by Bob Clyde and Marianne Kehoe
As breeders, owners and enthusiasts we all have it. Every time the phone rings or an e-mail arrives or we are stopped in a public place – and we are asked about our dogs – we have the opportunity to make a positive impression. We have the chance to share our enthusiasm, appreciation, and knowledge with others who may not know much, but who have taken the time and effort to make honest inquiries. We can explain what our breed was bred to do, why it looks like it does, how it interacts with its surroundings and people and maybe we can help people decide if it is a breed that is right for them.
And every time we sell a pup to a person – whether they are new to the breed or a long time owner – we have the opportunity to enhance their [Shih Tzu] experience. By encouraging people to stay in touch and by taking the initiative to do that ourselves, we show commitment to our breed and to the people who love theirs. These are the sorts of interactions that leave people with a good impression of “dog people”.
Probably we have all dealt with people who just don’t have a clue as to how to get started. Openings like “How much do you charge?”, “Are your dogs healthy?”, “I need one in time for Christmas.”, can place a strain on our otherwise sunny and civil dispositions. The urge to cut the inquiry short may be overwhelming. The alternative is to dig deep and find that last bit of patience to ask some questions and to impart some helpful guidance. After all – the person may not know the first thing about the process of dealing with people truly committed to their breed. You have the opportunity to educate and to help the person understand what the real questions and concerns should be.
It’s just a little thing, but what a difference it can make. It could be that to that person you represent your breed, your club, your sport. It could be that the person is trying to decide why to buy from a breeder and not from a pet store or over the internet. It could be that your patience, knowledge and kindness make such a difference that a puppy from a responsible breeder or from breed club rescue finds a good home.
And let’s not forget the dogs we sold whenever. We should be concerned and proactive about health and behavior issues that are reported to us – whether the dog is 15 months or 15 years old. Our puppy people should be encouraged to participate in our upcoming [Shih Tzu] health survey. The objective of the [ASTC] – as with any AKC club – is to preserve and protect our breed. Take that responsibility seriously and encourage others to do the same. Share knowledge, be open and honest in all our dealings with the public and we safeguard both our club and our breed’s reputation. Knowledge and honesty are powerful tools we can use to do good things.
NOTE:This article (in which we have substituted “Shih Tzu” for “Irish Terrier”) first appeared in the Irish Terrier breed column in the February 2011 issue of the AKC Gazette and appears here with permission; to subscribe to the Gazette, go to AKC Publications