Everywhere we go as dog breeders, exhibitors and judges, we are presented with opportunities to educate the public. We don’t even need to have a dog accompanying us for such situations to arise. Reading a dog magazine on an airplane, wearing a necktie with a doggy motif or a dog pin in our lapel will usually elicit questions from a curious, dog-owning stranger. Once the ice is broken, we can respond either dismissively or with a friendly explanation about our breed, hobby and destination.
How do YOU typically respond? In a way that convinces others that, while we may choose to improve our breeds through competing in the show ring, we are, at our core, dog lovers? Or in a manner that reinforces the stereotype that we are snobs who love only pretty dogs?
You don’t have to write articles, appear on TV or hold a press conference to change the public’s perception of the fancy. One-on-one communication is incredibly effective in dispelling myths about purebred dogs and the people who breed and show them. When the cashier at the supermarket who’s proudly wearing her Yorkie pin comments on the huge bag of dog food you’re hauling out of the shopping cart, you can tell her about the dog show coming up in three weeks. When you’re paying for a gas fill-up and the kid at the register notices your bumper stickers and crates, that presents another opportunity for a minute of pleasant chitchat that can help demystify our sport.
In mid-December I embarked on an adventure, driving from Southern California to Northwestern Arkansas. As a lifelong city boy who would typically fly that great distance — or share the driving with a friend — the trip was memorable for many reasons, among them the spontaneous conversations that took place whenever I stopped somewhere to stretch my legs, exercise the dogs and get coffee. I was told I “looked like a breeder” because I had multiple dogs in my vehicle, they happily jumped in and out of their crates, I always carried baggies to pick up after them, and every baseball cap I wore had either my breed on it or the AKC logo. A few lucky folks in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma even got a copy of Dogs In Review as a souvenir of our impromptu chats.
Last weekend we hosted a gathering at our new home, the first since moving to this small community. The only dog owners among the guests were a married couple with two Standard Poodle rescues and a former Vizsla owner. We have dog show rosettes, figurines, books and art all over the house; many conversations took place explaining our sport as people admired the goodies on our walls and shelves. At the end of the evening, our guests got to meet our champion Afghan Hounds and Tibetan Spaniels, but also the rescue Chihuahua mixes (and the pit bull that was sprawled on our bed protecting the coats). No dog or breed was valued above any other. Our new friends learned we are an equal-opportunity household of dog lovers, despite our involvement in the conformation world. Dogs are who we are; dog shows an outlet for our passion.
We are delighted to welcome Jason Hoke in this issue as a new contributor. His “From My Perspective” column will appear bi-monthly. Jason grew up in the sport and has worn many hats: exhibitor, professional handler and today, among our most popular AKC judges. Great to have you on board, Jason!
From the January 2013 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the January 2013 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.