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Dr. Michelle Wiberg | The Breeder/Owner Handler

Dr. Michelle Wiberg

Interview with Dr. Michelle Wiberg, The Breeder/Owner Handler of Chrishelle German Shorthaired Pointers, AKC Breeder of Merit Bronze

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: My mother bred and showed Lhasa Apsos when I was a child. After I married my husband, Christopher, and graduated from Vet school, we acquired our first German Shorthaired Pointer as my husband’s first bird hunting dog. My mother recognized her quality and encouraged me to start showing her. She finished her CH and GCH fairly quickly and we eventually decided to breed her under the mentorship of her breeder and after acquiring a handful of other titles in Hunting, Obedience, and Rally. The rest is history!

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: Although I grew up with Lhasa Apso, my husband and I have been owners of GSPs for 12 years. I began showing our first GSP as an Owner Handler 10 years ago. Our first litter under our kennel name Chrishelle is about to turn eight years old. From this litter was my first special that I competed heavily with in the NOHS events.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: I have occasionally attended Conformation practices sessions at our local dog school when I have a young dog that needs some training and practice. I’ve watched some online handling seminars, but have not attended one in person. I like studying handlers’ techniques ringside.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: Yes. I have found the AKC Canine College to be a great educational resource. I have watched videos on AKC, like the George Alston Seminars, and have found them to be helpful. Social media can be helpful, but also
heavily opinionated.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: Yes, I started competing in the NOHS with my first bred-by Special in 2017. We achieved Top 10 rankings in the NOHS for three years during his show career! I now have a second-generation bred-by Special that was ranked No. 2 in the NOHS in 2023 and is currently No. 1 in the NOHS! Rankings are a fun bragging point for me, but I do personally put more weight in the Breed and All-Breed rankings.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: I take pride in showing my puppies in the Bred-By Class and am honored when I receive my Bred-By Champion medallions. I love Specialties, both local and national. They are a great place to congregate to socialize with other breeders and owners, welcome new people, and see the dogs
in person.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: Being a breed with minimal grooming, I do not think it is a challenge to compete as a Breeder/Owner Handler. I’ve never had a handler on my dogs and have been able to achieve high rankings myself in the Breed and All-Breed rankings with my dogs. My current Special just turned two and is currently ranked No. 2 GSP in the Breed standings (February stats) and finished 2023 No. 4 in both the Breed and All-Breed stats at just a year old!

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: My first mentors were my mother and the breeder of our first Shorthair, Mary Morris of Aus Den Norden GSPs. I’ve also received mentorship from established breeders who are owners of the stud dogs we have chosen to use in our program.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: The Breeder/Owner Handler is very important. To be first-hand seeing and participating in the dog’s show career, assess the competition in the ring with you, and be able to recognize your own dog’s strengths and weaknesses against the competition is important for moving a breeding program in a positive direction and not becoming kennel blind. Personally, I like seeing the Breeder/Owner on the end of the leash and visualizing the team as one, rather than seeing the dog be campaigned by a professional. I think it levels the field and also opens the door for ring-side breeder-to-breeder conversations. I’d like to think we have good sportsmanship and camaraderie within our breed, which is also important for the sport.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: Have a mentor. Talk to other breeders and ask for their honest assessment of your bitch. You will hear different evaluations from different people. Take each assessment with an open mind and use that information to help you identify the areas that need the most improvement, and ask for help in finding a stud dog that is exceptional in those areas as well as complementing to your bitch. It can be easy as a newbie to love your dog so much that you can’t see her flaws and weaknesses. A good mentor will be honest with you and help you find a stud dog to improve your program as well as help you with questions along the way with canine reproduction, whelping, and puppy raising.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: My goals are to continue to breed versatile GSPs that can continue to be successful in a variety of venues, including Conformation, Hunting/Hunt Tests, Obedience/Rally, Dock Diving, and more. My current Special has helped me accomplish many goals this past year, including winning a Sporting Group, ranking No. 1 in the NOHS, ranking Top 5 in the Breed, and getting a special invitation to Westminster. The elusive victory for me is a Best or Reserve Best in Show and a placing at our National Specialty and Westminster. I am very excited for the opportunity to show at Westminster for the first time this year, as well as take my current Special to her first National Specialty show.

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

Dr. Michelle Wiberg: Recently, I competed at a Regional Specialty with my current Special, “Belle.” My previous Special, “JJ,” is now a veteran and I offered him to be shown by an eager and talented young Junior in the Junior Showmanship competition and the Veteran Class. I was pleasantly and humbly surprised to win the Specialty with Belle, but I was basically in shock that this talented Junior not only won Best Junior and Best Veteran, but made cut after cut in the Breed ring and ended up Best of Opposite Sex behind me with my old boy! I was so proud of, and happy for, this Junior that I think I made a bigger deal about her win than my own! What a day to remember!