A Dogs NZ registered dog competes in agility sports

Dogs New Zealand Moving Ahead in Leaps and Bounds


Recent Blog:

COVID put a slump on many organisations’ operations. Not for Dogs NZ, our national kennel club. It instead took the chance to overhaul its dog registration process from paper to online and automated. Although club activities like dog shows and training were stalled during lockdown, registered NZ dog breeders could now complete new puppy paperwork more seamlessly.

And with demand for puppies soaring during COVID, the timing couldn’t have been better.

More recently, in February 2023, the NZ kennel club signed on PD as a principal partner. Not only have we begun championing canine health and welfare together through a range of shared activities, but we are bringing pet insurance to more Kiwi canines and cats (more on this below).

PD talks to the Director/Secretary of Dogs NZ, Steven Thompson, about this milestone and others.

New puppy goes home with Dogs NZ dog registration and starts learning the ropes of becoming a top canine citizen

PD and Dogs NZ Starter Cover programme

Exciting new developments from the PD Insurance and Dogs New Zealand partnership are designed to support registered Dogs NZ breeders, members and dog enthusiasts. Most of all they’re designed with the ongoing health and wellbeing of all Kiwi dogs in mind.

Recently, you might have seen PD and Dogs NZ’s shared stands at the Auckland Pet Expo. We engaged with breeders, owners and prospective owners across a number of pet health topics and gave away some prizes.

If you don’t know already, make yourself aware of these offers:

  • Breeders. In the same month, we’ve also just launched our puppy and dog insurance Starter Cover programme. Via this programme, registered Dogs NZ dog breeders will be able to send every puppy to a new home with four weeks of free illness and injury cover valued at $1,000.
  • New puppy owners. New puppy owners that decide to move onto a standard pet insurance plan once the free cover expires will also be given a further three months of pet insurance at no cost. This is thanks to their ethical puppy purchase via a NZ kennel club registered dog breeder.

Dogs NZ members will be able to get up to three months free PD pet insurance for dogs and cats.

** The above free cover periods are accurate at the time of writing and may change over time.

Fully automated dog registration with Dogs NZ

There are several more exciting developments for the NZ kennel club, including the online systems to register dogs and litters. Being flexible and easy to use, the digital system provides registered Dogs NZ dog breeders with more control over the process.

As Steven explains, the benefits of the online dog registration process include “ease of use and timely processing of dog registrations. When we went into lockdown in COVID and we couldn’t do dog shows, we decided that it was an opportunity to automate the registry system that was very paper based.

“We designed a smooth online registration process that enables us to do a three day turnaround for breeders and members who want to register their dogs. It’s been very successful with statistics for the last month showing that 85% of members are using it.”

This allowed us to move away from paper forms that you had to fax, post or send to the office as a PDF. Of course Dogs NZ won’t forgo paper altogether. Rather a dual process that includes paper and digital will be used with digital in the main.”

The reason behind this, as Steven explains, is that “certain dog registrations are submitted from rural areas that don’t have very good internet. Some aspects of health testing may sometimes also be preferable to do using paper forms. But the majority of members are now using the online service.”

Safe online puppy purchasing is in the works

Further in the pipeline is a dedicated Dogs NZ puppy sales platform. Housed on the website, this will directly connect new buyers with registered NZ dog breeders. 

A recent Dogs NZ breeder survey shows that more than 80% of breeders are keen for this service to be implemented. 
new puppy is registered on the Dogs NZ register and now plays happily in a grassy garden

Code of Conduct for NZ registered dog breeders

“The Breeder’s Code of Conduct is a core focus for Dogs NZ, setting a minimum set of standards such as health tests that we expect from all our breeders. It’s extremely important because it’s key to our social license and doing what we love well. Which is breeding healthy pedigree dogs with an excellent network of registered dog breeders across NZ.

We are focused on the ongoing development of these minimum health testing standards for all our breeds because it gives breeders the best opportunity to make sound breeding decisions. It gives them the best opportunity to have healthy, well-adjusted puppies.

The Breeder’s Code of Conduct is what the public expects and deserves from breeders now, too. It provides them with a sense of security. When they’re dealing with Dogs NZ registered breeders they can expect a minimum standard of service because they’re buying from an ethical dog breeder.”

Breed-specific standard health tests

“Our executive council has written into policy that it wants to have a compulsory set of breed specific standard health tests by 2030 for all 225 breeds in our registry.

The Bulldog breed standard is an example of how we’ve changed the breed standard for healthcare outcomes. In the past we had a very traditional Bulldog breed standard with a large head and short nose. In 2019, we made a decision to adopt a more modern breed standard.

We did away with those extreme conformations that can make brachycephaly in dogs worse. This is the process we are going through with all our breed standards. We ask whether there are aspects in a particular breed standard that we should not be encouraging because they can potentially not lead to good health outcomes.

“We look at breed standards through a health lens now. We take a canine health and welfare perspective approach to breed conformation characteristics.”

The other big decision we’ve made around breed standards is around applications to recognize new breeds. We constantly get applications to recognize new breeds that people import from overseas.

The policy we’ve adopted is that when we recognize a new breed for our registry it must automatically be assigned a minimum set of health test standards.”

Mediation service

“We also have a mediation service for puppies under the age of nine months. If you buy a puppy from a Dogs NZ registered breeder that’s on our books and is having some health problems then you can come and have a talk to us about those.

We’re able to mediate between you and the breeder so that there’s a satisfactory outcome for both parties. This is another of the benefits for owners whose dog has a Dogs NZ registration.”

Registered NZ dog breeder hugs her dog

Dogs NZ champions good canine citizens

“One of our training programmes that any dog over the age of 12 months can do is the Canine Good Citizen. I’m doing it with my dog at the moment.

This follows on from the Canine Good Basics programme that’s aimed at puppies. When you get your dog from the breeder at eight weeks plus and it’s finished all its vaccinations you can enrol in Canine Good Basics. It’s aimed at the puppy stage of learning and socialising through teaching good basic manners. It’s very much also about building confidence between puppy and owner.

“The outcome of a Dogs NZ training programme is designed to give you a well-behaved, well-mannered dog and a confident dog owner because they go hand in hand.”

Once your dog has passed 12 months of age you can enrol them in the Canine Good Citizen, which focuses on training both the dog and the owner so that the dog becomes a good part of the local community.

This programme builds canine skills that allow an owner to take their dog anywhere (that dogs are allowed). They’ll be a well behaved member of the community. It starts at foundation level then continues to the foundation, bronze, silver and gold levels and teaches good recall habits, giving you control over your dog at all times.

Café culture

“We're also continually updating and modernising what's included in the programme. For example, we now have café exercises. A lot of dog owners are into café culture and many cafés now allow you to take your dogs and other pets along. 

The programme trains a dog to react appropriately around people in busy environments, around food, noise, other pets and the general stimulation of a social environment.

All dogs welcome

“While the Canine Good Citizen programme is aimed at dogs from 12 months onwards, there is no cut-off age.

Yes, the programme is valuable for people who have completed their puppy training and are looking at something a bit more advanced. However, it also caters to older dogs and those who missed out on their puppy training. We have had dogs that have started this training at six or seven years of age.

“Your dog is never too old to learn and neither are you. There’s an old saying that says the secret to a well-trained dog is a well-trained owner.”

I would recommend it for anybody who has decided to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter. You have no idea what the background of that dog is or what issues may exist.

You may bond with a dog in a rescue shelter once you’ve held it in your arms. (The rescue people are pretty keen for you to take it home too of course). But your challenge is when you get that dog home and it needs to adjust from past experiences.

As I mentioned, I’m doing the programme at the moment with my dog. In our class there are a couple of rescue dogs.”

Dogs NZ trainer working with a dog to develop on her existing training skills

Train the Trainer programmes

“We are a club of clubs but we also are a membership organisation, so we sort of operate at two levels. We support the members and the clubs, while focusing on dog training too.

Our biggest problem here is meeting demand. For example, there’s the local dog training club that I belong to with my dog. If one doesn’t enrol in their programmes within the first day that enrolments open then you miss out. That’s how much demand there is now for these programmes.

All this dog training is done by volunteers – members of the dog training clubs who give several nights a week to carry out training programmes. My trainer starts the first training class at 5:30pm and she’s doing another one at 6:30pm and again 7:30pm.

These are dedicated, hard working people. We need to look after them and ensure we don’t wear them out. Therefore, one of our biggest challenges is getting more people involved in dog training. That’s why this year we’re investing funds in Train the Trainer programmes.

dog registration is not a requirement for this dog to take part in the Canine Good Citizen training with Dogs NZ

Our NZ kennel club advocates for all dog owners

Steven says that Dogs NZ is doing more not just for pedigree dog owners, but for all dog owners. He shares how “there’s going to be increasingly more focus from government on canine breeding activities, placing added value to the Breeder’s Code of Conduct.

We’re becoming more involved with these talks with government. We’re able to sit around the table and help shape policy and potential legislation that affects dog owners.

“Laws that affect dog owners affect all dog owners and not just pedigreed dogs that have NZ kennel club registration. That’s why Dogs NZ is advocating on behalf of all dog owners.”

This is part of Dogs NZ’s ever-growing national advocacy programme. In light of this, we made the decision a year ago to turn our Canine Health and Welfare Officer into a full-time appointment for a qualified vet.

Rhea Hurley fulfils this position, bringing an outstanding level of science and veterinary expertise to Dogs NZ that benefits our members and breeders. As well as being a qualified vet, Rhea has a veterinary qualification in Animal Behaviour. She’s only one of eight people in the country with this qualification.

As a result, she has a lot of credibility when she sits around the table with government officers who are shaping some of the policies that will come into legislation in the next two or three years.”

Dog sports not just for registered pedigree dogs

While Dogs NZ is the national kennel club that supports pedigree dog breeding and dog registration it’s also the largest dog training organisation in the country.

Steven says, “We train more dogs than any other organisation in New Zealand, with a focus on creating good canine citizens. This gives us a good connection point with all kinds of dog owners, so it’s also a great channel to support general dog owners getting involved with our dog sports.

“We will always remain a champion for pedigree dogs but we want to give all dog lovers the opportunity to be great dog owners and be involved in amazing dog sports.”

Dog sports are an amazing way to spend more time and be more interactive with your well behaved dog. The NZ kennel club is increasingly offering a wider range of these. For example, the scent work has expanded hugely and there are other dog sports we’re lining up to bring within the Dogs NZ umbrella.

There is enough variety in dog sporting to suit different dog breeds’ physical needs but also those of different owners. For example, some sports have a more sedate pace and don’t require the owner or trainer to run. Then at the other end, you’ve got sports like rally and agility where there’s lots of running.

There are lots of options out there for dog owners now that are good fun and exciting. The expansion of these dog sports will be a continued focus for the organisation in the near future. Dog sports are for all dogs, not just pedigrees and we have a special sports dog registry for non-pedigree dogs who are involved in our dog sports.”

In addition to developing new trainers, there’s also continued development of skills for existing trainers. Because like most education programmes, including child education, dog training has changed over the years. There’s much more focus on positive reinforcement in dog training now than there was 20 years ago.”

Woman gets a kiss on the nose from her loving Labrador

Dog breeding and registration: past, present and beyond

Dogs NZ was founded in 1886 so us pet enthusiasts are all lucky to benefit from its cumulative knowledge of more than a century of expertise in dog breeding. Steven says, “We would like to be around for a bit more – we look forward to the organisation celebrating its 150th birthday in little over a decade.”

The now for Dogs NZ

To continue being relevant and successful over the longer term, we have got to adjust with the times, be adaptable and retain our social license. This means continuously doing the right thing both by our registered NZ dog breeders, our broader membership and the public.

We recently developed a ten year strategy that will continuously be adapted to support our canine health and welfare in this regard.

We are fulfilling the message that is in our rebranding, to actually become Dogs New Zealand and not just the NZ kennel club.

During the initial strategy workshops we had a very good person that led us through the template of what we wanted to achieve. She made the very relevant and insightful comment that as an organisation we had two choices.”

The future of Dogs NZ

“We could choose to continue just focusing on pedigree dog breeding, registration and sports. We would become a niche player within the wider canine world quite successfully. Because that’s what we’d been doing for the last 136 years. But we would only be a niche player and we could become increasingly irrelevant to the wider canine world.

“We would like Dogs NZ to be the premier national canine organisation and appeal to all dog owners. We are not going to get there overnight. It is a bit of a journey but we have started that journey.”

Or we could focus on the fact that we are the largest national canine organisation in the country. We could develop on that basis through our dog training, dog sports and involvement in government advocacy to become a much bigger player in the canine world. This means we go beyond just pedigrees.

This was a major philosophical discussion and turning point in the strategy working group because both paths are valid. But depending on what path you want to go down they have very different outcomes.”

A litter of nine pedigreed puppies stand together on a freshly cut lawn

Why Dogs NZ chose to partner with PD Insurance

“I was looking for a partner that could help us move forward in the canine health and welfare space. One that could help us communicate both internally to breeders and also externally to general dog owners.

We wanted a partner that would help amplify the importance of making informed decisions about your dog’s health and welfare. One that could also provide Dogs NZ with tools to improve our decision making around minimum health testing standards we want to adopt for our breeds.

PD is excellent in this space and understood right from the beginning. As an insurance company, PD has amazing databases that show what’s really happening with claims and health issues with the general dog owning public.

Having an overview of what’s happening there can give us opportunities to make sure that health tests we do for those breeds is relevant. This will be quite an important tool going forward.

I also like how PD uses technology because that’s our other challenge. Dogs NZ now has digital dog registration up and running, but there’s a lot more we want to achieve. PD understood that and mapped out how we could work together in these areas in a very synergetic way.”

Dogs NZ Director, Steven Thompson with his dog Stella, a Shih Tzu X together with their CGC classmates Ian & Ella the black Lab
Dogs NZ Director/Secretary, Steven Thompson and his Shih Tzu X, Stella complete their CGC Foundation assessment together with class mates Ian and Ella (the black Labrador) at the Kapiti Dog Training Club grounds.

More about Steven, Dogs NZ Director/Secretary 

“My household has one dog and two cats. We have got a 20 year old cat that was originally my son’s cat, named Elvis. He lives downstairs in the music room. [PD: Really? He’s named Elvis and he lives in the music room?!]. Yes, and we have got a one year old cat called Theo.

Then there is my three year old dog called Stella. She is a Shih Tzu cross. Stella’s rather special because we had some neighbours who became very good friends of ours. They had a couple of dogs and decided they wanted them to have a litter. Stella is from that litter and was born just as we went into lockdown back in 2020.

We used to stand on our deck. Our neighbours would have Stella in their driveway as this wee little puppy, still being weaned and we would have the Stella show. We had just lost our previous dog, Gemma, who was a Shih Tzu Poodle cross. She was a lovely dog but she got cancer and we had to put her down two days before we went into lockdown, which was awful.

So I had to go through the first lockdown with no dog. Then when we came out of lockdown, Stella was over eight weeks of age and our neighbours gave her to us. She is a lovely dog and we are doing Canine Good Citizen together.”

Woman sits side by side her dog alongside a pond.

Insurance safeguards what you value in life

Human health insurance is generally well known, but many pet owners are unaware of the value of pet health insurance. As Steven illustrate, “it’s possible to take out insurance to guard against losing most assets that you value.

For example, you insure your car and you insure your house. They’re valuable to you and they support your lifestyle. Most people value their pets highly. They’re an integral part of their family. So why wouldn’t you insure your pet that supports your emotional health and wellbeing?

Pet insurance gives you a safety net. It allows you to provide the appropriate treatment if things don’t quite turn out the way you thought they were going to turn out. That applies to pet owners and accredited dog breeders.”

Pet partnerships bring pet insurance to Kiwi pets

As a PD partner, our national kennel club Dogs NZ is helping bring the safety net of pet insurance to more Kiwi pets. Steven says, “I think the value and importance of pet insurance is that it avoids you having to make an awful decision when one of your fur babies is ill or injured.

For example, the vet has told you what surgery is required and what it is going to cost. Pet insurance means not having to say ‘I can’t afford that’. Without it, your options may then be leaving the dog in pain and letting nature take its course or you have to euthanise the dog.

That is a horrible situation for any pet owner to be in. It doesn’t matter if it is dogs or cats.

“You have to bring an end to your dog’s suffering. If there is an opportunity to have surgery to prolong its life or improve it and you have cover to be able to do it, that is a marvellous thing to have.”

I think that is the biggest value of pet insurance because I know what it is like to be in that position where you have to make that decision.”

Find out more about PD's pet care partnerships rewards programmes. We help vets, breeders, trainers, retailers and other pet professionals bring pet insurance to their customers with greater ease. Or if you are looking for PD's award winning pet insurance, simply click below. 

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