A ‘Doberman Daughter’ Pays It Forward: Ashlee Claggett

Ashlee Claggett


A ‘Doberman Daughter’ Pays It Forward: Ashlee Claggett

The Van Orman name is one known to even the most casual of dog show watchers because of the immense amount of success that Susan, Charles, and Ashlee Claggett have had in the breed that has been captured in the ring and on television over the decades they have been involved.

Susan has had a Doberman Pinscher in her household since 1984 and has been committed to the breed ever since. And it’s a passion that has traveled down to her daughter, Ashlee, who says she feels incredibly fortunate to have been born into her passion.

“We have continuously worked to not only improve our breeding program each generation, but to better the breed as a whole,” Ashlee says. “I look at every dog that we produce with overwhelming pride. There is no better feeling than seeing the culmination of the many years of blood, sweat, and tears go on to be the ultimate companion for someone (or ourselves), whether it be on their couch, in the show ring, or both.”

The dog show world consists of people who both were and were not born into the sport, though all share an equal level of passion for what they do. It is true, though, that not all people who are born into dog shows stay in it, with so many career paths available in the world that may seem more traditional to the average person.

Going another way was never even a thought for Ashlee.

“I think everyone can relate to me when I say I was simply ‘bit’ by the dog show bug,” Ashlee says.

She also understands that this is not everyone’s calling, even if they have been surrounded by it for their whole lives. Ashlee has three older siblings who traveled the show circuits with the family growing up, but they were not involved to the same extent.

“They love their dogs and love supporting our passion, but it’s not for them,” Ashlee says. “I was always absolutely fascinated with the show world as a whole. I had the honor of growing up in Florida and watching the greats of our breed, and the sport, compete weekend after weekend. I attest a lot of my success to watching these handlers my whole life. However, my true passion for the sport is in the whelping box. Some of my earliest memories place me in the whelping box ‘helping’ with the litters, even though I probably was more in the way than anything. My parents saw my interest and nurtured it from there.”

Ashlee Claggett with her Doberman Pinschers at the lake

At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: producing, protecting, and maintaining the “total Doberman.”

Ashlee has come a long way since those fond memories of helping out with puppies as a child, and has had a string of her own clients and has developed intense relationships with dogs she knows she will one day have to send back to the owners when they’ve reached their goals in
the ring.

“There truly isn’t anything that quite compares to the bond you develop with the dogs you’re showing, especially in a breed like the Doberman. I can’t tell you how many times sending a dog home just broke me, simply for the fact that they become one of ‘yours.’”

There are more ways than just showing dogs herself that Ashlee has given back to the dog world and to those who want to be involved, though.

One of those is mentoring assistant Ariella Harris, who now shows her own winning Doberman, “Ronin.” Ariella approached Ashlee back in 2017 and wanted to gain experience, and quickly won Ashlee over with her passion and drive.

“She has not only continuously exceeded my expectations, but has become like family to me,” Ashlee says. “She is also someone who is naturally gifted with the dogs, so she made my job easy!”

Ariella has fulfilled a successful junior handling career and Ashlee now views her as “carrying on the torch” and says she now has a feel for the thrill that others feel, watching from outside the ring, when she watches Ariella and Ronin in action.

“I am such a firm believer in mentorship and paying it forward, so to have the opportunity to nurture that passion within is so incredibly rewarding,” Ashlee says. “I feel that everyone who has the knowledge and experience to pass on, needs to. There is always the conversation surrounding the future of the sport, and if more people don’t step up and fulfill those mentorship roles, both on the showing side and breeding side, the sport will not continue.”

Ashlee Claggett with Ariella Harris and her dog

Beyond the white fences, gray mats, ribbon tables, and surrounding handlers, Ashlee has extended her knowledge and care for the Doberman breed to new heights that brought her way north of where she began her career in the Deep South.

All the way to the University of Minnesota, that is.

“I have taken a new path in my passion for constantly bettering the breed,” Ashlee says.

“I now currently work for the University of Minnesota as the project manager for a research project surrounding the health of the Doberman—The Disappearing Doberman Project. This project allows me to combine my years of experience, education, and dedication to the breed in the form of a lifetime study. I am also currently working on finishing my requirements to obtain my judging license.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: producing, protecting, and maintaining the “total Doberman.”

“The total Doberman owns the ground he walks on; he encompasses the epitome of elegance and stability… devotion to his people and won’t back down from a challenge. Aesthetically, I want to see a true square, medium-sized dog with presence. I want his outline to stay true both when standing and moving. Ideally, you should be able to look at a silhouette and, without a doubt, be able to tell that he is a Doberman. In a perfect world, the total Doberman encompasses these traits and lives a long, healthy life.”

  • Crissy Froyd is a sports journalist of nearly a decade, specializing in football coverage for Sports Illustrated with stops at USA TODAY SMG and NBC. She also breeds German Shepherd Dogs and has been assisting handlers for 12 years.

  • Show Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

Your Cart

No Item Found
Subtotal $0.00
Shipping $0.00
Tax $0.00
Total $0.00