Interview With Owner Handler Alexa Keetch
How were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Alexa Keetch: As someone who suffers from severe anxiety, I was first given a pup when I was in the second grade. It was my first puppy to call my own, and was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT). This dog made such an impact on me. I felt safe around her, and began speaking in class (I had never done this before) after I was asked to bring my puppy to show and tell.
How many years in dogs? In your breed?
Alexa Keetch: I have now had this breed for 17 years.
Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended in-person handling seminars?
Alexa Keetch: I had an amazing mentorship program around me that took me under their wing and taught me the “ins and outs” of dog show handling. The SBT community has truly always been a great friend to me, and I feel they support my wins with me.
Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Videos? Websites? Social Media? AKC Canine College?
Alexa Keetch: I am attending AKC Canine College in October, and I can’t wait. However, several books, and especially the video “Stand and Deliver,” have been instrumental in helping to guide me along the way.
Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Alexa Keetch: I do compete in the NOHS; I love this extra recognition. However, the best thing about showing as an OH is the relationship bond I have with the dogs I show.
In which class(es) are you most likely to enter your dog(s)?
Alexa Keetch: I usually enter the Bred-By Classes or Best of Breed competition. I feel it is very important to special a great example of the breed when you are lucky enough to have one.
Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler?
Alexa Keetch: My Mom and Dad, Tom and Teri Keetch, have grown up showing dogs as well, so I was in good hands. But, I couldn’t have gotten this far without those special tips from Janice Snyder, Jenell Zanotto, and the “keep reaching, you got this” remarks from good friends like Lynn Caswell, Kim Washington, Damon Folmar, and so many more. It is truly a big family in the community out this way.
What are the benefits of competing with your breed(s) as an Owner Handler?
Alexa Keetch: The benefit of being an OH for me is that special link between you and your dog. When I am loading up the show gear, my dogs get as excited for “road trips” as I do!
How are you encouraging new exhibitors to participate in the sport?
Alexa Keetch: My family and I are always telling new people to come out and enjoy doing a sport with your dog. Put competition aside and just enjoy the time you have together. I am always eager to pull someone aside and work with their dog with them. I am happy to hand down all the advice I have been given over the years.
Are there any suggestions you’d like to pass along about the presentation of your breed(s)?
Alexa Keetch: I like to see a correctly put together Stafford “let be” as much as possible in the ring. Don’t over-correct or bother them too much. This breed tends to focus on “their” person anyway, and they are so pretty when you can leave them alone and just cue them to “stop square.” You want a very square outline that shows a lot of expression. We lose that expression when we have to mess with their feet (for example) too much. They also get hurt feelings easily, so stay upbeat and let them self-stack as much as possible, and nine times out of 10 they will show off for you.
What are your goals as an Owner Handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?
Alexa Keetch: I hope to obtain my Provisional AKC license to judge this year and begin rewarding all your beautiful dogs!
I won my first National this year with a dog that was bred and co-owned by me, and also shown by another owner handler. What a great feeling that is! Next, I hope to be at the end of the lead myself.
Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an Owner Handler?
Alexa Keetch: Remember to eat and stay hydrated while at a show. (I am not the best at this.) One time, I was showing a French Bulldog and I had him on the table when everything started going black. I couldn’t say anything… I just left the ring with the dog still on the table! I got a few steps outside the ring and fainted. Yep, felt that coming, lol. The Judge was very sweet and called someone in to finish handling the dog, did her judging, then immediately afterward came over to make sure I was okay. Some fluids, and I was right back at it. Better than the time my mom came in with the wrong dog, right?