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Interview with Breeder/Owner Handler Araceli Echavarria

Araceli Echavarria

Interview with Breeder/Owner Handler Araceli Echavarria

1. How were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?

Araceli Echavarria: My husband was looking for something to do with our sons. Hunting is a big deal in Texas, and we love dogs, so we started to research for dogs we could take hunting. In our search, we ran into a beautiful video of the Dogo Argentino breed, working together, hunting with their family. We were immediately enamored with the majestic breed and, as we researched more on it, we realized that they would be a great fit for our family. We looked for the right fit for us. It was important that we found not only dogs that would do the job, and came from a great line, but that they had the temperament to do their job and to be part of our family. And we found just that. We have been very blessed to have not only started with amazing dogs that had great temperament, form, and function, we have also been able to breed that as well.

2. How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?

Araceli Echavarria: We have been in the Dogo Argentino breed for almost seven years and I started showing them immediately as an Owner Handler. The pandemic put a little hold on our breeding program, so we bred our first litter in 2021.

3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended in-person handling seminars?

Araceli Echavarria: I have attended a few show handling classes when I have visited friends in Texas. Unfortunately, there are no handling classes anywhere near where I live. The nearest AKC club is three hours away, so that has made it very difficult for me to be involved in classes and seminars.

4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Videos? Websites? Social Media? AKC Canine College?

Araceli Echavarria: When I first started showing I would watch a lot of videos on handling, but I am very much a hands-on learner. So, I reached out to people I would meet at shows to teach me how to handle. It has been beautiful to meet other Owner Handlers who have handled dogs for way longer than I and have taken the time to teach me what they know. Some of them have become great friends and we not only enjoy showing together, we also enjoy celebrating each other’s accomplishments!

5. Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?

Araceli Echavarria: I do compete in NOHS. My female is currently ranked No. 4 and she is the No. 1 female. This year will be my first year competing in Florida’s NOHS. We are very excited about that!

6. How important is the Bred-By Class to you? How important are Specialties?

Araceli Echavarria: Bred-By has been on the back of my mind throughout my journey… although it is such a great honor to have a dog win BOB at Westminster. I sometimes focus on the fact that I am the owner handling the dog that I forget I also bred the dog. That is a point I am reminded of sometimes when the judge asks me about the dog and where she came from! Specialties are amazing! Our breed is very young as an AKC breed, but a Specialty will still bring out numbers that we don’t normally see at regular shows. So, competing in Specialties is always exciting.

7. Is it a challenge to compete with your breed as a Breeder/Owner Handler?

Araceli Echavarria: It really used to be very challenging. Again, the breed is so young to AKC (recognized only in 2020) that it was very difficult to not only have entries but also to have judges who were familiar with the breed. I can honestly say that we have seen the Dogo Argentino become more recognizable at AKC shows. More and more judges are being educated in the breed and are judging the breed. So, it is a really exciting time to show a Dogo Argentino now!

8. Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?

Araceli Echavarria: I think a reason we have learned so much about this breed is because we have chosen to allow many people in the breed to mentor us. My husband has made amazing connections with great breeders here in the US as well as in Argentina, and I have made amazing connections with great Owner Handlers who have helped me with the sport of handling. One of the biggest influences on my handling as I started showing was Aggie Wasson. I met her at a Dogo Specialty and she offered to help me with handling when I couldn’t find anyone else who would. She spent hours of her time teaching me and said that the best I could repay her would be when I would beat her in the ring! I really do love the camaraderie that Owner Handlers have and I am grateful to have met her. Since then, I have met many others who are always willing to give feedback and work together within our breed, to be able to show our beautiful dogs in the best way possible.

9. How important is the Breeder/Owner Handler to the future of the sport? To your breed?

Araceli Echavarria: In my opinion, the Breeder/OH is very important. I respect Professional Handlers and all the hard work they do. I mostly handle one to two dogs at shows and I am exhausted at the end of the day. So, I know that what Professional Handlers do is amazing! Having said that, the Breeder/OH offers an opportunity for those of us who cannot show on a regular basis, who love our dogs and the connection we have in the ring together, to go out there and compete not only with Professionals but also as Owner Handlers. It is important to note that as much as I like owners to show their dogs, in a breed like the Dogo Argentino, it is important that the Owner Handler is very aware of how to handle his or her dog in a way that will represent the
breed favorably!

10. What advice would you give to Owner Handlers who are thinking of breeding their dog(s)?

Araceli Echavarria: Make sure you are making the breed better!

11. What are your goals as a Breeder/Owner Handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?

Araceli Echavarria: Nationals!!! My GCH Lexus de Casa de la Bahia won BOB at Westminster. I would love to come home with the National win as well!

12. Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as a Breeder/Owner Handler?

Araceli Echavarria: I have quite a few funny stories… but I think one of the funniest is the time when my dog decided to go for a belly rub during examination. She loves to show and loves her treats during ring time, but she will melt if anyone baby talks to her. The judge had decided to greet her in a very sweet voice and my Lexi decided it was time for the judge to give her a belly rub. So, she dropped to her back, legs up and everything! We recovered and won something, can’t remember what, but it was an unforgettable moment!

It has been beautiful to meet other Owner Handlers who have handled dogs for way longer than I and have taken the time to teach me what they know.