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First Impressions

You know what they say about first impressions. Well, what is it exactly that they say?

Oh yeah, first impressions are lasting.

It takes just a quick glance, maybe two or three seconds, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. In one brief moment, the other person – without you knowing – creates an opinion about you based on your appearance, your demeanor, how you’re dressed, and even your smile and how you interact with others.

Of course, we all do this, don’t we?

Making a good first impression can have a lasting impact on the future of our sport. Photo by Dan Sayers.

Meeting someone new is always an adventure for me. With my lifestyle, it seems like I am always meeting new people, so there’s plenty of opportunity to make a good impression. Wherever I go, whether I am traveling, taking photos or just hanging out in town, I am bound to meet someone new. This is especially true at dog shows because, after all, this is where we all share a common interest, and conversation seems to flow easily.

Before I officially meet someone, I most likely have seen them around, so I already have a feel for who they are and what they could be like. When we’re introduced, there’s always the small talk. “What’s your name? Where do you live? What do you do for a living?”

When I meet someone outside of dogs and mention that I show dogs, I usually get a baffled look. Although I try to briefly explain the sport, they seem to have no idea what I’m talking about.

Usually my new acquaintances rack their brains trying to come up with a familiar image, maybe something they’ve seen on television. They often end up saying something like, “Oh, you mean like jumping through hoops and stuff?” Or they say, “Like walking a dog around in circles?”

Someone I met recently asked, “Like that big Best in Show?” After we talked for a while, I realized they were talking about Westminster!

Only a handful of times have I received a reaction where the person actually knew what the dog show world was like. These people usually had a friend or family member who was involved in the sport.

I would like to think that most dog fanciers – that means you if you’re reading this – would agree that it’s our job, so to speak, to be that person who always tries to make a good first impression. If we all encourage the people we meet to visit a dog show, purebred dogs might just find more supporters.

Sometimes just letting spectators pet our dogs can send the right message. When visitors to a show see how much we love our dogs and that we are only too happy to share them with strangers, the impression we make for our very special world can be really positive.

I try to keep in mind that first impressions are nearly impossible to reverse or undo. This makes our first encounters with people new to the dog show world extremely important. They set the tone for how people view us and what they think of purebred dogs.

I plan to practice this on the next people I meet. Who knows? Maybe the impression I make will encourage them to see for themselves what dog shows are all about.

Oh, one last thing… Dogs Freakin’ Rule.

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"
  • Linda Lethin September 18, 2012 at 1:58 AM

    Thanks for that wonderfull Spotlight on our Mini Bull Romeo (Ch. Kingsmere Rambunctious Romeo with Adrian Ghione & Oscar Quiros)! He LOVED Utah Winning BEST at the Terrier Specialty Friday, a group TWO on Saturday and another Group ONE on Sunday!

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