Mentoring in the Age of Social Media

AKC GAZETTE DECEMBER 2014
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Breed Column



 Our guest columnist is breeder judge Mr. Jon Kimes


Few who are new to the dog world can appreciate the amount of knowledge and skill required to develop into a successful long-term breeder and exhibitor. The enormity of the path from “here” to “there” can only truly be appreciated by those who have persevered over many years to attain the kind of foundation required to enjoy continued success. At the same time, it seems there is no recipe, no formula, no tried-and-true procedure to develop a neophyte into an accomplished dog person.

In revisiting this topic in my mind recently, I reviewed the history of many of the people I had known through the years who were able to move to a level of expertise. Through this recounting I quickly realized that most had experienced “submersion” into the fancy. Whether it was through being a professional handler’s assistant to working in a successful breeding establishment, to coming into the fancy with a background in horses, it seemed those who are successful 25 to 40 years into the fancy had this similar history.

It is one thing to attend a lecture and  hear the gist of what you need to know, and quite another to practice that knowledge day after day after day. In such situations, a wrong step, an incorrect judgment, or a mistaken assumption are quickly addressed until transformation occurs. Your learning becomes second nature to you and so ingrained that eventually it does not require conscious thought. This molding of the serious and successful fancier isn’t the result of an instance; it is the result of coaching, practice, and more coaching.

For the fancier who comes into the  dog world a bit later in life, perhaps now with a family and other time-consuming priorities, this road through the jungle seems indiscernible. They do not feel they can participate in these submersion activities. Indeed, all of us know many fanciers who have participated in the fancy for decades and yet their true understanding and knowledge remain at the casual fancier level. While the passion may not diminish, for many of these people their joy is tarnished, and they may become bitter and live with the belief that all success must be political or unethical or unfair, otherwise they themselves would enjoy top-level success. 

Many of the older fanciers lament with fond memory the passing of the benched dog shows, claiming they learned so much by being forced to stay at the dog show all day. 

In this age, we do have the powerful tool of social media, which can provide days’ worth of topical conversation and input from many. When properly administered, such social networks can provide enormous benefit to those who truly want to move along in the journey of developing the knowledge needed to become consistently successful.

There must be controls put in place to make good use of social media as an educational forum: 

1. It must be led by someone the other fanciers respect;
2. It must not be allowed to devolve into personal opinions that cannot be defended through facts;
3. It must be kept topically focused and not allowed to wander off into the underbrush;
4. It must be mutually respectful, so participants are not emotionally at risk; and
5. It must allow new thoughts and perspectives!

Using today’s marvelous tools, we can create and grow the valuable fanciers of tomorrow. —J.K.

Many thanks to Mr. Jon Kimes for this wonderful piece.

Column editors Cynthia Smith and Jeff Welch (CymbrogiCardigans@msn.com) currently live on a small tree farm and wildlife refuge in rural North Carolina and are members of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America.


First published in the AKC Gazette Digital Edition, December 2014.

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