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Thoughts From the Professional Handler – Elizabeth Reynolds

Elizabeth Reynolds with her Poodle.


Interview with a Professional Handler – Elizabeth Reynolds

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? How long have you been a pro handler for? How did you get your start? Who are/were your mentors and with whom did you apprentice?

Elizabeth Reynolds: I reside in Rising Sun, Maryland. I’ve been showing for about 20 years. I only show Poodles of all three varieties. Standards have been the focus for most of my time showing, however, in the last few years, the Toys have definitely stolen my heart. During the first 15 years in the fancy, I also managed a busy veterinary practice. It was about five years ago that I was able to leave veterinary medicine to handle full-time. My prior work schedule never allowed for an apprenticeship. I would have loved to have had that experience. I set up with and learned from watching and asking questions of the great Poodle handlers in my area. Kaz Hosaka has always been very kind to me and has taught me a lot over the years. His willingness to share his knowledge has been invaluable.


As a pro handler, can you share your thoughts on the sport today? Has judging changed since you first began showing dogs professionally? What do you think about the amount of shows today? Is social media good for the sport? Is it harmful?

Elizabeth Reynolds: As a handler today, I think the sport itself is in good shape. I do see it as a community that tries to be welcoming of newcomers. In my breed, I do have to say we have lost so many of the icons in Poodles since I started. Their knowledge of the breed as judges is something that has been lacking in more recent years. Of course, we still have great judges in Poodles, but I’m hoping the basic knowledge of our breed that those legends knew and had the courage to reward returns once again to our sport. Judges education, from the breed level, needs to improve. The movement and structure of the dog under the hair should be the reason a Poodle is rewarded.

I have mixed feelings about the number of shows. I like having several shows to choose from when making entries. That being said, when campaigning a dog, I can see where the push to constantly be showing is too tempting. I don’t think constant showing is ideal for the dog or the handler. It’s up to the handler to know what they themselves and the dogs they are campaigning can handle. I’m currently campaigning two dogs and I feel strongly that they deserve time off to relax and just be dogs.

Social media is a wonderful platform to display our dogs, highlight AKC activities, and educate the public on preservation breeders.

We need to encourage newcomers to our sport and shine a positive light on what we stand for.

Have the changes made to the Rules Applying to dog shows been good for the sport of dogs? Any thoughts on Reserve Best in Show? What about earning points through a Group win or placement? Do you agree that reserve winners at a specialty should earn championship points?

Elizabeth Reynolds: Overall, I’m pleased with the new rules. Reserve Best in Show is something that I personally feel should receive more all-breed points. I think the rewarding of points from Group placements is very helpful, especially to the newer breeds that have a harder time obtaining major wins. I agree, Reserve Winners should be awarded a major for their National. I do believe handlers should be able to handle their own puppies in 4 to 6 Month Beginner Puppy, even if it’s for exhibition only. As a breeder and handler, I feel it does a disservice to our personal dogs to deprive them of ring experience with us when, ultimately, we will be the ones showing them.


In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed? What are some positive changes you’ve seen in your profession and in the dog show community over the past decade?

Elizabeth Reynolds: One of the biggest problems facing dog shows is the “adopt don’t shop” mentality. I think we are starting to see a more positive outlook recently, with more exposure to what preservation breeding really means. We definitely need to keep that going and educate the public at every opportunity. I think the televised dog shows, where the public sees how loved and happy our show dogs are, is so important. We need to encourage newcomers to our sport and shine a positive light on what we stand for.