One of the most difficult lessons to learn and accept in our sport is that it will sometimes be necessary to rethink our decisions. However costly those decisions might have been, it usually proves even more costly to ignore the warning signs and stubbornly forge ahead. When we are working with genes Mother Nature often gets the last laugh.
Also, because there is so much subjectivity in the sport, we will regularly encounter negative individuals who do not play well with others. That may require us to reconsider our strategy if we want to continue on a positive path.
The need to start over can affect us all, novices and experienced breeder-exhibitors alike. Let’s look at five scenarios and see how we can benefit from a do-over.
Your Show Puppy Doesn’t Turn Out
Unless you are purchasing your show dog as an adult, all an honest breeder can offer you is a promising puppy with show potential, that is well socialized, and comes from a sire and dam that have proven themselves in the show ring to be good representatives of the breed.
Despite all your loving attention, the puppy’s bite can go off, it can grow too tall or not tall enough to meet the standard, or other anatomical details can rear their ugly head to derail the show career you had envisioned. Sometimes you can work around a few cosmetic flaws. Other times, a single fault is just too glaring to take into the show ring. It’s happened to all of us.
Typically, a good breeder won’t want to lose a sincere fancier and so will probably offer you another, better dog to show.
The Over-Controlling Mentor
All of us encourage novices to join their local kennel club and find a successful breeder-exhibitor who will serve as an invaluable mentor. Good mentors allow you to learn, grow, and absorb the knowledge of other successful breeders, exhibitors, and judges. Sadly, sometimes a mentor will feel threatened by your desire to leave the nest and seek information from other people.
As you become more educated about your breed, you will recognize quality in other breeders’ dogs. No one should stand in the way of your growth. If a mentor resents your friendships with other people in the breed and the sport, it may be wise to politely end the relationship.
Right Dog, Wrong Sport
As enjoyable as conformation showing is, it can also get intensely competitive. Most of us get a little nervous before we enter the ring at a big, important show, but we quickly overcome the jitters. However, no one can get you to magically relax.
If, after a few experiences of showing, you always find it an ordeal, more stressful than fun, you may want to look into other disciplines for you and your dog to enjoy in a more relaxed atmosphere. Obedience, Agility, Rally, lure coursing, field events—all are fast-paced but definitely more casual than doing Conformation in a shirt and tie or donning a St. John power suit. Find the discipline that best suits your temperament.
If your budget allows, putting your dog out with an experienced professional handler would be an alternative if you still want to pursue Conformation.
Those All-Important Health Tests
For a breeder, few events are as discouraging as finding out that your winning bitch or potential stud dog does not pass important health tests. We’ve all experienced that heartbreak at one time or another.
Once you accept the fact that they won’t be part of your breeding program, there are several options open to you. You might spay/neuter them and place them in a performance or pet home, or, if they are a particularly fine example of a rare breed, you might wish to still occasionally show them to keep an excellent representative of the breed in front of the judges and other breeders.
Take heart, we breeders are pretty resilient about dealing with bad news, so the disappointment will lessen with time.
Cutting Your Losses
No one sets out to breed a so-so litter. But even a litter that was years in the planning and looked like solid gold on paper can produce less-than-stellar results in the whelping box. Even with running on a few puppies for months, wanting and hoping for them to improve won’t likely make it happen.
Cut your losses, and let those companion and performance homes on your waiting list know that you have some very special puppies for them. Not all breedings pan out as we would like them to.
Disappointments are an inevitable part of our sport. Savor the highs, get through the lows, and always have a Plan B in your back pocket.