If you’re looking to get more involved with Aussies – whether it’s breeding, activities, or simply just really mastering what you want to know about the breed, it’s key to find a mentor to show you the ropes. Mentors can put you on a path to success for your goals, and they can teach you a lot about things outside the breed, as well.
The most common way to find a mentor is to buy a dog from someone who is successfully doing what you want to be learning and is open to supporting you and your dog throughout its life and beyond. Doing your research when buying a puppy is very important to your success. Talk to a lot of people, go to trials or shows, visit litters, and find someone that works for you – their philosophy, personality, and achievements mean a lot in this game. When you buy a dog from them, a mentor will have your success be in their best interest and they’ll support you for life.
Another great way to find a mentor is to simply observe – this could be subscribing to breed magazines and perusing win results, articles, and ads, identifying people who seem to be at the top of their game; subscribing to online forums and groups and watching who says what and who seems to be someone who knows a lot about what you want to as well; or, you could simply attend shows and trials, watch, ask questions, and find yourself aligned with someone through time and diligent questioning.
One thing that does not work is participating in “group think” through Internet forums – every has an opinion and generally the strongest personality can dominate a group, determining what is “right” and what is “wrong.” Your goal in finding a mentor is finding someone who shares the values of what is “right” and “wrong” with you, and not necessarily with the mass majority.
You do not have to have simply one mentor. I personally feel I have dozens. A mentor doesn’t spend all day, every day on the phone – a mentor is someone who is open to answering your questions honestly and objectively. They are there when you need them to explain something you’re worried about or want to learn more about. This is where careful observation comes in – pay attention to who might be the right mentor for you in a given situation, and a really great, single mentor, will know when to direct you to someone else if you’re venturing into areas they aren’t confident in.
Being a good apprentice means asking questions and using critical thinking in your mentorship relationship. In turn, it also means stepping up to the plate when someone else comes to you seeking an apprenticeship from you. Mentorship isn’t effective unless it’s cyclical. And remember, you can mentor someone while being mentored: we all are continually learning.
A wonderful sentiment about the mentorship relationship from Shelly Hollen-Wood, Shalako Aussies, and someone I count in the dozens of mentors who made themselves available to me:
A good mentor can recognize the importance of setting broad objectives that transcend day-to-day goals. They teach the skill of looking beyond the imperatives of the moment to consider where the breed is now, where it is headed and, more importantly, where it should be going. An ideal mentor understands that each breeding undertaken is a means to a long term goal, not merely a formula to be followed for immediate success.
A good mentor is aware of the world outside his or her own breeding program. As a scientist must be aware of developments outside their specialty field that may impact their own research; a good mentor maintains an awareness of developments in other breeding programs, in the canine community as a whole, and makes adjustments as necessary.
A good mentor recognizes the importance of networking and the ability to make, maintain, and benefit from associations with other breeders and owners who participate in a variety of events, organizations, and levels of competition. These relationships are built and maintained over an extended period of time and provide information, insight, problem-solving, and breed-enhancing ideas. An effective mentor not only participates in networking, but understands how networking can benefit the apprentice. A mentor ensures that the apprentice learns the importance of such networks, so that he or she can begin to establish his or her own networks.
Attitude matters immensely and a good mentor is competent, effective, and possesses a positive attitude about the goals and objectives of mentoring. A mentor believes understands that students substantially benefit from participation, and enthusiastically shares these beliefs with the apprentice. Without a good attitude and mentoring skills, all the breeding success in the world can’t be translated to the apprentice.
A good mentor is recognized by his or her peers as competent, resourceful, perceptive, and dedicated. Mentors exhibit respect, loyalty, integrity, compassion, competence, commitment and candor. A mentor carries these qualities in their daily lives and guides by setting a positive example, through encouragement and open communication. A person who lacks recognition among their peers may actually hinder the development path of a apprentice.
Mentors not only are successful themselves, but they also foster success in others.
Today, I am grateful for the mentorship of those who offer their time, hearts, minds and experience to help guide towards becoming a better person and breeder.