I once got a C in my French class in high school. My father posted the report card on the wall in the dining room for anyone and everyone to see. The original shaming technique. In our home A’s were expected and B’s brought a lecture about studying harder. C’s were definitely not an option.
Unfortunately, for a vast segment of today’s society, participation ribbons are what’s expected. Self-esteem is granted, not earned. Kids are not disciplined and dogs are not corrected. Positive reinforcement of mediocrity is favored over the brutal hard work required to achieve excellence.
This is a recognized and remarked upon trend in American culture. Sadly, it is playing out even in the purebred dog fancy.
“My Puppy is absolutely perfect! Is the judge blind? How could he beat her to that creature? Clearly this idiot only puts up professional handlers,” cries the self-described doggy-Mommy.
It should. I hear it and read it every week. If Orange is the New Black, then Perfect Puppy was Beaten by a Pro is the New Normal in dog shows.
Now comes time for some tough love, as my father liked to call it.
Puppy ain’t perfect. None of them are. That’s what dog shows are all about. We’re sorting out one person’s opinion, on the day, of the best of the not quite perfect.
And therein, I think, lies the crux of the issue. We need new exhibitors in the sport. Badly. But in a society that values winning over learning, dog shows rarely provide the validation folks are seeking.
We’re now back to our recent conversation on the dearth or death of mentorship. If it isn’t DOA, it’s on life support as a concept. I had a veteran dog man ask me recently, “Why are new people trying to learn from other new people? What, we got old and forgot everything we ever knew?”
I think the answer, surely, lies partly with us. The older generation does not pull punches. If asked for an opinion, we give it. It’s how we learned. I have some awesome mentors. I learned a great deal from them. But that doesn’t mean they were nice to me.
Of course, the flip side rests with an incoming tide of folks, too many of whom who aren’t talking to humans, putting their hands on dogs, learning with all of their senses. They read gossip lists and social media rants and simply take the words without any grains of salt.
I honestly don’t have a solution for this one. If I was that smart I’d be doing something other than showing dogs for a living.
Respect each other, new and old alike. Learn from people who learned the hard way. And no, I’m sorry, Puppy, really isn’t perfect. That’s all I got, man.
As always, this is JMHO.