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In the Ring With Owner Handler Dara Conklin

Owner Handlers Andrew and Dara Conklin with her Von Darste German Shepherds


Interview with an Owner Handler, Dara Conklin


Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?

Dara Conklin: I live in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. I have been competing since the beginning of the NOHS program. My husband, Andrew, has done it mainly, but I have participated as well.


How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?

Dara Conklin: I got my start in the breed as a child at 12 years old. I started showing in Junior Showmanship and Obedience in the 1970s. I had grown up with German Shepherd Dogs and have had them ever since. My husband married into German Shepherds! I began in 1974. Andrew, around 2000.


Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?

Dara Conklin: Absolutely, and yes, I have ALWAYS been a dog person. Andrew grew up with mixed breeds and a Schipperke.


Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?

Dara Conklin: As a young teen, I started in Junior Showmanship and Obedience. I quickly learned about Conformation and participated in that as well. I got a CD on my parent’s first German Shepherd. I enjoyed handling very much and went to handling classes as well. I grew up in Westchester County, New York, and won my class at the Westchester Kennel Club in Lyndhurst.


What makes showing my own dog so special to me?

Dara Conklin: My husband and I feel a great deal of accomplishment when we show and are successful with our German Shepherds. We train the dogs together and prepare them together as well. It is a team effort at Von Darste German Shepherds.


In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?

Dara Conklin: Practice, practice, practice! Also, we are a very small hobby kennel. Our dogs are our family.


Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?

Dara Conklin: Yes, I have competed in NOHS since the beginning, ten years ago, and we have participated in the NOHS Finals. We have won either Best of Breed or Best of Opposite in the past with our dogs: GCHS Amber’s Material Girl V Carma (Mira) and GCHB Colbyhaus Mardan’s Flash Dance GSDstyle TKN (Summer).


What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?

Dara Conklin: My husband set the goal to make Summer the first Platinum NOHS in German Shepherds. She is the No. 1 NOHS German Shepherd Lifetime. Our Mira, Material Girl, had the record until Summer recently put her in the No. 2 position. We are so proud of our girls.

In 2023, we’ll have two of our males: Summer’s young son whom we have just started, new CH Von Darste’s Vision Colbyhaus Mardan (Moose); and our other boy, GCHB Carma’s To Infinite and Beyond (Finn), who has also been No. 2 in the past.


Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?

Dara Conklin: Yes, we plan on going to Orlando this year. It is always an honor. We are very happy and proud of our Summer.


Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?

Dara Conklin: Summer is a character and a showgirl. She loves the applause and loves to entertain an audience with her antics, for example, catching leaves while she runs without breaking her stride. Summer always has a smiling grin on her face. She adores my husband and only wants to show with him. I have only tried to show her.

Here’s a funny story that happened last March at Edison, New Jersey. Due to a conflict, my husband had to take Moose (Summer’s son) back in for Best of Breed. I handled Summer that day. Summer refused to show nicely for me, had a scowl on her face, and kept looking at Andrew. Everyone at ringside thought it was hysterical— “Daddy’s Girl!” Somehow, I got BOBOH. I then handed her back to her Daddy for the NOHS Group where she placed. Love our Summertime!