Oh, you say, yes, of course. I do know some dogs who seem to get in other dogs’ faces too often.
Well, my lovelies, in this case I’m talking about bullying “in dogs.” The people, not the dogs themselves.
Do you know a bully? It’s come a long way from the recess yard, but not so far at all.
Bullying is a relationship that takes advantage of a perceived imbalance of power, and works that imbalance to the bully’s advantage. Bullies work really hard to feed your perception of the fact that they’re powerful and you’re weak. They flip back and forth between setting themselves up as your only friend and then tearing you down so you stay near them. They want you to think that nobody else will “save” you, which gives them continual power over you. Sometimes the main target is actually someone close to you, so that you’ll drop your relationship with that person and become more closely attached to the bully.
Bullies are the ones who will sell you a dog and then break majors to avoid letting you finish that dog. Bullies will insist that you breed to their dog and then tell you that none of the puppies are worth keeping… oh, except maybe I’ll take this one home with me, as a favor to you, to see if maybe by some miracle I can finish it for you. Bullies will offer you “chances” and tell you that nobody else ever would – the “chance” to finance one of their breedings, the “chance” to sponsor a special, the “chance” to whelp a bitch for them – all of these are legitimate relationships as long as the partnership is equal. You know you’ve been bullied when it’s your pocketbook that’s empty and they’re the ones with the show pick, the breed points, the puppy buyers. If, five years down the road, nobody knows that you had anything to do with it – you’ve been bullied.
This happens in dogs ALL THE TIME. It’s a topic that’s near to my heart this week because one of my friends – NOT IN CARDIGANS; THIS IS NOT A “BLIND ITEM” THAT TARGETS A CARDI PERSON – spent years doing what she thought was cultivating a relationship with an extremely high-profile breeder. “Chances” and “favors” trickled out regularly – your bitch is awful, but you can breed her to my special. I’d never breed that dog, because he’s terrible, but you should enter him in the specialty to make points. Be sure to get in your fee for this show, because the judge will be sure to like your puppy… oh, I’m sorry, I couldn’t make it at the last second; did that break the major? Every time my friend got fed up and said “That’s it, I’m out,” the high-profile breeder would be back, with some delicious favor, a rekindling of the love, compliments and puppy party invitations. YEARS invested in this “mentorship” and in the end all my friend has to show for it is an uncomfortable feeling that she’s been had.
It’s absolutely vital to find mentorship in any breed. You DO start at a lower level, and you MUST be humble enough to take advice. But a mentor sees you as an equal, just an uneducated one. Nothing makes him happier than when you take a dog into the ring and beat his dogs. A bully never wants you to get that far – you can succeed, as long as you don’t come anywhere close to outstripping or even equaling them.
Good mentors encourage you to listen to everyone. Just like every dog, even the worst, always has at least one wonderful thing about them, a good mentor will tell you to find the one or two good things that are being taught even by their mortal rival. Think of it like a basketball coach – you may “hate” your rival team, even have contempt for their coaching, but your coach should be having you watch the plays over and over to learn from them.
Good mentors want you to be different from them. They want you to find your own voice.
Good mentors are thrilled when you succeed, and they brag about you to others.
Good mentors are fans of your dogs. They encourage, while keeping you aware of what you still need to work on. They should make you feel like you’re half-way up the hill, not in a pit at the bottom and the “mentor” is the only one holding a rope.
Good mentors know that they’re one of many. They never use language like “Nobody else would give you this chance” or “Nobody else would breed to this bitch, but I’ll let you use my dog.”
I am nowhere near strong enough in this breed or any other to be a mentor. I have this blog because I am a nut about research and I can answer some of the simple questions, and because I have the ability to read and apply scientific studies. I never – and you can smack me if I ever do – want to be thought of as presenting myself as an authority on Cardigan breed type. There’s a reason I so rarely post stacked pictures of my dogs or talk about their type; I know perfectly well that I know zip, and anything I do “know” is because fifteen people have agreed that yes, that is a strength in your dog, but that is a weakness. None of them are my own brains. Ask me in twenty years and MAYBE I’ll say that I have something to contribute. In fact, the longer I go the more I realize that breed type is exactly as slippery and artistic as the ancient breeders have always said. Soundness is an engineering problem. You can “get” soundness almost instantly. Breed type is an art degree, and even an art degree doesn’t qualify you to teach art.
I am very fortunate in that my mentors have been fantastic, and have not minded me coming at them with seventy-six thousand questions and then keeping the puppy they told me not to keep. I am even more fortunate to have friends who are honest and encouraging and hysterically funny, and who will tell me that I have a dog with a hideous head and I absolutely suck at evaluating quality x, without expecting me to buy a different puppy from them. I am far too sentimental a breeder to go as far as my mentors have; I fall in love with the wrong dogs and I keep deadwood dogs and I breed because I get so attached to one particular feature that I can’t see anything else. So please, realize that I am not speaking as an authority; I write to myself every time I write a post. But I have seen what it’s like to be happy in dogs and I’ve seen what it’s like to be frustrated and sad in dogs, and I want you to be as happy as I have had the opportunity to be.