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For better or for worse, the ways we communicate have been changed forever by social media. Snail mail, faxes (remember those?), and long-distance telephone calls have largely been replaced by the ease and speed of online chatting. Still, convenience is not without its pitfalls. For novices and experienced fanciers alike, there are smart ways to benefit from social media, and more questionable ways to participate.

Educational Opportunities Abound

Newcomers to our sport can take full advantage of unlimited educational opportunities on social media. While resourceful novices will join their local all-breed kennel club and national parent club (or regional breed club), to network and find a mentor, social media allows you to follow many breed clubs and exhibitors’ groups around the world. You can read posts from breed authorities, groomers, veterinarians and judges, and learn from photos and pedigrees without having to fly to international specialties or even find a postage stamp. Joining a dozen or more clubs would be costly, and their newsletters are probably published only four times a year.

Beyond your own breed, you will glean much knowledge from the American Kennel Club website you are currently visiting, as well as from the websites of health organizations, online magazines, and kennel clubs, both global and national. You can chat with experts and learn so much about every aspect of dogdom.

If you are thinking about purchasing a new puppy, or breeding your bitch for a litter of your own, you will find photos, videos, and pedigrees at your fingertips. Some breeds, while stuck at low-entry status in this country, are flourishing in other parts of the world, and social media will allow you to access new bloodlines and meet important breeders.

Beware Online Bashing

While joining breeder groups on social media and beginning to show in conformation, it might be tempting for novices to investigate the various groups that rank judges. We have our share of masochists and pessimists in the sport, as does every other recreational activity; folks who always see the glass as half empty and are quick to trash judges rather than look objectively at how their dog stacked up against the competition on a given day. You don’t need that negativity in your life. Avoid the complainers and the conspiracy theorists. If you’re enjoying the sport, stay upbeat, do the best job you can in the ring, hang out and have a meal with your dog-show friends, and remember there’s always another dog show tomorrow.

Keeping up with Your Peers

For longtime breeder-exhibitors, social media provides an easy way to keep up with your fellow fanciers around the world. Back in the day, we could only rely on print magazines to see what other breeding programs were producing, and read the results of specialty shows.  Today, we are spoiled by videographers who post live footage of important shows in real time, along with marked catalog pages. What a gift!

Learn From the Comfort of your Sofa

It is a modern-day marvel to learn from renowned doctors, geneticists and judges as we sip a beverage and look at our phones or mobile devices. Whether it’s the latest in repro technology or the speedy dissemination of club minutes or a revised breed standard, the information arrives instantly.

Visuals and graphics make learning interesting and fun. It’s wonderful to learn about movement through videos, including footage of breed greats that predate many of today’s exhibitors. Names on a pedigree come to life before our eyes.

Marketing Made Easy

Decades ago, breeders advertised news of an upcoming litter in print publications. Several months down the road, photos of the puppies would run in a later ad. Interested buyers would request photos and videos, that were sent at considerable expense and might arrive in a week’s time. Today, savvy breeders post weekly photos and videos online of their puppies. The ease with which we can view one another’s dogs today, at home and in the show ring, is extraordinary.

Tagging and Oversharing

It’s naïve to think that breeders, exhibitors, handlers and judges who are lifelong friends would refrain from public communication on social media. With that said, discretion is always required, to maintain good sportsmanship and encourage maximum participation in the sport. Over-the-top gushing in posts, sending requests to judges to “like” a kennel’s Facebook page, and tagging two dozen judges in a single post of a show photo are all examples of shameless self-promotion that should be avoided at all costs. Use common sense and don’t wait for the cease-and-desist letter from a red-faced judge, or even worse sanctions.

The convenience and value of social media are undeniable. Enjoy the online ride while respecting the rules of the road.

Allan Reznik has been an Afghan Hound fancier since the early 1970s and also owns and exhibits Tibetan Spaniels. He is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster, who has served as editor-in-chief of several national dog publications. He appears regularly on radio and TV discussing all aspects of responsible animal ownership. Reznik is an AKC permit judge of Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Tibetan Spaniels.

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