First published in
the official newsletter of the Basset Hound Club of America
Reprinted with the permission of the author
by Claudia Waller Orlandi, Ph.D.
defines a mentor as a wise and faithful counselor. In the
sport of dogs, the most sought after mentors are successful,
established breeders with years of experience who realize the
importance of passing the torch to younger breeders eager to carry
on their valuable gene pool. Whether you desire to be an active
breeder of Basset Hounds or an avid competitor in obedience or in
the field, the mentors who give you your start will have a lasting
impact on your future success. In fact, when you realize that most
mentors are often the source of your foundation stock, the choice of
a mentor can be as important as understanding your breed standard or
learning to apply basic genetic principles to your breeding program.
For many fanciers, one of the great mentors in the sport of dogs in
the 20th century is the famous Basset Hound breeder, Mrs.
Lynwood (Peg) Walton of Lyn-Mar Acres Basset Hound Kennels.
Beginning in the 1940ís, Peg Waltonís Lyn-Mar Acres Basset Hounds
were to greatly influence the development of the Basset Hound in the
United States as well as in numerous foreign countries. One has only
to study the early pedigrees of many of the most famous Basset Hound
kennels to see that Mrs. Walton was a mentor for several decades of
TYPES OF MENTOR RELATIONSHIPS
Listed below are three types of mentor relationships as defined by
Patricia Craige, well-known Norwegian Elkhound breeder and the
author of Born to Win: Breed to Succeed (1997).
- SEEK THE GUIDANCE OF A
SUCCESSFUL, ESTABLISHED BREEDER, WHO YOU RESPECT MORALLY AND
The best of these are established, long-time breeders and are
dedicated individuals that you trust as people. They are clear,
objective thinkers who have a plan and consistency in their
breeding programs. Their dogs successfully compete at regional
and national specialty levels as well as in the all-breed arena.
Hooking up with one person such
as this can put you on a "fast track" and speed up your success.
Since you are putting all of your
eggs in one basket, it is important to be certain that this is
the right way to go.
- LEARN FROM AS MANY MASTER
BREEDERS AND EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES AS POSSIBLE
Instead of committing to
one mentor, work with several expert breeders and expose
yourself to as many educational experiences as possible.
Invaluable resources are books, breed publications and videos.
Topics to study should include: your breedís official standard
and illustrated standard, basic principles of canine genetics,
canine anatomy and movement, whelping and canine diseases.
Attend specialties and seminars and ask for hands-on work with
several respected mentor-breeders.
Gathering knowledge from more than one source can provide a more
complete picture relative to your breed and help you make better
You expose yourself to scattered and contradictory opinions that
can lead to confusion and indecision.
- COMBINE APPROACHES ONE AND TWO!
A third possibility is to
combine the above two options, working very closely with one
established breeder as you continue to expand your knowledge by
exposing yourself to as many other educational sources a
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP!
One of the
biggest mistakes new-comers to the breed can make is to impulsively
hook up with the first breeder with whom they come in contact.
Before they realize it, this person has become a self-appointed
mentor. It may or may not have been the right choice. Other
- Attending as many specialties as
possible as well as your breedís national specialty show. These
are the best places to meet some of the established breeders and
see dogs they have bred.
- Reading! In the Basset Hound
breed, refer to works by Mercedes Braun, Nicholas and Foy and
Margaret Walton. These books include numerous photographs which
show the style of Basset Hound produced by various kennels. Such
information may help guide you in your choice of a mentor.
- Deciding what your goals are.
Would-be mentors want to know what they are dealing with. Are
you interested in just showing dogs to their championships or do
you want to breed?
- "Follow your head over your
Really liking someone does not
mean that person would be the best mentor. It is especially
important not to choose as a mentor someone who reinforces any
already incorrect concepts that you might have. People with
charismatic, winning personalities can easily sway others into
their way of thinking. Be sure they are competent and
- "Avoid negative personalities
who trash everyone but
Beware of the individual who
never has a good word to say about other competitors or their
dogs. Eventually this type of negativity will rub off on you and
ultimately reflect badly on your dogs.
- "Seek out learned people who are
upbeat and personable."
The mentor/student relationship
can be as emotional as a marriage. Avoid mentors who are overly
sensitive and insecure. No matter how knowledgeable a person may
be, the stress of walking on egg shells is not worth it.
- "Donít expect something for
Mentors have devoted years of
hard work and endured numerous setbacks to get where they are.
Offer them your services whenever possible, whether it be
helping care for dogs, assisting at shows or whelping litters.
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, YOU ARE STILL
BASICALLY ON YOUR OWN
No matter how closely you work with a mentor, you are ultimately the
one responsible for your decisions and the day will come when you
are on your own. Perhaps the shared experiences and advice you
receive from your teachers will prepare you to become one of your
breedís future mentors.
Craige, P. 1997.Born to Win: Breed to Succeed. Wilsonville,