AKC Gazette
Lhasa Apso Column
September 2022

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” No one like to lose. From candidates seeking high office to young kids playing games, it’s in our DNA to aspire to be the first, the best, the foremost – the winner! Adrenaline is the most powerful drug on the planet, and winning fuels it. Not winning brings disappointment, anger, feelings of failure and sometimes even despair, depending on the mental attitude of the person.

People participate in the sport of showing dogs because they want to have fun – translate that: to win. But only one dog of hundreds, even thousands, takes home the best in show ribbon. For each of the seven groups, only one dog out of hundreds is awarded group one. And at the breed level, only one is chosen best of breed.

Deep within each of us is an abiding belief that we can do it – be the best. But how does one sustain interest when the odds of losing are overwhelmingly higher than winning? This question may be at the heart of why we lose so many newcomers to the sport. Like any serious endeavor, planning is essential.

Goals: Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned pro, it helps to have a plan. The first goal should be to have fun – both for you and your dog. Setting realistic goals and expectations defines what you will consider success. Take whatever small success you can achieve then use it as a stepping-stone to bigger gains.

Commitment: How much money and time are you willing and able to commit? Hard work can compensate for some of the financial resources, but someone without talent who works hard will beat lazy talent every time. Establish a budget and stick to it. Put grooming and training requirements on your calendar and keep those appointments as you would an appointment with your boss. Keep your goals for success within the level of your commitment.

Learning: Part of success is learning. Find a good mentor. Watch, listen and learn. Set a goal to learn something new at every dog show. It might be about your dog, your breed or yourself. Find any opportunity to expand your knowledge base. Knowledge is power and leads to progress. You might watch a handler manage a particular problem with a dog and incorporate that technique into your training protocol or observe a master groomer for a few minutes and determine whether you can improve your technique. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, just do it at a time when the person you’re asking is not rushed. The best approach is to ask when it would be a good time to ask questions.

Expectations: Long-term goals keep you going. Short-term expectations are what get you there. Short-term expectations require redefining success – making losing worthwhile. Your long-term goal might be to finish the dog you are showing. In the short-term, identify what is impeding progress. Perhaps your dog needs to improve ring behavior. If, on a given day, your dog behaves better but does not win, don’t consider that a loss. Rather, you have successfully taken an important step toward fulfilling your goal.

Reassessment: Goals and expectations aren’t cast in stone. They should be revisited periodically to determine whether they need revision upward or downward. Goals met too easily were too low; consistently hitting a brick wall might signal it’s time to reevaluate things. It might be the dog, conditioning, presentation or bad timing.

When we learn from our losses, we have not failed; we only fail if we quit. Adversity is opportunity in work clothes. It’s time to get to work and experience the thrill of winning – and defeat.

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