If you are anything like us cool kids here at TDS you’ve noticed that dog people can be… shall we say difficult, to get to know. From just plain shy to downright nasty, the dog community is as varied in temperament as the prototypical high school as portrayed in “Mean Girls”.
While I could name the cliques, it usually comes down to breed and social class and personality. That’s boring, so we’ll save you that minefield and simply go through some basic etiquette rules that will keep people from actively trying to ruin your life (at least in theory).
1) Say something nice about everyone’s dog
Channel your inner Southern Belle lead with a compliment even if you hate it. Compliment the shit out of something. No need to gush since no one likes a kiss-ass, but a cursory, accurate compliment (It helps if you mean it but sincerity isn’t really a requirement for some people) can go a long ways as a conversation starter. The best compliment you can pay a performance dog person is simply “Your dog looked so happy out there.”. While you have to mean that particular one (I own the beaten wife-heeling dog. Don’t try to placate me), it’s incredibly effective and seriously, it’s that easy and usually the start of a solid acquaintance-ship.
If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t bother faking it, but come up with something you can defend, or precede your compliment with your “outsider” status. e.g. I’m not really familiar with <aspect> but your dog’s <attribute> was <adjective>. You can head off the “Oh? What’s so gorgeous about him?”* that some pissier-than-thou types will throw at newbies to fluster and upset them.
*There’s a time and a place to educate a protegee. Teaching newbies to have an eye is different from public shaming. Learn the difference.
2) No one likes a kiss-ass
It’s one thing to be nice and complimentary, it’s another to be an ass-sucking lapdog. Friendship does not require consensus on every topic (It would be very odd if it did) and having your own opinion, and not just parroting the opinion of others is a big step in being your own person in the dog world. Some opinions are easy to form and are simple aesthetics, others involves some straight-up education and take time to learn. Take the time to learn it and don’t take someone else’s word as true gospel until you’re willing to defend that opinion in a knock-down drag out fight.
3) Discretion is the better part of not being an asshole
Honestly, people don’t want honesty. For those of us who are “bullshit challenged” it can be a struggle not to just beat the liars into the ground with the nearest blunt object. However, that is socially unacceptable and apparently illegal so we make do with discretion a.k.a Silence or if you’re good, tempered honesty. So if you’re not sure of your audience, keep it to yourself.
4) Loose lips sink (friend)ships and reputations
In the realm of honesty, is just shutting the fuck up. Sometimes shutting your mouth is the only thing to do. You will have opinions. People will do things that make you reconsider the voluntary extinction movement. And despite what your mother told you, your eyes won’t actually get stuck in that backwards rolling position. Shooting off your mouth unchecked is rarely the smart choice, particularly if you want to not have people hate you. Calling that dog a fat-ass in earshot of owner friends, even if it’s true, is bad form and not a great way to win friends or influence people. Commenting on how a dog looks depressed in the obedience ring or how you’d be embarrassed to show said dog are opinions best kept in your head and filed under B for ‘Bitchy things best unsaid”.
If you’re new, you will not have much cachet regardless. Thoughtful and well-articulated opinions will be received well, but in general a response of “And you are?” is the best you can expect to running your mouth thoughtlessly. Sometimes those people are assholes but most of the time they’re just not as impressed by you as you are. The concept of “paying your dues” is very much alive in dog events and a little respect for your predecessors and frankly, betters, goes a long way. You are nobody until you prove you are a worthwhile contributor and being conscious of your reputation is very forward thinking.
5) Respectful doesn’t mean doormat
Respect works both ways. Disagreeing with others is part and parcel of human nature. You are 100% entitled to your opinion. No one should have the capacity to make you feel badly about expressing an opinion respectfully shared in an appropriate environment. Someone screaming “Troll” at you or dismissing you off hand because they got all butt-hurt over your opinion being different than theirs is seriously not worth the mitochondrial strain of a single ATP conversion.
6) You’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re also entitled to be wrong.
You are not the Pope. Your opinions are not infallible and the world does not actually revolve around you. Be prepared to have your opinion challenged and to be forced to admit that you may not know it all. I know you may find this hard to believe, but even The Dog Snobs get things wrong sometime. Accept being wrong gracefully and sometimes, even if you’re not wrong it’s not worth the screaming hissy fit to prove your point.
7) Neutrality isn’t sexy but it’s smart.
Dog people on the whole are rabid about what they believe to be the best for our canine compatriots. If you ever want to be called every nasty name in the book bring up any hot topic dog issue (Pinch collars, Raw Feeding, Spay.Neuter) and watch the fur fly. Particularly online every disagreement is treated as some moral objective when for most of us it comes down to familiarity, efficacy and convenience.. We tend to forget that total agreement on every issue isn’t a precursor for a friendly acquaintance and as such tend to shut out everyone who disagrees before their point is even made. Public neutrality offers you several alternative options and can garner more specific helpful information from all corners. You don’t have to placate the idiots, but refraining from calling them stupid publicly until they’ve proven it beyond a reasonable doubt is usually a smart move.
8) Forgive us our trespasses
The road to being an asshole is paved with opinions and bullshit both of which fall freely from the mouths of the guilty. That being said, purely being opinionated with a bad delivery can drill holes in the little Jersey Barrier between Asshole Highway and Opinionated but generally a helpful friendly person Boulevard. Give people the benefit of the doubt if you’d like it in return and even if they are an asshole, be willing to let it go. Forgetting is something else entirely.
As an introvert with hermit qualities in combination with having the unfortunate tendency to just say what comes to mind regardless of audience, the few friendship making skills I personally retained into adulthood mostly consisted of bracelet making and token food offerings. I still find myself exceedingly uncomfortable in group situations but if I can break the ice with these general rules, anyone can. You’re welcome.
That’s what’s up.