AKC Gazette
Lhasa Apso Column
June 2022

Children need parents. Puppies need trainers. Newcomers need mentors. None of us has made it on our own, and sound mentoring of newcomers can help in our quest to secure the future of the breed. The opportunity to help someone is a gift. How this help is offered can either sustain a newcomer’s interest or crush their desire to continue.

A mentor may share with a mentee information about his or her own breeding program, provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling. A mentor may help with learning pedigrees, evaluating breeding stock, setting goals, and helping with grooming and training skills. A mentor’s role is as broad or narrow as the mentor and the mentee choose. Some relationships are brief while others may last years. Some mentees want to learn how a breeder achieved a certain success to further their own vision of the breed. Others might want to partner with a mentor in future endeavors.

A mentor is a guide, like a Sherpa who helps climbers summit Mt. Everest. An astute mentor evaluates the skill level of the aspiring breeder/exhibitor, starts at their level and bolsters their shortcomings. Leading someone as they achieve success should be as fulfilling to the mentor as to the mentee.

The aspiring novice has come to this point out of love and hope. Love for the breed and dog or dogs they currently have, and a desire to showcase those dogs. Usually, their desire exceeds their knowledge of dogs and the objectivity toward their own dogs to be successful. They need to learn that love is not enough; but, making this a tough love experience risks losing them.

Guiding someone to recognize that their beloved dog might not be a show or breeding prospect is delicate. Just as you would have a difficult time telling someone their child is physically unattractive, you should take care with your evaluation. Asking questions rather than making statements perceived as judgements is a good place to begin. What do you believe are your dog’s strengths? What would you improve? How do you see yourself doing that? Followed by this is what I see, starting with good points and moving toward what needs to be better.

Two schools of thought prevail on moving forward. If their dog is truly hopeless, they should be encouraged to keep it as a treasured pet and find a show prospect. If their dog has possibilities, pedigree notwithstanding, encourage them to use this dog as a learning opportunity for grooming, training and presentation. Mistakes will happen and should be treated as learning opportunities rather than a catastrophes. Oops, that didn’t work. Let’s do it another way. Treat challenges as opportunities in work clothes.

As the mentee gains knowledge and confidence, it’s time for questions about the future. Are you achieving your goals? Do you feel you are learning? Are you and your dog having fun doing it? If not, is it your dog or you? What do you want to do about it? Take each success, however small, and build on it. This person’s future is at stake, but so is the future of the breed.

Some newcomers may move from one mentor to another, gleaning the strengths of each. Exploring new opportunities and viewpoints should be encouraged, not resented or discouraged. Tribalism frequently drives away newcomers.

As novices move forward, they might seek a stud service or a puppy to show and breed in the future. I have always believed that it is best to look first at the potential of the person and their commitment, progress, and personal ethics above the quality of their current dog. You can always improve the dogs; changing people is much harder.

The ultimate reward is when a successful mentee says, “Thank you for trusting me.”

Cassandra de la Rosa, The American Lhasa Apso Club, Email: dlrcas@msn.com