Competition and Community
By Jessica Freni
It’s an inevitable aspect of any hobby or sport, competitiveness. It’s just human nature. No one likes to “lose”. We all have a lot invested in our dogs and in the sport, both financially and emotionally/mentally. Competition is not necessarily negative, the better the competition the better for ourselves, our skills, our program and our breeds.
A common sentiment surrounding conformation is the need for “thick skin”. To some degree, this is not unfair or untrue. Conformation is competitive; it’s hard to not take things personally, our placements, feedback, opinions. It’s not unlikely you will lose more than you will win, or at least as often. It’s easy to slip into bitterness or get jaded, to find excuses or blame the venue or the “politics”.
How do we balance competition with community? We need to be welcoming and encouraging, especially to adult novices. Embrace rather than isolate. Cooperate to build entries and points. Invite someone alone to join your grooming space or to lunch. Share skills- handling tips or grooming technique. Elevate those around you and offer encouragement. Feedback can be helpful, honest evaluation is a great tool, what is not beneficial is “mean girl mentality “. Assume there’s someone recording or taking pictures, be mindful of what you say and where you say it, whether ringside or online.
If you’re a novice, set yourself up for success. Start with quality mentoring; this is the foundation of your support system. Rely on a mentor to match you to a quality show prospect. Can you potentially succeed with a dog not from a show experienced breeder? Sure, but why make it harder than it has to be? Ask your mentor to help you prepare your entries, the best class for your dog, to help you regularly evaluate and assess. Ask your mentor if they can accompany you to a show or if distance is an obstacle, if they can connect you to someone in the local show/breed community. Attend handling class, not only with this help with confidence when both you and your dog have an idea of what to expect in the ring, but talk to others in class these are people in your show area. Some of the best support you can surround yourself with is friends from breeds other than your own (when you’re not in direct competition with each other). An undervalued resource for support is Clubs get involved with your local all- breed or state/ regional breed club. Surround yourself with a positive support network.
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. – Edward Everett Hale