one mutt. I don't think ALL the ads during the show were guilt-trippy... and Pedigree has a right to promote their product their own way, just as WKC has a right to plug their ears and go "Not LISTENING...lalalalalala..."

Submitted by Lee J | February 13 2012 |

I very much admire Pedigree's ad campaigns. Their focus on shelter, adoption, overweight and aging dogs shows their commitment to a dog's life in its entirety-- not just the fun, glamorous or easy parts of dog life and dog ownership. Though my dog does not eat Pedigree dog food, my family has donated to their dogsrule campaign as we believe in their cause. It saddens me, but doesn't surprise me, that AKC/Westminster is dropping them as a sponsor.

The AKC, governing body of the Westminster Kennel Club, says in their mission statement "The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function...."

The Westminster Show is a great event and a lot of fun to attend but, just like any beauty pageant, you only see the facade that is being presented to you. The reality of dog ownership (or abandonment) is not always so pretty. Pedigree seems to understand and value that.

Submitted by Lee J | February 13 2012 |

I very much admire Pedigree's ad campaigns. Their focus on shelter, adoption, overweight and aging dogs shows their commitment to a dog's life in its entirety-- not just the fun, glamorous or easy parts of dog life and dog ownership. Though my dog does not eat Pedigree dog food, my family has donated to their dogsrule campaign as we believe in their cause. It saddens me, but doesn't surprise me, that AKC/Westminster is dropping them as a sponsor.

The AKC, governing body of the Westminster Kennel Club, says in their mission statement "The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function...."

The Westminster Show is a great event and a lot of fun to attend but, just like any beauty pageant, you only see the facade that is being presented to you. The reality of dog ownership (or abandonment) is not always so pretty. Pedigree seems to understand and value that.

Submitted by Rescue dog mom in Va | February 13 2012 |

How sad! Now even less attention will be paid to the problem of homeless dogs since these ads brought awareness to a large audience. Shame on Westminster Kennel Club!

Submitted by MP | February 13 2012 |

I've got two rescue dogs right now but when one of those weepy adopt-a-dog commercials comes on, I mute it or change the channel. I react badly to all kinds of guilt-trip advertising. No doubt AKC/WKC wants people like me to stay tuned instead of leaving the channel because we don't like an ad.

There should have been room to compromise and ask Pedigree to offer happy adoption stories in their ads instead. Like my guy, a stray Rat Terrier (a UKC-recognized breed), Therapy Dog-certified, with more performance titles than I can keep track of.

One more thing--AKC should demand health certificates (clear hips and eyes) and genetic clearance of heritable diseases before awarding conformation championships. A friend has a grand champion AmStaff with a heart murmur. The dog will be spayed, but a less honest person would breed this dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 13 2012 |

Disappointing. But I guess I'm not surprised since the dog show promotes pure breeds only. I have a mix breed shelter dog who could have starred in one of those commercials. Guess we won't be watching the Westminster show this year.

Submitted by Charlie | February 13 2012 |

It was Pedigree who pulled out of dog shows, including Westminster Kennel Club--not Westminster pulling away from Pedigree.

Submitted by Siberian Husky ... | February 13 2012 |

According to the New York Times, Westminster cut the cord.

Mr. Frei said the switch was also partly for economic reasons. But Melissa Martellotti, a brand communications manager for Mars Petcare US, which makes the Pedigree brand, said that Westminster had initiated the split and that dog show officials told the pet food company that its decision involved concerns about the ad campaign.

Submitted by Autumnglory | February 13 2012 |

Personally, I couldn't care less what the WKC does. Whining about the ads being too depressing is downright laughable; why not ask Pedigree to feature AKC club-affiliated rescues and rescuers in a more cheerful line of ads instead? Keep the key phrases - we see hope, we see potential - and consider featuring those hard-working foster moms and dads, the transport trains, the people who go pick the dogs up from shelters and get them listed on their rescue pages. It could be done.

Or ask them to change the tone entirely - "Best in Home, Brought to you by your local shelter" ads featuring rescued dogs up on the judge's table, wiggling and licking, with a voice over - "The Australian Cattle Beagle doesn't know whether he wants to round up the cows or chase them down a hole - but he sure does know a good squeaky toy when he sees one! Look at that dog go!" - as the dog makes an escape, romping gleefully away from judge and handler with lead trailing. Why not make it a sort of gentle, laugh-at-ourselves send-up of the whole dog show iconography, while still pointing out that shelter dogs are great dogs - and that purebreds need rescuing, too? Ah well... perhaps the folks who decided to sever ties had too many brain cells bred out of their lines, resulting in a lack of creative problem solving.

The end result, if I'm not mistaken, will simply be to further tarnish the image of dog shows and promote the stereotype of wealthy elitists out of touch with reality parading their supposedly superior dogs in circles. Pedigree's ads will wind up garnering more attention than if the WKC hadn't said a word, once the media catches wind of this, and that might well result in good things for dogs in shelters.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 13 2012 |


I have no idea which entity severed the ties on the Westminster sponsorship, but either way, I am not a fan of Pedigree. ... Two years ago I was feeding Pedigree, and my dog were healthy and looked good. Then Pedigree changed the "look" of the food. What I didn't know was that they also changed the formula. ...

Within a month of using the food with the "new look" my dogs coats were totally dried out and looked like straw. This was in the late fall when they should have been growing coat and looking good, so I knew it wasn't "normal".

I contacted a Representative of Mars that I was aquainted with and asked if there had been reports of dogs that were eating the "new look" food developing dry coats. He said that he "really couldn't answer that" and told me he would have someone from the company contact me. They did, and I asked the same question.

His answer was that they were "re-evaluating" their new formula and determining if they needed to be adding additional oil to the formula. In subsequent months I saw on the bag "Now with additional fats and amino acids".

I never tried the "new new" food, as I had totally lost faith in Pedigree/Mars. I have no bought any of their products since.

In writing this, it came to mind: I wonder if the show breeders/Westminster lost faith in Pedigree/Mars just as I did? Maybe that food fiasco caused many who had the same experience I did to quit buying Pedigree, so Pedigree is now are persuing a different market. Rescues. ???


Submitted by MLG | February 13 2012 |

The ad campaign by Pedigree has concerned some animal shelters for a while because they depict very sad-looking animals. As one local radio announcer said to our shelter CEO recently, "Your dogs all look so happy!" The announcer was surprised that a dog from a shelter could be happy; he was used to the sad faces and horror stories that get the most media attention. Dogs at shelters aren't sad, they're just homeless. Depicting the joy of adoption would be a much better promotion for both dog food and rescue animals.

Submitted by Michelle | February 13 2012 |

Not everyone agrees with everyone else. Rescue groups do not promote the breeders so why on earth would we expect the breeders' competition to promote rescue?

To each their own. These dog shows have been around forever and well, I like them. I work at a Dog Rescue group, I believe in rescuing dogs and adopting rescued dogs but you know what? If we were all the same life would be boring.

Submitted by Jenny Benedict | February 14 2012 |

Michelle, I agree with you and I too volunteer at a rescue, Rescue K911 a no kill heaven for dogs of all kinds. Don't you have to wonder why they really cut ties with Pedigree after so many years? The real reason may never be known but if they did not like the sad eyed dogs in the ads why did they sign them up in the first place? Just wondering. I hope they both prosper without each other.

Submitted by Cat | February 15 2012 |

Rescue K-911 is a wonderful rescue! So glad you shared that. As for the AKC, they may be in denial regarding rescues, and that is a shame. There are probably 40% of rescued dogs that are 'purebred', and breeders should recognize that. Yes, the AKC 'rule' is that a registered breeder will take back any of their dogs if the owner can't (or won't) care for them any more, but the reality of that occurring is a small percentage of the dogs sold. I also work with rescue, and am really glad that more and more breeders have joined our ranks over the last few years. I hope things improve on both sides of the house.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 14 2012 |

Are you kidding? Boring? Why don't you go to a shelter and help take out the bodies of all the dogs and puppies killed on a daily basis. To people like you dogs are an object with which to make money and perhaps a little glory among your own ilk. Breeders are the worse.

Submitted by Pop | February 15 2012 |

I disagree with part of this. I belong to a nationwide "Breed Rescue", one that specifically rescues only one breed of dog. As a rescue, we get along very well with the show-quality breeders of our dogs, and we most-assuredly do not compete for pet placements with them.

We certainly would like to see puppy-millers and back-yard breeders (for profit or "fun") go out of business, but the show breeders who are striving to evolve our breed into a "more perfect dog" are not our adversaries at all! In fact, they very-often step up to assist in cases where we are called on by authorities to take dozens of dogs at once (state and USDA puppy-mill "busts" of unlicensed breeding operations). They provide financial support, whelping assistance with pregnant rescue dogs, and tons and tons of sound advice about the specific breed's health and temperamental issues.

They understand the need to rescue, and support it with their actions.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 13 2012 |

According to the folks at Pedigree (per the NYTimes), it had less to do with "sad ads" and more to do with "we don't give a damn about shelter dogs." I quote, "'They’ve shared with us, when we parted ways, that they felt that our advertising was focused too much on the cause of adoption and that wasn’t really a shared vision,' she said. The kennel club, she said, is 'focused on the purebred mission,' including the adoption of pure breeds as opposed to mixed breeds."

Darn you internet, for spreading BOTH sides of the story!

No more Westminster in our house. I have purebred dogs (I've even shown one of them), but I'm for DOGS, not just the award winners.

Submitted by Proud Rescue Owner | February 13 2012 |

I have always believed in getting my dogs from shelters and would put my mutts up against any purebred any time, any place. I also have one pure breed, who I love dearly, but she is certainly no better than my mixed breeds. They're all the same...great dogs who were given a second chance when I adopted them...or they adopted me.

Submitted by Paula Myles | February 14 2012 |

The AKC decision to cancel your sponsorship leads me and others to boycott the Westminster Show and to buy your product exclusively. Please continue to spread the message that homeless dogs deserve to live well and with love

Submitted by Sunny | February 14 2012 |

Shame on WKC!! I will never watch another show by them. The poor shelter dogs pay the price for the WKC arrogance.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 14 2012 |

Actually, it is a wise decision by WKC. Pedigree is junk food for dogs. Like feeding your kids McDonalds every day. Even rescue dogs deserve better!

Submitted by Anonymous | October 26 2012 |

Thank you Pedigree killed my dog it is more then junk it is Poison....

Submitted by Anonymous | February 14 2012 |

Agreed. My take is that the honchos felt the Pedigree ads were bad for business. The truth of the matter is that they do, in fact, know that for each dog bought from a breeder or a pet store, the one shelter dog will lose that chance, and may face death because of it. For shame AKC, for shame. Why don't you try increasing public awareness and responsibility in pet owners? I am now going to Pedigree's website and tell them that they get my vote for their good work in encouraging loving and providing a home for a rescue dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 16 2012 |

Be careful what you support.
Here is a link to Pedigrees dog food rating.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 20 2012 |

We are in favour of Pedigree because of their support of adopting shelter dogs/mutts. Of course Pedigree is not the best quality of dog food, most of the brands that you can buy in a grocery store or big box department store are basically the same. Let's see you provide a link for Purina dog food & you will see basically the same problems. If you want really high quality dog food, you are not going to find it where you buy most brands, including Purina. You want high quality dog food, start with Halo Spots Stew or Blue Buffalo, among many. If you are going to trash Pedigree, then give equal treatment/trashing to Purina. The focus of this story is how despicable the Westminster Dog Show is to drop a long time sponsor because that sponsor is promoting the rescue of already existing (homeless) dogs/mutts. If the Westminster Dog Show people were truly about the love of dogs, along with the AKC, they would support all breeds (pure or mixed) of dogs. Newsflash, WDS & AKC, rescue dogs are comprised of at least 25 % purebred dogs. SHAME ON AKC & WDS, you are disgusting.

Submitted by Kittens | February 15 2012 |

Hmmmm....I figured that Westminster cut ties because Pedigree makes really bad food. When I heard this, I was very pleased.

Good job, Westminster - I'm glad you've stopped promoting this poor quality food.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 15 2012 |

My sadness is for the mistreated dogs, but also for inexcusable insensitivity and ignorance of those in AKC who believe protection of their mission required blocking "sad" dogs?! Even helpless mutts? To me, the printed response was barbaric and wrong: a missed opportunity to lead in this matter of human responsibility to pets. No one finds "sad dogs" commercials pleasant. Living evidence of human cruelty and neglect always sicken. Perhaps such videos help dogs, but a mature AKC could surely develop a more effective message(without denying reality). Who better than a responsible AKC to seize such an opportunity to help. "Too sad" all you had to offer?!

Try remembering a brief video displaying at-home practices of more than a few AKC breeders could bring anyone to tears. Now THAT'S TOO SAD!!!

I support responsible breeding to select for desirable characteristics-always with attention to a healthy dog. But it IS NOT a zero sum game. There's value in dogs, even those many dismiss as imperfect, even "mutts."

I was taught that by my rather grand Grandmother, after I learned a local breeder of wonderful hounds was destroying pups. Grandmother said there would someday be a better path to "purebred" [apparently not yet]. Grandma was a member of the DAR, but rogishly informed me that all humans are "mixed-breed mutts" (a hugely scandalous claim in the early 1950s South. She also said most people recognized as "best..." were first-of-their-kind, not selectively bred for performance. She often reminded dog-proud neighbors (she bred a few much-sought after Spaniels) that ALL dogs are "mixed breeds", some called "purebreds" were actually temporarily in a human-created eddy.

I hope AKC will continue to improve relevant education and other mission details, leadership goals, membership oversight for breeders--and build a better world for dogs. "Sad" dogs are created by people. AKCers who continue to hide bad practices must be addressed ethically and effectively. AKC must improve their advocacy for dogs at all stages of "breeding", protect and respect a better future for dogs--in fact for all animals. Such efforts may also serve to enhance the human species a bit--which would certainly better serve us all.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 21 2012 |

The breeder that was culling pups was a moron not for the fact he was "bettering" his lines, but any underlaying genetic problems would be unknown to him because he culled out dogs that could have shown them. this is a true irresponsibilty to the breed. especially since then the genetic tests we have today weren't as prevelent (or even known or avaible depending on the years he bred!)

mine and my husbands family are breeders, we pride ourselves in EVERY pup we produce, whether they be from our hunting or our companion animals. (his family has "hunting" dogs from hunting lines. mine have "companion" dogs from conformation lines.) BUT even then still his main breeding studs have their conformation championships in addition to being used as hunting dogs (and p[roving themselves VERY well in the feild. back when dogs were going for 500-600 for the breed his grandfather had people paying 800 and up.)

Submitted by Jody Lucia | February 22 2012 |

I knewthat show and the club wasn't "real" or caring...I agree very much exactly. I feel sorry for the dogs in the shows sometimes anyway...never felt totally comfortable watching the show, though I love dogs. Much rather watch a couple pits PLAYING...or alot of other breeds too!

Submitted by Wendy S. | February 23 2012 |

I used to watch the WKC Dog Show and admire all the different breeds. When the Pedigree commercials followed and their simple message about adopting a shelter dog and pointing out that 'all dogs are champions', I applauded. Thank you Pedigree for nationally spreading the message about rescuing rather than buying. I'd really like to see Pedigree have an "All Dogs Dog Show." It would be far more interesting to see adoptable dogs paraded around and even more challenging for the judges to determine 'best in breed/best in show'. So there! Take that WKC.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 30 2012 |

I think the AKC has made great strides toward recognizing the merits of mixed breed dogs. Their PAL and Canine Partners programs are some examples of this. They also have created a Therapy Dog Title that any dog, regardless of its pedigree, can achieve through service. I have two unregistered rescue Shelties registered with the PAL program. Many AKC events, other than conformation shows like the WKC, are now open to mixed breeds. I don't approve of their "too sad" excuse, but you have to give them credit for their changing attitude toward mixed breeds, many of which are or could be rescue dogs.

And -- has anyone considered that the "too sad" reason maybe IS just an excuse for dropping them, when the REAL reason COULD be that they don't approve of the nutritional content of Pedigree? They might be trying to obscure the real issue because they don't want to upset the dog food industry that supports them.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 26 2012 |

Pedigree killed my dog..Glad they severed ties to them.Mars knows this is happening and they do not care.One dog died after one bowl of there lab anaimal food.My dog was healthy one day dead the next after eating pedigree.The funny thing is my other chow would not eat it.He smelled it and walked away.I would love to sue them,but it wont bring my Sassie back.I will post this till people stop feeding their pets Pedigree.

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