Interview with an Owner Handler, Jeri Kissling
Where do I live? How many years have you been an Owner Handler?
Jeri Kissling: I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I have shown dogs for 42 years and I’ve participated in the National Owner-Handled Series for the past five years.
How did I get my start in your breed? In the sport?
Jeri Kissling: I started off with German Shepherd Dogs, doing Schutzhund and then Obedience and then Conformation. I went to my first show with a group of ladies to compete in Obedience and I watched the Conformation competition—and I was hooked. I went to a Specialty the next weekend and decided that I wanted to be part of this awesome sport.
My first homebred champion was a German Shepherd. A few years later, I saw a Keeshond at a show and fell in love with the breed. I decided to contact a breeder and dive in. I now have 70 champions to my credit. In the past few years, I have also become interested in Russell Terriers and have my first two champions.
Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?
Jeri Kissling: My family has always been an “animal family,” with a dog being in the mix. I taught our dogs tricks as a child and just loved our purebreds and mutts.
Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?
Jeri Kissling: I have used handlers off and on, but I’ve primarily handled my own dogs. My first Best in Show on one of my homebred Keeshonds was with a handler. While it was a great accomplishment and I was thrilled, my competitive personality showed me that I was happier about the win when I was on the end of the lead.
What makes showing my own dog so special to me?
Jeri Kissling: There is no better feeling than when you have a big-winning dog that you have raised, conditioned, trained, and shown yourself.
In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?
Jeri Kissling: My dogs love pleasing people, and the connection we make while showing them is irreplaceable. I make training fun (never forced) and this is their one-on-one time with me! I always love on them and tell them how good they did, even if they don’t win; they are excited to go do it again the next day.
Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?
Jeri Kissling: I have competed in the NOHS for five years.
What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?
Jeri Kissling: In 2022, my dog ended up No. 3. He had blown coat early in the year and I wasn’t able to show him until later in the year.
I’m hoping to show him to No. 1 again in 2023; he currently is No. 1. He is the Lifetime OH Keeshond by over 1,000 points.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?
Jeri Kissling: We aren’t going to Orlando this year, as we have a new list of puppies to care for… hopefully, next year!
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?
Jeri Kissling: When my boy won his first OHBIS, I looked over to my tough husband only to see his eyes tearing up. What could be better than this feeling with your dog?!