Yes, I Learned It in Kindergarten

by Joyce Johanson

At the shopping mall the other day, I happened to see a poster with Robert Fulghum's* list of things he learned in kindergarten. For some reason, seeing that list again really "hit home." Therefore, with apologies to Mr. Fulghum, I have to say that all I needed to know about breeding and exhibiting Lhasas I too "learned in kindergarten." Fulghum's kindergarten-garnered knowledge (listed throughout this article in the color green) is appropriate to many situations in life, even to dog breeding/showing.

Look. Breeding and showing Lhasa Apsos might seem a simple thing--get a male, get a female, have some puppies...train the dog, enter a show, win a championship... However, I'm a true believer in watching and learning, reading and learning, asking and learning. Go to some shows -- more than one or two -- and look at the Lhasas being shown; think hard about what you see and ask yourself which Lhasa appealed to you most and why. Look at pictures of Lhasa Apsos (past and present) in breed books and breed magazines. Watch the AKC videotape on the breed. What attributes are considered correct? How do the dogs you have seen or perhaps own measure up? What do you want in a Lhasa? Read about pedigrees, breeding, and genetics. Look around at the vast amount of knowledge contained in books and in peoples' heads--and take advantage of it! Then, once you have learned, don't become complacent or have an "I know it all" attitude. Continue to look, listen, and learn.

Share everything. All too often, once dog people learn, they become stingy with their information. Share what you know with others -- and not just those others who buy your puppies or promote your particular line of Lhasa Apso. Grooming, handling, health, and breeding information are vital to the positive growth to the breed. If you have important knowledge, you owe it to the Lhasa Apso to share it with others, especially with newcomers who are trying to learn. Take time to talk with those who have questions at the shows, offer grooming lessons to someone whose poor little Lhasa obviously needs some correct grooming (and I'm not necessarily referring to the show Lhasa here. What about that bedraggled little pet Lhasa across town whose owner obviously tries but has no clue?).

Play fair. This is a tough one. "Dog people" and "fair play" often seem contradictory and the dog world seems to be a "do unto others as they have done unto you" place. There's a good deal of unfairness, backbiting, and at times, downright illegalities involved with showing and breeding. So you have to decide, do you succumb or do you rise above it all? Do you pass off a so-so puppy to an unsuspecting, trusting buyer for an exorbitant amount, claiming it's got "definite show potential?" Are you honest in your dealings with puppy buyers, handlers, fellow exhibitors, and those who come to use your breeding stock? Are you interested in the betterment of the breed or the promotion of yourself?

Don't hit people. In keeping with fair play, this rule simply means "don't hurt others" whether you physically knock around an opponent whose ugly mutt just won the five point major over your gorgeous Lhasa or whether your gossip harms someone's reputation as a breeder, exhibitor, or person. It also means "don't hurt the breed." You can do that through indiscriminate breeding practices, by promoting your stud dog even though he may not possess the right characteristics for a particular bitch, and by caring more about how much money you make or how many champions you have bred than you care about doing what is right and best for the future of the Lhasa Apso.

Live a balanced life. I know a lot of people whose dogs are their lives, people whose whole lives revolve so much around dogs and dog shows that they forget there's a whole world out there to appreciate and enjoy. Yes, we've all been guilty of going to dog shows on Mother's Day or missing one of our kids' big games because we were at a show. But, think about it...there are shows every weekend. And, yes, the dogs are important, but so are the people in our lives. It's necessary every once in a while to step back and examine our priorities.

Be aware of wonder. As a breeder, you are a god -- your decisions on which dog and bitch to breed affect not only one particular litter of puppies but also the lives of the people who purchase your puppies, not to mention the future of the breed itself. Be conscious of the wonder of it all. Too many breeders see puppies as little dollar signs, rather than as individuals that may have a profound effect on the future. Who's to say that that tiny 5 oz. puppy won't someday become the breed's top winner or top-producing champion? Be aware of the possibilities and the wonder of life.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. It's human nature to be competitive, but those of us who feel an obligation to the breed know that often competitiveness has to be set aside so we can work together for the betterment of the Lhasa Apso. Join a breed club, either locally or nationally, and participate with others to promote the breed and make decisions which will positively affect the breed's future. It doesn't matter if you think you're "nobody special" because you aren't some big-name breeder. If you truly care about the breed and have made yourself knowledgeable, you owe it to the breed to contribute that knowledge to others so the group can make positive and informed decisions.

Flush. Face it, there are times when it's necessary to regroup, rethink, evaluate, and call it quits whether it means deciding that wonderful litter really isn't so wonderful after all, not showing a Lhasa you had your heart set on being your next champion, or scrapping an entire breeding program that just isn't working out. You get past the mistakes and get on with reaching your goals.

Thanks, Robert Fulghum, for some great advice and food for thought!

*Robert Fulghum. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Ivy Books: New York. 1986.

Please note: Permission to reproduce and/or circulate information in this article is granted. However, the article must be disseminated in its entirety and credit must be given to Joyce Johanson, Joyslyn's Lhasa Apsos. Thanks!

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