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  • Writer's pictureCara Ryckman

Are We Nice? By Cara Ryckman

I am not a good salesman. I absolutely HATE selling. I don’t like talking on the phone to someone I don’t know. I am very serious about my breed. I love Chihuahuas, and I do not like my breed to be exploited by the pet money breeders. I find that I get absolutely cranky about callers inquiring about “teacups” and “appleheads,” terms that money breeders in Chihuahuas use to sell for high prices. I was griping on facebook about the fact that no matter what I say, the caller is just convinced they are correct about teacups and appleheads; a breeder friend of mine pointed out, “Well that’s why people are so convinced they are right about teacups and appleheads. The show breeders are nasty to them and come off as stuck up and pretentious. The pet breeders are really NICE.” Nice pet breeders? What? It got me thinking.

Nice? I thought about that statement. Pet breeders are nice. Well we are nice! Aren’t we? I mean…aren’t we? We’re nice to each other, our peers…usually. We’re nice when someone calls and says all the right things. We’re nice when someone calls who has a reference we know, or someone we have met before that we know about. Are we nice to a person who calls that we don’t know, who uses terms that trigger us?

I bought a new car right before Christmas. I went to two dealerships, as I had not made my mind up between a Cadillac and what I will call “Luxury Car B”. Both are awesome cars. The Luxury Car B guy would not let me drive the car, which made me feel he thought I couldn’t afford it. He gave me facts and figures and gave me a nice shiny pamphlet about the car I was looking at. He corrected me (a bit condescendingly) on a fact I mentioned about the engine, like I was less than smart for not knowing. At Cadillac, I was welcomed as a friend. The lady who sold me my car cared about what I was looking for. She not only let me drive the car I was there to see, she also made sure I got to drive another car to compare, a car that she liked very much that I had never heard of. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but I could tell she really listened to me because it had options on it that were important to me. She never made me feel like I wasn’t smart, not once did she talk condescendingly to me even when I forgot the name of the car I was there to see. Andrea is awesome. She messaged me throughout the deal, and answered every question. Whether it’s true or not, I felt she really wanted me to have exactly what I was looking for. On the other hand, I don’t even remember what the name is of the guy at the other dealership. When I buy my next car, if Cadillac makes a type like it, I will be going to Andrea. And while there were some technical issues like a bigger backseat that led to my decision, a lot of my decision was based on the fact that Andrea was NICE.

Thinking of how this translates to selling a Chihuahua, I think perhaps I’ve been more like the Luxury Car B guy. It has been more important to me to correct someone on “teacup” or on “applehead” than to listen to what they are really wanting. I have probably sounded condescending. They probably didn’t care they had incorrect terminology. I assumed because they used those words that they were not a good home without investigating further. I corrected them. I did what I felt was right for the BREED and for my dogs, which was to stop that teacup myth in its tracks and to make sure they knew that the standard ONLY called for the apple head and that anything else was just not correct. In my desire to educate, I don’t feel I have sounded very nice. I have very likely made judgments about the person solely on the use of those words. I have probably not listened to what they were saying they wanted, but just made sure I got to tell them what I wanted.

I went back to my friend. “So,” I asked her, “how do you handle when someone says they want a teacup?” She explained she would ask what size range they were looking for. Often someone wanting a teacup is just repeating a word they have heard. She said she has had someone say “Oh, under ten pounds.” I thought about this, I have definitely had someone think six pounds was plenty “teacup” for them. But, there are certainly those callers who think they need a one pound dog in their home of six kids and two Great Danes? Yes, but my friend explains it to them in a nice way, and suggests a more appropriately sized dog for their household. Oh.

My friend told me that many people who call her have already talked to quite a few Chihuahua breeders. And usually people have not been “nice.” Like me, they have heard trigger words that set off that need to say the right words or to explain that those are money breeder words. Money breeders make responsible breeders mad. Mad and frustrated.

In my tirade that produced this discussion, I was coming up with a prewritten sheet to send out to initial inquiries if they mentioned those words that explained it all without me having to take my time to write it all down. I have sent it out a few times now. I have not had one single person go forward and buy a puppy after receiving it. I did have one say, “Thanks for sending that, but do you have any teacups?” It didn’t make one bit of difference. It didn’t educate. It obviously made some people irritated or even mad, as I never heard from them again. At the very least, it didn’t even phase them. It accomplished my goal of not having to spend my time talking to people who wouldn’t change their minds, but it never occurred to me that maybe I am getting hung up on semantics and that my attitude frankly is not pleasant. Not only did it not accomplish the goal to educate, it did not accomplish the goal of not having the person go buy a teacup – I am sure when they decided I was a jerk, they moved right along to NICE money breeder A who would never make them feel like an idiot. Oops.

Am I stupid because I didn’t know how many liters I wanted an engine to be? No! It’s not important to me. I knew I wanted a car that could get out of the way if it needed to. They know they want a small dog. They know they prefer the rounder headed look to the Taco Bell dog. Is it so different?

How do kennel clubs sometimes treat the new person who comes in? Are we NICE when someone attends our meeting who is not a known show person? Are we looking for those key words to tell us they are not “one of us?”

What about Meet The Breeds? There are a few forward thinking kennel clubs out there now who are making a concentrated effort to get the general public back to looking at dog shows as something awesome to attend. I wrote in “Breeders In Hiding Part 2” about how Hot Springs Kennel Club was wildly successful in getting the general public to come to their shows in 2017. I read on a facebook group where some folks were discussing another kennel club that had the general public attending, and they were griping about people asking questions and touching their dogs without asking. Understandably annoying things as we are trying to get our dogs ready and into the ring for competition, but do you think those people perceived dog show people as “NICE” after that encounter?

This is actually a point where we can win. Animal rights/rescue people are not necessarily perceived as being NICE. When a family contacts a rescue, often they are told they can’t adopt because they have children or another animal. Sometimes, like us, the rescue people may be awesome people but they are burned out to keywords as well – they hear something and get an attitude, just like we do.

The most amazing thing I have seen lately since Hot Springs was the National Championship Dog Show. Wow did AKC do some awesome things to educate with that show!!! I was cheering. I have heard people talking about that show who are not at all involved in dog showing. People watched, and enjoyed all of the extra information. I have been in showing for 40 years and I decided to check out nosework after seeing the couple explain how much they enjoy it with their dogs.

We had in the 90’s just about educated the public on what a responsible breeder is vs. what a pet breeder or puppy mill was. People were getting it. Before Adopt Don’t Shop where all breeders suddenly have a scarlet letter on their chests, and things started going crazy, the general public was getting a clue. We have to turn it back around. If it’s NICE we are not being, maybe we need to rethink ourselves. Are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Is it so important to be right about teacups and appleheads that we are driving the general public right to that pet breeder that we used to be teaching them to avoid?

It’s not to me. I’m going to have to make some changes!

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