Danielle Rubin | Desertskye Salukis – The breeder/owner handler interview with topics about introduction to dogs show world, NOHS, goals for the future.
When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Danielle Rubin: I enrolled in an agricultural high school at the age of 15 for Equine Science, and was introduced to a canine 4-H program from one of my friends I’d met at school. My family already had a Saluki that we’d purchased as a pet when I was 13. My stepdad owned a Saluki previous to marrying my mom, and I became fascinated with them from a dog breed book. So, we searched for a breeder and I got my first Saluki, Skye. I showed her in 4-H shows and was also offered to go with a few other people in my 4-H club to enter an AKC Junior Showmanship competition. Shortly after, we also went with her to our first Lure Coursing trial.
How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler? As a breeder?
Danielle Rubin: I’ve been in dogs for 16 years, and have been an Owner Handler that whole time too. I got my first show dog as a junior in high school. My first litter was whelped in 2016, and I have co-bred one other litter.
Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
I have noticed a huge difference in my success after I started to go to classes on a regular basis. I have gone to one handling seminar and learned quite a bit.
Danielle Rubin: Yes, I try to go to at least one handling class a week. I am fortunate to have three different classes taught by different instructors close by. I find that even though my dogs know what they are doing, they are Salukis and can get bored. So, I use the classes to strengthen our bond and figure out how to make the ring a fun place to be. I have noticed a huge difference in my success after I started to go to classes on a regular basis. I have gone to one handling seminar and learned quite a bit.
Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Danielle Rubin: During the COVID shutdown, there were quite a few livestreamed interviews done online that I watched and really enjoyed. I have not done any online classes though. I tend to learn better by doing hands-on versus watching.
Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Danielle Rubin: Yes, I do. Rankings are fun, but that is really all I see it as; fun. It is not really a good indication of how good the dog is for breeding stock. I see rankings as more of a game (and, yes, I do enjoy participating and it’s fun to have a top dog and brag about it), but as far as determining what is a good Saluki, I do not look at rankings.
How important is the Bred-By Class to you? How important are specialties?
Danielle Rubin: I really enjoy showing in the Bred-By Class. I often find that at large entry shows it has the deepest quality, so even a placement is very meaningful. Most of the time, specialties hold a lot of importance, especially if the judge is a Saluki breeder or Sighthound expert. Showing at a specialty, there is usually a larger entry in the breed ring. So, I do value specialty wins very highly.
Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as a breeder/owner handler?
In my experience, a good Saluki, trained and presented well, can be just as successful [with owner handlers] as with professional handlers.
Danielle Rubin: I generally find Salukis are not a breed dominated by professional handlers, and at the breed level, owner handlers do very well. In my experience, a good Saluki, trained and presented well, can be just as successful [with owner handlers] as with professional handlers. Granted, it does seem a bit harder to win as an owner handler at the Group level, but usually those dogs winning are conditioned, trained, presented perfectly, and are nice examples of their breed; so that is what I am working on with my dogs.
Are you intimidated by the professional handlers? By the judges?
Danielle Rubin: Sometimes, in the Groups, it can feel a little like handlers have a clique. But I wouldn’t say that I am intimidated. They have a lot of knowledge and I try to watch them to pick up on things that I think would also make my dog look good. I try to just focus on my dog and making her look the best she can be. I don’t feel intimidated by judges.
Who have been your mentor(s) as an owner handler? As a breeder?
Danielle Rubin: Oh gosh, there are SO many, and some who don’t even know it. As an owner handler, I would have to say all of my handling instructors, Joyce Coccia, Lynn Pray, Kristen Deblasio, and so many more. As a breeder, probably my biggest mentor is Joanne Klova of Tamarisk Salukis who gifted my foundation bitch. I also consider many of the breeders (Julie Zucker, Sharon Walls, Kathy Morton, Nan Bodine, and Lorraine Trenholm) of all the Salukis that have come into my life to be part of my mentors.
I have owned a variety of types of Salukis, so each breeder has given me knowledge that I feel has helped to shape my eye and kept me able to appreciate different styles within the breed.
How important is the breeder/owner handler to the future of the dog sport?
Danielle Rubin: Very important. I believe that since the majority of entries at shows are from owner handlers, and breeders are the backbone to the sport, it is important to encourage and reward breeder/owner handlers with good examples of their breed.
What are your goals as an owner handler? As a breeder? Is there a milestone that has eluded you?
Danielle Rubin: Every time I hit a goal, I try to come up with another one to reach. Starting out, my first goal was to finish a champion, then win points at a specialty and finish a dog that I’d bred, then to win a specialty and place in a Group, and then have a Top 20 dog. I have now won two regional specialties, have gotten many Group placements, and have had a dog in the Top 10 for two years. My next goal (sounding very ambitious, but hey, they are goals!) is to win Best of Breed at the National.
Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as a breeder/owner handler?
Danielle Rubin: Getting my photo taken for a NOHS Reserve Best in Show: It was an NFL playoff game day and the show was ending just as the game began. I am a Patriots fan, and the judge was a Colts fan. (This I didn’t realize at the time, so I had some not great things to say about his team.) When I realized the judge was from Indiana, my face went “Oh, S#&*! and we both broke out laughing so much.