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If you are considering becoming a mentor for an aspiring breeder, first I would say congratulations and thank you for doing your part to keep all that we love growing and flourishing. Next, there are things I would like you to consider.

Becoming a mentor should not be undertaken without a lot of soul-searching on your part. Are you really ready to not only share your knowledge, but also open your mind to someone who has her own dreams and ideas?

Becoming a mentor is very similar to raising a child. It is your job to give this newcomer all of your wisdom and guide her as she makes their way. After all, you have traveled these roads before her. You have bred multiple litters and seen all that can go wrong, as well as the joy in finding that perfect breeding. You have probably dealt with a lot of different people, some who have treated you dishonestly. You have placed multitudes of puppies and know how to pick that perfect home, be it show or pet.

By sharing this wisdom, you hope to help this newcomer avoid some of your mistakes and gain from your successes. Maybe you have hopes that she will someday continue your line in a way that can make you proud.

Just like a parent, however, you must be ready to let her go out on her own. She may make mistakes, and she may get hurt or even hurt someone else. It is okay for her to falter, because you have given her a solid foundation to fall back on.

As a mentor you must understand that every breeder has her own vision; she was not meant to copy you, but to create something totally new. You can take pride in knowing that you shared your gift and have made your breed stronger.

All too often the mentor-student relationship fails. People who once shared a great friendship become angry and drift apart. The strong emotions associated with dog breeding can get in the way of people seeing the big picture.

Just as in a parent-child relationship, there must be mutual respect and at some point a letting-go. The relationship must change to allow for individual goals and beliefs. Instead of letting the relationship fail, a mentor needs to redefine her role. Instead of trying to lead, she can try listening and supporting without judgment. Faith in the character of the student must come into play at some point.

If ego can be put aside, the role of mentor is one of the greatest gifts any breeder can give the breed. Do you have what it takes? It is not always the easy way, but being a mentor can also end up being a gift to yourself. Ask any parent. —Janelle Smedley, English Toy Spaniel Club of America, June 2013 AKC Gazette
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This article was originally published in AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today ($12.95 for 6 issues, including digital edition) to get expert tips on training, behavior, health, nutrition, and grooming, and read incredible stories of dogs and their people.
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