Interview with Breeder/Owner Handler Melanie Cardell
I am a retired university professor who grew up on a farm in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. I now live outside Atlanta, Georgia, with my seven Standard Schnauzers. I have had dogs since I was 18 months old. Across the years, I have had a Boston Terrier, Collie, Australian Shepherd, and Miniature & Standard Schnauzers. I have shown and titled my dogs in Rally, Scent Work, FastCAT, and Lure Coursing as well as Conformation. I belong to both SSCA and SSCC.
I have also shown dogs to Conformation Championships in Canada. Except for one youngster, all of my current dogs have titles at the front and back of their names. At last count, my bred-by dogs have attained over 70 AKC titles, and some serve as service and therapy dogs as well.
When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Melanie Cardell: I purchased my first AKC-registered dog, a Miniature Schnauzer, when I graduated from college. I had them up until 2019 and I did Rally and Canine Good Citizen awards with them. In 2005, I acquired a nine-month-old female Standard Schnauzer and was convinced to show her in Conformation. That experience hooked me, and I am now a Breeder of Merit Bronze.
How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Melanie Cardell: After my first Standard Schnauzer finished her championship, I showed her for fun in 2006 before the National Owner-Handled Series began. I have consistently shown my bred-by dogs for the past six years. My first Standard Schnauzer litter was born in 2008.
Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Melanie Cardell: I have had the immense joy to attend a Tom Lams seminar, and I re-watch his DVD of his seminar every year to recalibrate myself. I regularly watch National Championship DVDs—three times: once focusing on the dogs, once focusing on the handlers, and once focusing on the judge. This really tunes up my eye and awareness of various things going on in the ring. I also watch National shows and AKC Conformation events in this way as well.
Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Melanie Cardell: I belong to both breed and general canine groups for their experiences, hints, and tips about all things canine.
Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Melanie Cardell: I have competed in the NOHS for the last three years. “Madison,” my second-generation home-bred female, was ranked No. 3 in 2020 and won the breed at the AKC National Championship in Orlando. She and I “made the cut” in an outstanding Owner-Handled Working Group.
In 2021, Madison’s daughter, “Talisman,” was also No. 3 NOHS for Standard Schnauzers. In 2022, Talisman is No. 7 NOHS for Standard Schnauzers. Madison is a NOHS Bronze Champion and Talisman is a NOHS Silver Champion.
I like to check the rankings to see who is competing and to gauge my dog’s success against other dogs. Being in the Top 10 shows that I have bred dogs that adhere to the Breed Standard and are rewarded as such by the judges.
How important is the Bred-By Class to you? How important are Specialties?
Melanie Cardell: Bred-by Classes are incredibly significant to the Breeder/Owner Handler! Specialties are an excellent way to meet the individuals in your breed who have influenced the past and who are helping to mold the future of the breed, the parent club, and its goals. I have been to Specialties since 2009. Our Specialties vary from coast to coast and across mid-America every three years, so it is difficult and expensive to attend them all. The Regional Specialties are also valuable for forming relationships and seeing how the individual dogs present are representing the Breed Standard.
Bred-by Classes are incredibly significant to the Breeder/Owner Handler!
Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as a Breeder/Owner Handler?
Melanie Cardell: It is difficult to compete as a Breeder/Owner Handler against Professionals. I might show one or two dogs in a day, whereas a Professional might show 15–18 dogs in a day! Additionally, I might go to one or two clusters in a month, whereas the Professional might be at a cluster all four weeks in a month. The exposure to Judges definitely works in the favor of the Professionals, and the experience of being in the ring so often is not to be discounted.
Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Melanie Cardell: Early on, yes, I was very intimidated by the Professional Handlers. I knew I was not good enough! Then my home-bred dogs defeated a couple of nationally-known Professionals, and I realized that I could do this!
Now I go into the ring and do the best I can to show the abilities and qualities of my dog. I constantly remind myself that it is another day, another dog show tomorrow, next week… Some days I win over Professional Handlers, and other days, I do not win.
There is definitely an art to providing respect to the Judge, but not being intimidated by them. They are in charge of the ring, and you need to do as they bid. They have pressures on them, and Handlers need to keep that in the foremost of their minds! There are Judges I choose not to show to, and Judges that I love to show to!
Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Melanie Cardell: No one individual stands out as a mentor. I tend to network and ask different people I respect the same questions to get a big overview of my topics. This allows me to adapt, not adopt, any one philosophy. I have attended three Carmen Battaglia seminars and revere his knowledge about genetics and dog breeding! I watch DVDs of Pat Hastings’ puppy selection program, and Tom & Kay Lams’ “Making the Ultimate Connection” workshop for handling. I read books by (and watch DVDs by) Myra Savant Harris on breeding and whelping. I attended Royal Canin breeding seminars at Orlando.
How important is the Breeder/Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Melanie Cardell: The Breeder/Owner Handler should be a significant part of the future because they create the new champions and showcase them so that future owners can see them and learn about the breed. Frequently, people have come up to me at shows and asked questions about the breed. This is an important venue for breeders to present the breed and help individuals determine if a breed is suitable for them and their lifestyle and their goals.
What are your goals as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder? Is there a milestone that has eluded you?
Melanie Cardell: I would love to be rankled No. 1 NOHS Standard Schnauzer for the year! My goals for my dogs include titles at both ends of their names—Performance, Companion, and Conformation titles. More regular Group placements are definite goals!
Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as a Breeder/Owner Handler?
Melanie Cardell: At my second NOHS Best in Show in 2021, I forgot that the Reserve BIS is awarded first. I thought I was awarded the Reserve when I had won the Best in Show! I was totally thrilled to be Number Two, since there was a large entry of owner-handled dogs there that day. Then, when the judge handed me the BIS ribbon and I looked at it, I realized I had just won my second NOHS Best in Show. It was so exciting, but a touch embarrassing. My friends and I did get a laugh out of that!
Are you looking for a Standard Schnauzer puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder?
Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Standard Schnauzer dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
Standard Schnauzer Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the Standard Schnauzer dog breed with articles and information in our Standard Schnauzer Breed Magazine.
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