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THE LIFECYCLE OF THE DOG FANCIER | Facebook
By: Keith Twineham
The lifecycle of the dog fancier is based on personal observations and beliefs. It is not to say that this work is not applicable to the way things are, but it is not necessarily, in any way, real or intended to depict any person. My belief is that the maturation of a dog fancier from their earliest start through their life in dogs can be divided into four distinct phases of development. These are: The Novice, the Expert, the Student, and the Master. Or, as I like to put it "The novice becomes the expert, the expert becomes the student, and finally, maybe, the student becomes the master."
PHASE 1 : THE NOVICE. Everyone has been here. This is where we all started. We obtained our first purebred dog, and have decided to do something with it. What exactly, we don't know. So, we go to a dog show. This looks like fun. "My breeder sold me this show puppy, and by golly, I'm going to go out in the world and show everyone what a great dog I have". Showing looks easy, anyone can do it. Does this sound familiar? How do you recognize the Novice? The Novice is the person with the armband on the wrong arm, the person standing by the entrance to the ring while the steward calls their number over and over, or the person trying desperately to stack an untrained dog, unknowing that the judge has motioned them to move out repeatedly. Finally, the person behind them tells them to move. This and many other traits identify the Novice. Gradually, the Novice starts to get the hang of it. They develop coordination and confidence. Through training and practice, through stumble and fall, they progress. Maybe they finish a dog, maybe not. They usually have a litter in this time, so that they can refer to themselves as being "a Breeder". As this phase only lasts a year or two, most people make it through this phase. Finally, they reach a point where they think they know everything about the dog fancy. They now progress to the second phase of development, that of the Expert. Little do they know how little they really know! Making the transition to the Expert phase is not a specific point in time defined by either the person or of other persons. It just sort of occurs.
PHASE 2 : THE EXPERT. This second phase of development, that of the Expert, is marked by various traits. Since this "instant expert", or as they are sometimes known "the two year wonders", know everything about dogs and exhibiting, they start to tell others how to handle their dogs. They start to critique dogs to others, even though the other person may know more than them. But, since they know it all, they think that they know better. They know everything about dogs in pedigrees. They can go on for hours about how this dog throws this or that. They tend to tell you everything that is wrong with a dog, not the good features. The average Expert stays in this phase for a few years. At the end of that time, at about five years total, one of two things occurs; either the person succumbs to the Five Year Burnout and leaves the fancy, or they realize that they don't know it all, and start to really seek out knowledge. Few people make it to this point, statistics say that most quit in this time. Transition to the next or Student phase is by a personal conscious decision. This decision, though not instantaneous, is one made by the person themselves, not by others. This is an important distinction. They now realize how little they really know, but have decided to learn more. It should be noted that my use of the term "Five Year Burnout" is to describe that period in time where a person may have faced adversity with a dog, faced failure of a dog to make it competitively, failure of a breeding, or they just get tired of it all. This is the time where most quit. They are unable or unwilling, to hang in there through the tough times. They think everything is unfair or stacked against them. They just give up and quit.
PHASE 3 : THE STUDENT. This phase, the Student phase, is without doubt the most important developmental period in the lifecycle of a truly devoted, long term dog fancier. It is not only critical to the fancier, it is necessary to the long term health and vitality of every breed. These people are the true "Seekers of Knowledge" with regards to a given breed. How do you recognize this stage in a fancier? These are the fanciers who branch out into other aspects of the breed and their inherent abilities. They accept other points of view without trying to disprove any alternate idea as it relates to the breed involved. They go out of their way to attend seminars and meetings to discuss the present and future of the breed. These people don't spout information like cannon fodder, yet are there with solid information when questioned. They typically may offer multiple suggestions for resolution of a particular problem, not a 'single hard solution'. They know that a particular problem may have many solutions, all of which may be valid. These are the people that sit quietly by ringside, observing, but not gathering a crowd in the process, while still willing to give opinions if asked. They tend to try and see good features in individual dogs, while still maintaining an intolerance for features or problems that will damage the long term health and uniqueness of the breed. People that have made the transition to this phase of development are truly here for the long run. They know that ups and downs, good times and bad, are part of life with dogs. This phase can last a lifetime, as can learning as much as possible about any subject. They know there is always more to learn. They know that no person can know everything there is to know about their breed. Finally, the transition to the fourth and final stage occurs to a select few Students who have reached a level of knowledge that makes them stand above other students. They are the persons whose opinions are actively sought after. An individual does not make the transition to the Master phase, the fancy itself elevates this person to this peak of participation in a breed. One can not elevate ones self to this final phase.
PHASE 4 : THE MASTER. This Master phase is critical to the breed and to the development of Students of a breed. These are the "Keepers of the Flame of Knowledge concerning a breed". The duty of a Master is to hold and impart knowledge to others. The true Master does this freely and without reservation. They are typically, the most sought after judges of a breed, because fanciers hold them in high esteem. Their opinions and actions can directly affect the breed, therefore they are the most diligent with regards to their affect on the future of a breed. They, themselves, are constantly learning more as they help to move a breed into the future. They know what needs to be known, but always strive for more. The Master phase lasts for life, these individuals will stay with the breed for a lifetime.
CONCLUSION: The Four Phases described above boil down to the following: A person arrives on the scene without knowledge (the Novice). After a short period of time learning the basics of the fancy and the breed, they by nature, transition to the stage where they think they now know it all (the Expert). If the person then stays with the fancy through thick and thin, they begin to realize that they need more knowledge. They make a personal decision to not espouse themselves as experts, but rather they begin to truly learn. They set out on a lifetime search for knowledge (the Student). Finally, after a long period of knowledge gathering, a very select few begin to be approached for their knowledge. Students seek them out for advice and information. The fancy and other Students of a breed elevate this individual to Master status, as they, themselves cannot do so. Remember this: We all started as a Novice, and shortly became an instant Expert. Then, after facing adversity we made the decision to become a Student, and finally, if our fellow fanciers seek us out for advice, we become a Master. I hope and pray that many people make it to, at least, the Student phase. A very few will become Masters, and the breed will not just survive adversity, but will flourish.