This last week at the borzoi nationals, I realized just how far I’ve come in the last four years, how much I’ve learned and how much I still have to learn!
I have a lot of half-baked ideas. I’m looking for people from all breeds to pitch in and see if we can make / build something awesome.
The Problems: Dog sports are aging out. All you have to do is attend any event and see that the ratio of young to older people is *heavily* towards older people.
Us young people have grown up in an era where “Adopt Don’t Shop” is practically a moral imperative. Those of us who actively choose to move towards purebred dogs face a lot of stigma from our peers.
Very few of us have solid connections into the dog world. So we turn to google to find breeders. Unfortunately, the mediocre and worse breeders are the ones who tend to have the best websites with the best SEO. Combine with the fact that even if you do locate a quality breeder, most will not take a chance in any form on a newbie, and you get newbies who get suboptimal specimens who enter the breed or performance ring(s) with NO idea of how to handle their dogs and no resources for improvement and get burned out quickly.
The Dog World Establishment is pretty damn cliquey. If you get a dog from a disreputable or not well liked breeder, odds are good you’re not going to be welcomed into any fold with very open arms.
Learning dog conformation IS HARD AF. There are A LOT OF PIECES and finding someone who is not kennel blind enough to be able to be less biased and more straight forward about what makes a good / bad dog or not AND who is able to analyze, break down and communicate effectively to someone who has NO foundation or baseline for understanding this stuff is at this point pure luck.
Learning handling skills is HARD AF. And again. Unless you find someone WILLING to help you in the first place who also has the skills to analyze, break down and communicate to you small pieces of what you need to work on at a time, you’re up shit creek.
Learning how to effectively train a WORKING quality dog is a whole new experience from the pets you’ve had before who are fine just laying on the couch and easy enough to teach basic domestics. When you get a dog that’s smart, devious and has a temperament designed for having a job of some kind, everything escalates. And if you don’t know where to go for that kind of serious training (read: not petco level training), puppyhood can be super challenging.
We need a network of people who are available to mentor and help newbies. Regional, or better yet, state lists of GOOD obedience and handling classes perfect for people who are new. Lists of TALENTED mentors by breed who can teach from the ground up what makes a good dog, how to read breed standards and how to identify good breeders.
I think ideally, you should work with someone who ISN’T in the breed you’re shooting for, but has experience in that group. I was lucky enough to find an experienced sighthound owner who has been an incredible, analytical mentor who has helped me to understand, see and feel the mechanics of a functional dog in all breeds, sighthounds specifically and we’ve learned borzoi together. In shadowing her search for a silken breeder, I’ve learned so much about what I should have done and am doing for my next borzoi breeder. We need to identify people like those in any and all breeds that are willing to work with enthusiastic greenies like I was. Or else all this knowledge and expertise dies out. And WHAT A WASTE that would be!
I don’t know how to go about this or where to begin. I’m also terrible at effective tagging.
But I think this is a start. IF YOU ARE A PROSPECTIVE DOG WORLD NOVICE IN THE SEATTLE AREA, please know that I’m available to you. I will hook you up with the school and trainer I assist and teach at and with. Don’t be discouraged. This world is a hard nut to crack. The good news is us younger folks are pretty sick, by and large, of The Establishment in any arena and just want to learn and contribute. I think we can stand to change the culture of the dog world for the better. There’s a lot to learn and it’s SO REWARDING. I would hate to see this world die away and out.
Let’s get a conversation going on how to make this shit better.