It never fails that sometime during a session a student brings his dog up and asks “that” question, “What do you think of my dog?” I usually tell the student I know nothing about his particular breed and suggest he ask someone who shows his breed. Unfortunately, we are running into more and more conformation enthusiasts who have forgotten the meaning of the word tact. To prepare the unknowing student we will tell him that he may get a very frank answer that may offend him. He is told to expect all of the dog’s faults to be pointed out with few of the good points mentioned. We may also suggest he take his dog to a match and see what others of his breed look like compared to his. What we never do is give a quality judgment on a student’s dog. It is our job to teach a student how to train his dog. While we may have enough knowledge to make a rough judgment, this is not done in class. Too often a student will begin treating his dog differently if he finds out that it is not a good specimen of the breed. He may become harsher and more impatient. This begins to destroy the bond between dog and owner.
This same policy holds true for medical problems. We do not give medical advice; we only suggest the student check with his veterinarian. Here again, some students do not like to be told that their dog may have some physical limitation. Unfortunately, this limitation may well affect the dog’s training and unless it is recognized, the owner may become even more frustrated with the dog’s lack of progress. In these situations we try to point out types of training which would not be hampered by the dog’s disabilities. For example, a dog that is going blind can still track as can one that is unable to jump.
Students love their dogs and have a lot of pride wrapped up in them. We try never to render an opinion or judgment which may destroy this love. If the student begins to think poorly of his dog and we have caused this feeling, we may well lose a student and begin making life hard on that dog.
©1980 W. Herbert Morrison, III