The Joy of Showing Your Own Dog

showing your own dog

We asked some of our Owner Handler & Breeder-Owner Handler friends to answer the following questions. Here is a selection of their responses…

  1. Place of residence? Profession? Passion (outside of dogs)?
  2. How long have you been in the breed?
  3. How has the NOHS program affected your view of the sport?
  4. Do you feel that owner handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs?
  5. What’s more important to you, an all-breed win or a specialty win?
  6. If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special?
  7. Is fitting your show schedule into your “regular” life a constant balancing act? How do you manage?
  8. Where do you whelp pups? How do you determine optimal breeding time? How do you predict whelping time?
  9. At what age do you place show or pet pups? In your breed is it easy to choose show prospects at a young age?
  10. Has local legislation affected your ability to own, breed, and raise good dogs?
  11. Which mentor gave you the most valuable advice? How do you pass it on to others?
  12. What advice would you give the newcomer to our world?
  13. Anything else you would like to share?


Armando Angelbello

Armando Angelbello of Marlex Miniature Pinschers has been a breeder/owner/handler for 32 years and is a retired banking executive. Had numerous top winning Min Pins, including the top BIS-winning toy dog of all time, GCH Marlex Classic Red Glare with 133 BIS. He bred andus/or owned and piloted his Min Pins to 11 National Specialty wins as well as many top producing sires and dams. He was a personal recipient of excellence awards as a breeder, owner
handler, sportsmanship.

I am not a fan of the NOHS program. I believe it’s divisive competition and supportive of the everyone is a winner mentality. The focus should be the dogs, not who’s at the end of the lead. When a dog who doesn’t even win the breed can go on to NOHS BIS, what is there to brag about? Owner handlers, no different than professionals, can succeed in exhibiting outstanding specimens of the breed at all levels. Having said this, obviously, AKC tapped into a divisive mentality and it appears the NOHS program is thriving, with more entries, more ribbons, more money spent, more stats to brag about. Not for me.

I believe the owner handlers have the opportunity for a deeper bond with their dogs as it usually involves one breed and one or a few dogs. They must also have the ability to expertly present and handle their breed.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? It depends on the prestige of the show, judge, and entries. A National Specialty win is at the top of breed competition; Naturally, a best in the show in all-breed.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? As breeder/owner/handler, one may be more emotionally connected with the dog, but significant wins are special to all connected with the winning dog.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? It is a balancing act between family life and my passion for dog shows. It is much easier to balance now that I’m retired from work. We do family activities during the week and a lot on weekends off.

Advice to a newcomer: first, find a mentor who has been successful in your chosen breed, that can guide, teach and encourage the development of your individual vision. Observe, ask and listen. Surround yourself with competitive but positive people. Whiners are a dime a dozen in this sport and are generally losers; avoid or ignore them.


Sarah Armstrong

I live in Toledo, Ohio. My passion is my dogs and my profession is sales. I have had Gordon Setters for 20 years

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I think it is dividing our sport. I think it is giving the judges a reason to not put up an OH for breed because they know there is another award they can give that OH.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? No, if there is an advantage, I haven’t seen it or experienced it.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Both.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Absolutely! I put my heart and soul into my breeding program! To be on the other end of the leash of a dog that I bred and own is an honor!

Is fitting the show schedule into my“regular” life a constant balancing act? It is very difficult with my work travel schedule and personal life. I can’t be out there every weekend. I can’t travel that far away as I have older dogs at home that I won’t take on the road with me so I can only attend shows where I can drive back and forth. So, I can’t be seen every weekend at shows like the professionals.

Advice to a newcomer: find a mentor! Go to handling classes!


Zoe Bolin

I live in Southern California, north of Los Angeles. I have had dogs all my life but got my first show dog in 2006. I am recently retired from LAPD where I worked as a 911 operator. My background is in horses. I showed Western horses as a junior, Hunters/Jumpers as an amateur, and worked at various race tracks and training facilities for TB race horses as an adult.

I have been in Black and Tan Coonhounds since 2006 and in Manchester Terriers since 2008.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I have mixed feelings about the NOHS program. For me, it is a great place to work with a new dog, a dog who isn’t winning at the breed level most of the time. With a dog who is consistently winning the breed I sometimes skip the NOHS group and only show in the regular group where the judges are familiar with the breeds. Many times, when I show in both groups, I’ve walked out of the NOHS group and placed in the regular group.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? There are certain dogs and certain handlers, amateur or professional, that have a special bond and it shows in their performance. A professional handler that has handled a dog for a few months develops the same bond that an owner has. I think that where you see a huge difference is when you hand an unfamiliar dog to a professional and to an amateur. The professional can usually coax an adequate performance out of most any dog where the amateur usually cannot.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Both an all-breed win and a specialty win are very important to me. Both of my breeds have very few Breeder Judges. In my opinion, a Specialty win by a respected Breeder Judge would be most important. I have an all-breed BIS with a Black and Tan and two Specialty wins with a Manchester and I would have to say that the BIS is very special to me.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Yes. Winning with a dog that I have bred means way more to me than winning with a dog that isn’t of my breeding.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Now that I am retired it is much easier to schedule dog show trips. I am lucky enough to have my daughter and her husband living in my guest house who trade dog care for rent.

Advice to a newcomer: have fun with your dog! Listen to others who have more experience and be open to advice. Read anything and everything that you can on your breed, grooming and presenting your breed, and general handling tips. Watch professional handlers and try to learn from what they are doing. It’s best to watch not only your breed but breeds who are shown similarly to yours. But most of all—have fun!

Anne Bowes

I live in Duxbury, Massachusetts and I am a dog breeder which is my passion as well. I purchased my first Pembroke Welsh Corgi in August of 1968, so I have been in the breed for nearly 51 years.

I feel that the NOHS program has encouraged exhibitors to show their own Champions and therefore has allowed owner/handlers the chance to improve their handling skills.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Most owner/handlers do have a close bond with their dogs. However, that can work against them as much as it can be in their favor. Sometimes dogs will try to take advantage of their owners more than they would a professional handler whom they don’t know as well!

Do breeder/owner/handlers have an extra added advantage when it comes to showing? Only if that breeder/owner/handler is as proficient a handler as the professional handlers in the ring with them!

Where do I whelp pups? I whelp all of my litters at my vet’s office as they are born via cesarean section. My vet and I determine optimal breeding time and whelping date with the use of
progesterone testing.

At what age do I place show or pet pups? The Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America’s Code of Ethics states the member-breeders cannot place puppies before the age of ten weeks, so my pet puppies are placed in their new homes between 10-16 weeks of age. Show puppies are placed much later, anywhere from 6-12 months so that I can fully assess their show quality. Pembroke Welsh Corgis are a dwarf breed and I think the dwarfism makes it very difficult to assess show quality until they are 6-12 months old.

Has local legislation affected me? So far, there has not been any local legislation that affects my ability to own, breed and raise dogs. Duxbury has always been an animal-friendly town with many residents owning horses, dogs, goats and chickens. I hope that it stays that way!

Bill Trainor was the mentor that gave the most valuable advice and I miss him every day! I taught conformation training classes for 40 years and have written articles and given talks and seminars on how to handle your own dogs in the conformation ring. Of course I am available 24/7 for my owners with show dogs or pets!

Advice to a newcomer: find a mentor in your chosen breed—someone who has had many years of success in the whelping box and in the ring—and follow their advice. Many new breeders breed what they have, keep what they get and show what they keep, whether it is show quality or not. Most of those breeders don’t stay in the sport very long! My advice is: breed the best to the best and hope for the best. If you don’t get the best, then start over.

The Sport of dogs has literally “given me the world,” for which I am so grateful. Judging Pembroke Welsh Corgis has taken me to seven foreign countries that I never would have been able to visit on my own. But what I love the very best about our sport is that it is open to everyone—no matter what your age, sex, religion, nationality, sexual preference or the color of skin. Anyone can breed and show a dog and win, if they put in the incredible amount of hard work, long hours and dedication that it takes! If there were a job description for a dog breeder, here is how it might read: “Position available for goal-oriented, high-energy, disciplined individual with a passion for dogs and puppies who thrives in a challenging, fast-paced environment. Must be able to work long hours. Requirements: thorough knowledge of the Standard and the basics of genetics, strong back, strong stomach, thick skin, and a heart not easily broken. Rewards: the intense joy and satisfaction which comes from creating beautiful animals who give a lifetime of love and devotion to their owners.”

Cecilia Bozzo

I bought my first ‘pet’ Chihuahua in 2009. I attended my first Regional Specialty in 2010. I began showing later in 2010. I bred my first litter in 2012. I breed very little as I work and travel for shows. I purchased a puppy bred by Darwin Delaney of Dartan Chihuahuas in 2013. I knew she was special but didn’t realize how special until our journey began. She has been in the top ten breed and/or all breed rankings for 4+ years and top five breed and/or all breed rankings for 3+ years. She has been number one NOHS for five consistent years. She has a Regular BIS, RBIS, MBISS, Best of Variety at the Chihuahua Club of America National Specialty 2018, NOHS Finals RBIS 2018, Best of Variety at Westminster 2019. She has 17 OH BIS and I’m not sure how many OH RBIS. It can be done!

I live in Wilmington, Delaware and I’m a professional NICU nurse of 27 years. I have been in Chihuahuas for ten years.

I began participating in the NOHS to help my young Special become more comfortable competing at the Group level. She had finished her Championship at eight months old. I truly enjoy participating in the program and will enter a circuit based on the judging panel and if NOHS is offered.

I feel all professional handlers and owner handlers can have the same advantage when they develop a very special bond with their exhibit. As as owner handler, perhaps more time is spent one-on-one, however, I have met many dedicated, professional handlers who have incredible bonds with their dogs.

Both all breed and specialty ‘wins’ are meaningful to me. What makes the ‘win’ more meaningful is the judge and the competition.

At times I have felt that it would be impossible to compete on the same level as the professionals. Then, after many years of hard work and consistency, I began to realize that it was very possible. There are, of course, some judges which are more likely to judge the dogs than others. Over time, paying close attention enables you to know which judges to show to and where to show. I can not compare if my owner handled wins are ‘more special’ because I have always been an Owner Handler. There have been a few select ‘wins’ that have meant more than others.

As a nurse I’m required to work every other weekend. I can make ‘deals’ and ‘switches’ with my colleagues to get to the shows I want to attend. It can be very challenging. The years I was trying to show my Special as competitively as possible I was having one day ‘off’ a month. Every other day was spent at work, at a show or traveling, It was exhausting but I would do it all over again!

Advice to the newcomer: enjoy your dog above and beyond. Try not to get discouraged. Some of the worst days may be followed by your best. Ignore the noise. There is a lot of jealously and negativity in the sport once you become successful. Love what you do and why you do it!

Sandi Britt

I live in Michigan. I’m a wife, mother and home maker. My passions include gardening, outdoors, walks along the beach, woods and watching my five sons make their way in life, my grandchildren and great grandchild. I have been involved with the German Spitz for 10+ years now.

I have not been involved as I have a FSS Breed in relation to AKC but showing in IABCA they call it “bred by”. I feel it’s great for the breeder as spectator can see and know what you are doing as to the breed.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? No.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Both.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Yes, My breeding program is not in vain. My hard work has paid off.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Not really, my kids have spread their wings and left the nest. I do my best to what I need to do done and my time after that is my dogs getting prepared and packed for our road trip. My mini vacation.

Advice to a newcomer: enjoy yourself and the time with your dog(s). Don’t let the negative people ruin your day, let it flow off of you like a duck to water.

Karen Brooks Hodges

In 1983 my husband and I started an oil, construction and industrial supply business in S. Texas. Other than Samoyeds, my passion is Christmas. We always enjoy 8-22 Christmas trees throughout the house during the holidays. Each tree displaying a different theme and collection with a new creation always in the works. Kind of like dogs, “Just one more!”

I went to the Humane Society looking for a dog and that is when I first fell in love with a Samoyed. That was in 1979. I had no idea what breed I had until he passed and asked my vet. Then through the newspaper want ads I found an AKC “registered” Samoyed (sadly) from a broker. She took me to obedience classes, agility and dog shows. Now I knew what a quality Samoyed looked like and I wanted one. After a lot of research and letters (no internet) our first show dog came to us in 1989 from Moonlighter Samoyeds.

For years, I would finish my girls, work them in other venues, put them in the whelping box and have a new puppy to show. I believe that is what new exhibitors, hobby and small breeders do. When the NOHS was adopted, I found that I did begin bringing my girls out more often than just appearing at clusters with
specialty shows.

I think NOHS took a little while to catch on and know it is difficult sometimes with the judge’s panels especially with the smaller shows, but it has been great for our sport.

On a very positive note, the NOHS has been fun and very healthy in our breed. When the monthly stats come out, someone always posts them and tags those that are in the Top 10-15. We are excited for each other! I’m watching new exhibitors to the sport continue showing their own dogs. This is a huge step in keeping Owner-Handled exhibitors active, excited and proud of their accomplishments. It’s been truly amazing to see the sportsmanship in and outside the ring.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? I do not feel that OH have an advantage. Most professional handlers are very gifted in our sport allowing them to make the dog look their best. This gives them the edge including being seen each weekend at the shows.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? They are equally important to me however I do gravitate towards clusters with specialty shows which I will travel across country to get to. Since 1989 I have attended each National Specialty and feel it has help me immensely as a breeder. It allows one to see different lines and what breeders are doing in their breeding programs. Also opening your network of fellow breeders which is so important. I guess you could say I am a breeder first and with education comes good dogs.

Each win has been a thrill from winning the Samoyed Club of America’s National Specialty’s Best of Breed, SCA Top 20 and the People’s Choice Award to All-Breed Best in Shows. I think it’s wonderful to give hope to other B/O/H’s that this goal is obtainable and to never give up. It’s been quite a journey to do it all yourself and proves you are on the right track in your breeding program.

Over the years I have had a lot of biscuit in my Samoyeds and has been very difficult. Our SCA’s Judges Education worked hard over the years to educate judges yet it’s been a very difficult path I chose. The most important thing, I was color blind and always looked at the best puppy to continue with my breeding program. This made my whole journey extra special to do the winning with not only a bitch but a biscuit bitch. It’s been an extra special journey all owner-handled.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Going every weekend has never been an option so it becomes important to look hard at the judge’s panel. As the saying goes if you aren’t there you can’t win but when you must choose which shows to attend, good judges are what matters.

Advice to a newcomer: first, attend conformation classes and fun matches. Then ask questions, lots of questions. There are no bad questions if you don’t have the answer. There will be mistakes made but those normally are the ones that you never forget. Then there is embarrassment, we have all been there especially with a puppy. Remember to have fun and enjoy the time with your dog. Grab a peppermint for your nerves, know through classes and fun matches your confidence will come! No matter what happens, you go home with the best dog and your best friend and you can say “I did it!”


Kimberly A. Brown

I am originally from Connecticut but now reside in Newtown, Pennsylvania area for the past six years. I have a very rewarding job working for a pharmaceutical company in medical oncology working with community networks to get patients access to our medicines. My passion outside of dogs is running marathons.

My love affair with Basenjis began on a fall afternoon in October of 2003. Not only did I meet many Basenjis that day, I met my mentor and closest friend Pamela Geoffroy of Eldorado Basenjis.

My view of the sport has not changed with the addition of the NOHS program. I think the NOHS program draws additional entries for clubs, which is a good thing. I appreciate the effort clubs make to accommodate NOHS as it can be difficult to navigate the scheduling of NOHS groups around regular groups. When I began participating in the NOHS program in 2016 it really helped my dog gain confidence and experience in a Group with other breeds. I believe it has definitely helped us both become more of a team having the extra group time.

I believe the passion and intensity is bit stronger when you show a dog you own and have loved since they were whelped. The bond can be so intense that if you’re having a bad day in the ring it trickles down the lead and your dog can have a bad day too. Funny little creatures feeling all our feels!

What’s more important tome, an all-breed win or a specialty win? For me a specialty win is more meaningful.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Every win is special. When you’ve worked so hard from the whelping box to the free stack—being awarded a big win is overwhelming and I’m an ugly cryer—it’s not pretty!

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? I joke with my friends that I have three full time jobs; oncology research, dog showing and marathon training. It becomes quite unbalanced at times! Working in a 20 mile training run in between showing on the weekends is nothing short of a miracle. With that I’ve done a lot of my running in beautiful places all over the country (in between ring times!). I am very fortunate to have a very supportive family who cheers me on every literal step of
the way.

My advice to newcomers; breathe and be in the moment. Keep positive people around you. Laugh often. Love your dog, they need you! And lastly, don’t take it all too seriously.


Diane Burvee

Diane Burvee is an internationally-acclaimed French Bulldog authority who has authored several articles, including one on Judging French Bulldogs that has been circulated and translated in 18 different countries. She has also presented seminars and judged French Bulldogs in more countries than any current American Frenchie Judge/Breeder in recent times. On the homefront in America, she has breeder-owner-handled more All Breeds and Specialty Best In Show Frenchies in recent years than any other kennel including winning the National Specialty, Regional Specialties and Westminster, to name a few highlights. Her current special is not only the reigning number one Bitch and number two Frenchie (both systems) in the country with multiple All Breeds and Specialty Best In Shows to her credit, Breeder-Owner-Handled, of course!

I reside in Kansas City. We enjoy the four seasonal changes which I feel is good for the dogs. My other passions outside of dogs include traveling, reading, trying different ethnic cuisines, communiversity classes for enrichment and volunteer work.

I’ve been in dogs in America for over 26 years (since 1993.) My first breed was the Afghan Hound, then the Pekingese and now, I am concentrating on the French Bulldog. My first homebred Frenchie litter is over ten, so I have been involved in the breed in some capacity for more than a dozen years. I have judged them both here and abroad for an approximate same period of time.

I have never participated in the NOHS program myself, but I have a few friends who do, and they take it very seriously. It is as competitive as the regular conformation program. I find it to be a positive addition that is welcomed by many owner-handlers. Any activities that encourages more/further participation in the sport, and allow more time to bond with our dogs is a good thing!

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Owner-Handlers should have a big advantage because the dogs live with them, and they are able to train and connect with the dogs daily. In most cases, they also likely bred/whelp the litters so they would understand the breed and family history better than anyone else. However, the average Owner-Handlers have a full-time profession, and also family obligations outside dogs so they may not have as much time as the professional handlers to dedicate to training and conditioning the dogs. On the other hand, the Professional Handlers are always ‘on the job.’ They eat, breathe and do dogs, they travel from one cluster to another, and in most cases, all they do is dogs so the dogs in their charges are more exposed to the dog show lifestyle. Their dogs get more acclimatized to the dog show environment, and they are shown more, and we know practice makes perfect! So, in a nutshell, I feel both Owner-Handlers as well as Professional handlers can have an advantage depending on how you look at it.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Years ago, I would most certainly say Specialty wins mean so much more, as you compete with dogs of the same breed. The specialties are mainly judged by the Breeder-Judges who have experience as breeders, and in-depth knowledge of the breed, hence a more discerning eye, so those wins ought to mean more. But I now feel winning an All Breeds Best In Show is more gratifying, and a bigger achievement, because not only do you have to compete against own breed, also your own Group, and then all other breeds to get to the podium to clinch the top award. Also, winning an All Breeds Best In Show is not something every Professional Handler has accomplished. This is a difficult feat for the Owner-Handlers. At the end of the day, what matters most to me is the judge who is giving out the award, be it a Specialty or All Breeds win. There are judges who are not Frenchie Breeder-Judges that I respect tremendously, and always enjoy watching and showing to because they have such an appreciation for the breed that they bring a perspective that breeders may have missed. I personally prefer to show under judges that have a true understanding of my breeds, and judge/reward them in a breed-specific manner accordingly whether it is an All Breeds or Specialty event.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Yes, I am indeed a proud Breeder-Owner-Handler! Breeders are the backbone of this sport and without the clever breeders before us that preserve, protect and promote the breed, where will we be today?! Just like what will the breed be without all the great bitches?! As a Breeder-Owner-Handler, my wins do most certainly mean so much more because I have to breed, whelp, raise, train, condition and handle my dogs to the best of my ability to showcase them in the best way. I don’t and will never have the experience, talent and knowledge of the best professional handlers, but having said that, I can try harder and work more diligently to compensate for areas that I lack as a handler. Within the breed, we all know who are the best breeders, best dogs, and best bitches and so forth even though the show results may not always correlate to the quality, or there lack of. And because Frenchie is an extremely difficult breed to grasp for both judges and breeders alike, it is understandable that not all judges are going to get it right 100% of the time, so the wins as Breeder-Owner-Handlers are so much more special.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? I find fitting a show schedule of a top special with my ‘regular’ life a daily juggling act! It is hard work, and because I am a 100% hands-on Breeder-Owner-Handler who is involved in all aspects of my bitch’s special career from advertising, shows, entries, etc, I find it rather consuming. It is truly a full-time job in itself, I barely have time for much more and I often wish there was more than 24 hours in a day! Because we are hardly home from one circuit with barely enough time to catch up, before we have to rush off to another circuit, leaving us little time for family, friends and our other hobbies.

If the newcomer wants to be the next top professional handler, then take time to learn about the trade, learn the breeds they fancy, and then go apprentice with the top Professional Handlers. The best Professional Handlers know the in’s and out’s of the sport, are well-connected, and most important of all, they must have the dogs’ best interests at heart. The dogs’ welfare and well-being should always come first and be of utmost importance. If a Professional Handler has a tendency to badmouth their competitors, berate the judges when they don’t win, or neglect the dogs in such a way that they cause harm/death in their care, then those should be signs to stay clear. Learn from the true Pros who are the best in this country, and who understand the breed and know how to take care, condition and show the dogs better than anyone else.

If the newcomer wants to be a Breeder or Owner or Exhibitor, then they must do their homework on the breed, get involved with the breed clubs, talk to the pillars of knowledge in the breed, and seek out the breeders whose dogs they admire. Because the French Bulldog is such a popular breed at the moment, many are capitalizing on its popularity to make some fast, quick money. Hence, there are breeders whom are more brokers than actual breeders, and you want to steer clear of those and their Ponzi schemes. Remember that it takes time to get to know somebody, learn about their breeding strategies, and trust has to be earned so don’t be discouraged if the door is slammed in your face while you are trying because perseverance and determination do pay off in the long run. Really study the breed, its nuances and learn why some breeders are successful at producing quality stock, while others fail. Attend the big events and check out the top specials and see if they are truly as good as they are, or are they winning on politics, marketing and advertising than their true merits. Remember if a breeder is promoting a less than stellar well-known special (especially one with questionable health testings and pedigree), then more than likely, they are doing so to feather their own nest and bank account than for the betterment of the breed. Make friends, really get to the breed and its people, and soon, you will uncover the truth and decipher the real gem from the knock-offs, just like you would realize the truly good worthy dogs that win on merits and merits only. “Seek the type and leave the hype” is my best advice!

Julie Buss

I live in Denver, Iowa. We have a family farm and we raise row crops but raised cattle for almost 30 years. I (Julie) also run a mobile scrub truck that sells uniforms to nursing staff at nursing homes, assisted livings and hospitals. Our other passions are cooking, hunting/fishing and gardening.

We have been in Ridgebacks for almost ten years. Weimaraners prior to them.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I believe in the beginning it gave the owner handler an avenue to shine and be seen. Now I believe it has divided them more than it has risen up the owner handler.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? I do believe that an owner handler has a unique understanding and connection with their dog. That being said can work for or against you.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Both! Each have their own special meaning. You are being judged against many other breeds who are the top of their standard and type for an All-Breed win and to beat many of your own kind is also a great achievement as they are all being judged by the same standard for the Specialty win.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? I do believe its harder for a breeder/owner/handler to get the recognition and that extra look from some judges so yes its extra special, especially if you are not a generational dog person in
the fancy.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? How do you manage? Oh my god, yes. I work a 40 hour week on the road three days usually. Plus the farm and regular life is in their someplace. I don’t know if there is a balance I just keep moving and make a lot of notes and list!

Advice to a newcomer: research—don’t rush into anything. Stay true to yourself someone will always have something to say so be true to you.

I love being a breeder/owner handler but I feel the program had the greatest of intentions and has lost its way. Breeders are going to lead the way; the owner can buy a good dog but it was bred by someone. We do all start somewhere I understand that. I know that may not be popular but I am being true to myself as a breeder.

Cheryl Calm

I live in Oregon City, Oregon and retired in 2016 after 17 years as a News Assignment Editor with KGW Television. Between family, Bouviers, showing and dog club work, there’s no room for any other passion.

I’m an official “old timer” in my breed at 44 years and counting. Bouviers have been an important part of my life since I graduated from college and bought my first show puppy in 1975.

NOHS provides a great opportunity for owner handlers to develop their presentation skills so they can compete with anyone. There’s fear that judges use NOHS as a consolation prize while they continue to hand the purple and gold ribbon to professional handlers. I’ve used NOHS for training and development until my current special was competitive in regular groups. Showing in NOHS can be frustrating as the knowledge level of some of the judges is also “in development.” I know there’s suspicion in the owner handler community that AKC started NOHS rather than dealing with the perceived “Judges’ favoritism” for professionally handled dogs.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? I feel I have an advantage because I’m sensitive to how my dog is feeling on any given day and I have developed an arsenal of responses to try and bring out her best each time in the ring. I’m thinking about just one dog I love and understand—and who has my full attention day and night. Our bond means I also have her full attention which can be the difference between winning and losing. Professional handlers have to divide their focus and try to deal with dogs they might not know very well. The owner handler also has the advantage of training their dog the way they want. They’re not undoing and redoing training by others. So you better be a good trainer!

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Being a breeder naturally puts my heart in the Specialty ring. I can’t imagine any win topping our American National Specialty Best in Show. Nationals are when the judging should be the most demanding, the competition the toughest, and often the longest! Bringing your best dog, then keeping your Bouvier looking worthy of a big rosette for 20-30 minutes in a Group ring is one thing. Keeping them showing and asking for the win in the Specialty ring can sometimes stretch over hours and multiple cuts til the decisions are finally made. But I do love competing in the All Breed ring where so many factors go into Group and Best in Show wins. I feel strongly that in the All Breed ring we’re representing the Bouvier—and our wins are also wins for my breed.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Absolutely! As a breeder, I’ve formulated over generations my concept of the Bouviers I want to produce. I’ve researched generations back and selected the dogs that fit my mental image of the standard. By time I’ve done whatever it takes to get the breeding I want, whelped and raised the litter and selected what I think is the best, I’m heart and soul completely invested in that puppy. Then it’s time to love, nurture, socialize, train, groom and condition before we ever walk in a ring. Getting recognition from good judges that I’ve created an exceptional Bouvier sparks a hundred different lights in my heart. When the win goes to a dog you truly love, the emotion reaches very deep.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Since leaving the world of work three years ago it’s gotten easier. I can do all the shows in a cluster now whereas before I had limited vacation days and had to decide which judges were worthy of my vacation days. Family time with husband, son, daughter and now three granddaughters competed for those vacation days. “Managing” sometimes meant going with way less sleep than I get now, and made for late night or early morning driving. Now I have the luxury of driving daytime hours and getting a good night’s sleep.

Advice to a newcomer: find a good mentor in the breed you want. Someone close who is there for hands on help, support and lengthy explanations when you feel overwhelmed by questions. Hopefully they will have a quality puppy or dog to sell to you from appropriately health certified parents. And check for those health certifications on Some people lie about health testing. Don’t settle for a mediocre dog just because it’s available now. The good ones are worth waiting for. Read your breed’s standard and pester people in the breed with questions until you understand what that standard demands in your breed. Get your hands on as many dogs as you can to compare and develop your eye for your breed. Talk to people already immersed in the sport. Dogs and shows are our favorite subject! Find a good handling class with a kind but thorough instructor if that mentor can’t help you with handling. Go to seminars. Watch video of dog shows—and don’t watch the dogs. Watch the handlers, chose the ones with the style you like and analyze everything they do. This assuming you want to be an owner handler. Remember that everyone loses. Try to learn something every time you go in the ring. Have someone video you then watch to see what you can do better next time. Ten times of doing that makes you ten times better!

Sheri Cassens

I live in Minnesota and I’m a retired dog trainer. My passions outside of dogs are art and family. I was a student of canine behavior and behavior issues and a conformation and performance competitor for 33 years.

I believe the NOHS has been a fantastic addition to the
conformation experience.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Yes if the OH makes a continuous effort to nurture a strong bond with their dog.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Both are important.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Yes.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Show life and family life are important to balance especially if the family includes children. I attended local shows and performance events when the children were small. A supportive spouse is essential. Children’s events need to take priority over a dog shows. Kids are young for such a short time and there are many years to enjoy traveling to dog shows as empty nesters. Campers are fantastic!

Advice to a newcomer: everyone starts somewhere. Mistakes happen. Don’t worry, be happy and enjoy learning. There are many lovely people willing to encourage a new person at dog shows. If you find a crabby person, shrug your shoulders and talk to someone else!

Lian Chase

I live in Peyton, Colorado where I am currently a high school student. My other passions include reading books and writing. I have been involved in Black Russian Terriers for about five years.

NOHS has affected the way I view my own success within the ring and what it’s like to be in the group ring. This is because without NOHS I never would have gotten the opportunity to be in groups which motivated me to want to continue.

I don’t think that owner handlers have an advantage because any good handler can bond with a dog quickly. However the personal bond and investment in the dog does shine through.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? To me a specialty win is far more important because it is peer against peer where the characteristics of a breed are more emphasized. The knowledge of the judge on your breed is likely more thorough than an all-bred judge.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? I think that the wins I receive with dogs that are mine are absolutely more special because you take complete credit for what you receive.

Life is a constant balancing act in my case since I also attend school and sometimes I have to miss shows and/or miss school. It’s a constant give and take because I often drive all night to get to a show or to attend school on a Monday.

I would tell a newcomer to find a breed that they love. I would also tell them to set their own specific goals and stay tough because in the beginning it can be discouraging. Focus on personally improving and not the political aspect of shows. Also, I can’t express the value of a good mentor and joining a kennel club as another way to become involved in the community and meet supportive people with like interests. Above all make friends. Dog shows are so much better when you can travel together, talk, groom and expose yourself to other aspects of the sport you didn’t know about. The friends who support you and help you through ruts are the ones that make dog showing worthwhile.

Bethany Davis

I have a kennel of ten Newfoundlands. We are located in a little town called Hubbard, Oregon, with a beautiful view of Mount Hood. I enjoy many activities with my Newfies; the Notta Bears love doing therapy and we frequent cancer treatment centers, assisted living homes and children’s hospice. We enjoy trips to the beach and rivers, swimming in our pool and going to shows!

I am a groomer, trainer, and dog product influencer. My whole life revolves around dogs and I love it! Working with dogs is my passion; I love enjoy teaching others and helping them with their own pets.

I have been in Newfoundlands about eight years. We had a couple rescues when I was really young and they passed young. My mom always wanted another but it was really difficult having them suffer from poor health and pass young so my mom decided to get one from a good breeder. Once she had her girl, I fell in love and decided to get my own boy. It sort of snowballed from there! Now I have ten Newfies and love it!

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I don’t really believe the NOHS program is good for our sport. I believe is separates the “owner handlers” and “professionals” and I don’t think that’s good for us. I think that we all should be at an even playing field and not viewed as the “outcast.” Without breeders, we wouldn’t have dogs to handle. I think the shows need to have a breeder group and make that more important than owner handlers. Anyone can handle their own dog, but it takes a lot to produce your own.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? No, I don’t believe we have any advantage over professional handlers because of the bond. Anyone can form a bond with a dog. Many dogs live with handlers full time or for large amounts of time, I know multiple handlers that think of some of their client dogs as their own.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? All wins are very important to me, that’s a really hard choice. Specialty wins often are under breeder judges and there is usually more competition so I would say those have a little bit more meaning behind them; but I wouldn’t say they are more important. I believe a good dog should be able to win under both circumstances.

Are my wins that much more special? Yes, I feel that wins as a breeder owner are more special to be, rather than if I had a handler, because *we* did it. We did all the training together, all the grooming, and the handling. We got to work together as a team and did it together. I think that is so special!

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? No, it’s not a constant balancing act, I am dogs all day all the time. I choose shows that I’ve never been to because I love to travel and see other places, my dogs love to show and enjoy traveling too, so it really is easy. Scheduling around all the different dog activities I like to do can be difficult because sometimes events are on the same weekend, but in the end we always have fun and enjoy what we are doing. That’s the most important thing.

I would tell newcomers to have fun, don’t listen to any negative comments and just do your best. In any group there is going to be competition and people that disagree. Do what you enjoy and don’t think about what others think. Get involved, find the awesome people that are there, and work hard. You’ll do great!

Kennon Dickson

I live in Monte Sereno, California in silicon valley. My passion is rescuing senior dogs. I started in Maltese nine years ago rescuing a Maltipoo. Unfortunately she had metastasized cancer and I only had her for 39 days. that little dog had more heart and more drive that any big dog I’ve ever seen. I fell in love with a breed! I had a handler in the mid-80s show my Cocker Spaniels. I didn’t like sending them away and never intended to show again. At my first Maltese National I met Mary Day. Mary and her partner, Carole Thomas, have been in Maltese for over 50 years and have made a huge impact on our beautiful breed! Mary had a retired champion dog she wanted to place and I wanted to learn about Maltese coats. She gave me CH King Midas. Midas is now almost 14 and a very spoiled bed dog. I still only did rescue. With senior rescue you lose a lot of animals. In 2013 Mary had a beautiful litter with two lovely bitches in it. She wanted me to have something young and strong and healthy. She let me pick which of the girls I wanted and of course I picked the tiny spitfire! GrChB C and M’s Rainey California Spring. after Mary finished her I decided to try showing her in owner handled. She went on to be number two Maltese in the United States with an amateur like me on the other end in NOHS. NOHS got me back into showing dogs. If it had not been for that I would have never tried again. I think the program is wonderful and I totally support it! I do wish AKC and judges would give it more respect though. It’s very difficult time wise and economically to really campaign a dog but with owner handled you at least have a chance. In the regular group against the top pros it’s very, very hard to win even if your dog is the best! If somebody is interested in showing their own dog I would suggest you go to a lot of shows and talk to people who have the breed with dogs that you like. Remember to be respectful because if someone is about to put a dog in the ring they can’t talk to you at that moment but most of us will talk to you after we show. Please don’t get disappointed that we cannot talk at that moment. We really do want you in our sport! We want everyone to love showing their own dogs as much as we do! Read as much as you can and just go try. Owner handled is a great place to show and start especially! If you show your own dog even if you lose you get to be with the dog! That’s the best! It also means more for a win that you and the dog have earned together.

Jean C. Edwards

I reside on a 40 acre farm in Upper Deerfield, New Jersey with my beloved Siberian Huskies and cats. I am a retired library administrator but continue to photograph dog show wins and portraits for ads. I also take candid photographs at dog shows that appear in ShowSight magazine. I love to garden and enjoy all the nature that surrounds me: bluebirds, hummingbirds, deer and all the other natural wonders in my yard and fields.

I have loved and owned Siberian Huskies since the early 80s when I purchased my first red and white male Siberian Husky from Kathleen Kanzler when Innisfree Kennels was in Accokeek, Maryland. Since that time, I have completed championships on dozens of dogs.

Although I have been an owner-handler for nearly 40 years, I have never participated in the NOHS. It is very important to many exhibitors some of whom will not enter a show unless it is offered. I hold this competition at my show, South Jersey Kennel Club. Since show entries are lower than in previous years, this is a way to attract exhibitors. I have heard one club member state that it does not bring in more income but it does since some exhibitors are primarily interested in the competition and wouldn’t go otherwise.

Some owner-handlers have an advantage due to their close bond with their dogs but if they don’t develop the same grooming and handling techniques, they cannot compete against professional handlers. The best professional and owner-handlers wash their dogs, groom them immaculately and stack and move their dogs to their advantage.

When I was competing with my girl, Leah, and in his early years, with her son, Carter, specialties were 100 or more dogs. It was very rewarding to win a specialty. At that time, Leah was tied with a few other bitches for the highest number of specialty wins. These days, specialties may be only 30 dogs. It is still a thrill to win a specialty but not so much as when there were 120 entered. Getting a Group 1 was always fantastic. There is no thrill like a Best in Show. I have owned two dogs that were Best in Show winners but they were not handled by me to the highest win.

In general, I would prefer to show my own dogs since I do believe there is more satisfaction in the wins. However, this isn’t always possible due to numbers of dogs, time constraints and physical limitations. Every win is special to me but I have to admit that when my girl, Leah, won her first Best in Show with a professional handler, I was more thrilled than I had ever been in my whole life.

Since I’ve retired from my full-time occupation as a library administrator, my time is more manageable.

Advice to a newcomer: work hard. When I first arrived on the show scene, I needed to learn about my breed, Siberian Huskies. I consulted with the experts. In order to learn to handle, I attended classes twice a week more than an hour away. I also watched handlers at the shows to learn what they did to succeed. Also socialize with breeders. A lot can be learned over a good meal with great company.

Anita Gage

We live in Fortuna, California, a small coastal community 4 1/2 hours north of San Francisco. I am a retired high school English teacher. My husband and I travel abroad at least once a year and are avid readers.

I have been in Irish Setters for 46 years starting in obedience in Denver, Colorado using a handler in conformation, then handling my own dogs when I moved to California in 1984.

I have competed in NOHS for about four years. Doing so has made me a better handler. Irish Setters are very much a “handler” breed. Last weekend for two days with an entry of 20 Irish Setters l was the only non-professional. NOHS has given me a reason to continue to compete with high quality dogs even against wonderful professionals. The night I went BIS and BISOH with my Ready, the number one OH dog all breed for last year, was a dream come true. It can be done. However, owner handlers have a very difficult time of it in some breeds. I just try to come away from each show with, “What did I learn today?”

Do I feel owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? I feel that owner-handlers enjoy their dogs more because of the personal bond, but in today’s ring, I don‘t believe that gives them an advantage over the professionals for the most
part. Unfortunately.

Between an All Breed and Specialty win: as a breeder, a specialty win is always more important.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are wins that much more special? Of course as a breeder/owner/handler a major win is intensified by the pride in the breeding program as well as my own hours of training. It shows that you and your dog won, not the face or skill of a professional.

Is fitting the show schedule into our “regular” life a constant balancing act? Luckily I am retired with a very supportive husband. Otherwise it would be very difficult to travel to many shows to campaign a dog, especially from my isolated area. Hauling a travel trailer certainly makes it easier.

Advice to a newcomer: listen carefully. Observe, videotape, talk to as many top handlers as possible for tips. Work hard. A non-professional has much to learn and needs to practice, practice, practice to hone skills to be competitive. But, it can be done. The joy, pride and just plain fun of showing your own dog are well worth it.

Robin Gates

I live in McKinney, Texas. I’m a senior director, physician services and my passions include travel, spending time with family and Scrabble.

I have been in Manchester Terriers since 1994 and Boston Terriers since 2006.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I enjoy competing as a breeder/owner and having that status recognized by AKC and the sport is exciting.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? The bond I have with my dogs is one of the most important facets of handling and showing. We communicate with our eyes, reactions and emotions. Our own dogs are most in tune with us and we can read them.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? A Specialty win is one of the highest honors because it is against our own breed and fellow breeders and exhibitors we respect and admire. An All Breed win is special because it puts our breed in the forefront and allows judges to reward us amongst our peers.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Being a breeder/owner/handler is one of the things I am most proud of. To go through the entire process of picking a sire and dam, breeding a healthy litter, selecting a favorite and then growing that puppy into a Champion, a Special and beyond is
so rewarding.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Balancing shows and work can be challenging. I plan my show schedule almost a year in advance to ensure I have enough vacation days. Then I have to budget so I get the biggest bang for my buck. They may include traveling across the country to go to a show with better judges than the one in my own backyard.

Advice to a newcomer: pace yourself and do not expect everything to happen all at once. You will win sometimes, lose more and spend a lot of money. However, the memories you will make, the friends you will meet and the joy you will feel showing your dogs is worth every bit of the time and energy you put in.

Lois Grier

We live on ten acres in the peaceful Iowa country side. It is a great place for grandkids and our pack of Kerry Blue Terriers. I spent most of my life being a teacher and then an interior design business owner until our move to the country six years ago. My husband continues to work for Pella Corporation where he travels the entire USA much of the time. Most of our time now outside of traveling to shows, raising and training puppies revolve around our seven grandkids and their activities. Other than that I enjoy biking and adding to our landscaping and flower gardens each year.

My first Kerry Blue was born in 2002, I bought her before ever going to a dog show, but I was determined to learn to show. Revlin taught me everything I needed to know about showing, grooming, training and breeding. She gave us 16 champion offspring and is the third highest producing dam in the history of the breed. Her daughter GCHS Krisma’s Lotsa Lottie Da For Liviah Gold ROM is at the top of the list with 20 champion offspring including three National Specialty winners and a two time BOB winner and a BOS at Westminster KC. Now five generations later we are Breeders Of Merit with over 80 finished Krisma champions. Each year we see several Krisma KBTs at the top of the charts making us incredibly proud of all our owners.

When the NOHS began I started showing in it for the additional ring time for a new special. I was an advocate for making it equal to the regular groups in terms of ribbons, trophies and most of all respect. I don’t know that it has reached the same level or that it ever will. Now I encourage my Kerry owners to be a part of it for the same reason. I think that AKC should go back to keeping those participating in it unidentified in the judge’s book.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Hum, an advantage? There is much more involved in showing than just the bond between dog and handler, even though that is an important part of the equation to be successful no doubt. There is so much more involved in presenting the best dog in the ring, getting noticed and awarded for it. I have heard that statement in many handling sessions but still not convinced the judges see it as an advantage. I feel as an owner/handler my dog, my grooming and my presentation must always be better to be noticed. I am thrilled to say we have bred five Best In Show dogs
all owner/handled.

I would like to think that my years of dedication as a breeder/owner/handler would give me an advantage by having the best moving, best structure and best handled dog in the ring. I always show in the Bred-By Exhibitor class with my young dogs. I hope it makes a statement that I bred this KBT and am very proud to be on the end of the lead.

Where do I whelp pups and determine optimal breeding time? Determining optimal breeding time can be done with an experienced male who can tell when she is ready to breed or by testing. My girls tend to be predictable with regular cycles and are ready to breed between days 12-18. However, last year I was gone to a National Specialty and thought I had missed her time but decided to give it a shot on day 21 and got seven puppies. To determine whelping dates charts are available or count 63 days from first day of breeding. Then we take her temp starting a few days before the first due date. When the temp drops into the low 98 degree range we know first stage labor will be starting in the next 24 hours. Our puppies are whelped on a special table my husband built designed to make it much easier on our backs, hips and legs. It is set up now in our great room as I am writing this since we have puppies due anytime sired by Xaiver, our most successful home-bred boy. He is MBIS MRBIS MBISS Can GCH Am GCHG Krisma’s Xman First Class, also the top dog all breed in Canada 2018.

At what age do I place show or pet pups? Puppies are handled, watched, desensitized, socialized, trained and evaluated from the day they are born. It is interesting to see how soon personalities emerge but I try to hold off on seriously evaluating structure until the 8-9 week time. They change so rapidly that I don’t want to fall in love with the wrong one. We are always looking for that puppy that carries itself with such presence you can’t take your eye off of him or her. Puppies begin to leave from ten weeks on. Some stay longer for various reasons especially when I just can’t make up my mind right away. I have been very fortunate to have the best possible people contact me for our puppies. Interviewing and matching up potential owners with the right puppy for lifelong success is one of the most difficult parts of being a breeder.

Has local legislation affected my ability to own, breed and raise good dogs? Yes, Iowans have been battling unrealistic legislation each year since 2010. It is hard to keep up with everything that comes up each year. However, I am not doing this to mass produce but am focused on breeding the best Kerry Blue Terriers I can for great companions, performance and success in the show ring so that future generations can still enjoy this magnificent breed. I am required to have a state license and we are inspected yearly. As an in-home kennel I have restrictions on the number of breeding dogs I can keep. We have a large room in our home dedicated to our Kerry’s housing, grooming and care with lots of yard space. One comment made by an inspector was that if all dogs were raised like ours, she would be out of a job.

Which mentor gave me the most valuable advice? Three amazing women have been responsible for guiding me from the beginning and are still encouraging me today. Jana Deaton didn’t have a litter when I first contacted her but helped me locate my first Kerry from Terry Worful. Jana spent endless hours over the years teaching me to groom, show and breed. Over the years this relationship turned into a successful breeding partnership. Virginia Harding came into my life as Jana was retiring but was a long time breeder/owner/handler as well. Both of these women knew the pedigrees and bloodlines all across the USA and Europe. They also had practical valuable experience in horses which was a natural transition to applying that knowledge to raising and showing dogs. Dana Lynch breeds English Springers but we became friends when she spotted one of my KBT’s at a show and simply wanted a beautiful Kerry to love. She is one of the most knowledgeable breeders that I know. These women have a vast amount of information and are so giving and willing to share everything they know with anyone willing to listen and learn. What I learned from them I try to pass on to every new owner that is interested whether a they are buying a companion puppy or a show potential puppy with great big dreams.

I was the ultimate “newbie” and soaked up everything I could. I grew up on a dairy farm where having a dog was for the purpose of moving cows and they knew the job they were expected to do. Even though Kerry Blue Terriers were bred to be a working farm dog there is so much to know about this breed. Without these mentors and their continued dedication to the breed I would not have been able to contribute what I have to date to this breed. My advice to anyone especially in a breed that requires expert grooming and show prep to find the best breeder and mentors that you can, get involved in breed and specialty clubs and soak up everything you can. Remember that if it is worth doing it is worth the effort it takes long term to
get there.

I would encourage a discussion on the need for everyone in this sport to change the way we think about ourselves and work together to protect our rights to breed, raise and show our chosen purebred dogs in our local communities. Our rights to do so are being attacked in every state across this nation. That is a topic for another article. For today just be the person your dog thinks you are!

Collene Hamm

My place of residence is 481 Sunday Rd., Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania. I own and operate Collene Crafts & Flowers in Kutztown, Pennsylvania for the last 33 years.

When I was 14 my father brought home a male Keeshond that we named Smoky, this is when the love of the breed started for me. I had met a women named Emma Jean who was breeding Collies and Keeshond dogs at the time. She helping me learn the breed and how to welp a litter at the age of 19. I waited two years to find my second bitch. I could not figure out why it was so hard to find this amazing breed. I had later learned people wanted them to be kept a secret.

When I started showing Keeshonden it was a very much owner handled breed. So we knew the dogs were pretty much winning who deserved it. Over the years more people started hiring handlers which now was taking some of the wins from the dogs who deserved it because some judges were looking at who was on the other end of the lead. Adding the owner handler was a great idea for the many of us who enjoy showing their own dogs.

I do feel owner handlers have an advantage to winning to a point, because of the bond with their dogs. However , over the past few years I have watched some judges go to the book to see who the handlers are and make sure they get the breed win and give the owner handlers select or best of winners. This is not all judges. Many still pick the dog. We as owner handlers started to keep track of those judges and will not show to them again.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? All breed wins are important to me! A specialty win is much harder to get and when I get them it’s and amazing feeling knowing you whelped that litter, chose your puppy, taught it, groomed it and then took it in the ring yourself and won the points. It’s a feeling of pride that is indescribable.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Being a Keeshond breeder of 34 years showing that puppy to a championship is an amazing feeling, winning the AKC medallions are also very special that we are awarded for finishing our dog to it AKC championship in the bred by class. Anyone can by a show puppy and hire a handler to show a dog. But it also makes you think, did that dog win because of who was showing it or did it really deserve to take the breed? Many times we walk away from the ring knowing the answer. But this is all part of the dog show world.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Owning my own business makes it a little easier to go to the dog shows sometimes. Other times things happen and I must head back to the store before the end of the day to take care of a funeral or a special order that must be made by myself.

I would tell any newcomers to the show ring, make it a fun day for you and your dog. Do not listen to many of the mean people who are in all breeds. Find other people who want to have a good day and hang with them. Many times you will find friends in other breeds because you are not competing against them.

My best dog show day was when one of my puppy owners drove six hours to bring her boy, Echo, back to me so I could show him at a Speciality in Pennsylvania. She handed me his leash and told me he had been in two handling classes and she said, “Good luck.” Echo exited my van with his own leash in his mouth and I just laughed and said to my self this should be fun!Well day one, we won a three point major in the bred by class; day two, we won a four point major in bred by; day three was another four point major and I was being told what a beautiful boy Echo was and that he could finish his Championship the next day! Never in my mind was I thinking anything like this. So now I was so nervous showing the fourth day I thought I was going to pass out. His owner had drove back from their home to pick him up and got to watch us show. Well we walked in the ring and Echo smelled his owner in the air and was looking for her. I thought, “Oh no we blew it!” The judge looked past his looking for his mom and he won his four point major and finished his championship in one set of dog shows in Machungie, Pennsylvania. To me being his breeder and showing him to this amazing win was a dream come true. His owner is now showing him on her own. She is brand new to the sport and I give her as much encouragement as possible.

Janice Hightower

I live in Lake Wales, Florida. I’m a clerk/order writer for Polk County Bus Garage. My passions outside of dogs is Jeeping, traveling, BBQing, fun with friends?

I’ve been in the breed for 37 years with hunting over Brittanys with my dad growing up which is what made me love the breed.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I am loving it. I have had two top ten dogs so far in six years of
showing again.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Yes, they live with us and are family. Yes some live with handlers but I feel its not the same they still have owners.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty
win? Both.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Yes, I unfortunately have not had a litter since starting to showing again due to my bitch having to be spayed or I would be out there with my own breeding.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? I have no children at home and just have to make sure I have time to take off from work. I can not go out of state very often but can’t wait to retire so I can go off to other states.

Advice to a newcomer: find or have your breeder as a mentor and ask questions. Most people will help you. Just wait until they are through showing to ask or ask if you can talk after they are
done showing.

Keep your chin up win or lose, I know its hard it is for me too. If you’re buying a puppy get a good one from a reputable breeder and ask for help in learning the ropes of dog showing. Some will let you share space at shows so they know their breeding is well shown to make it look good. Don’t give up because you lose (I would have a long time ago with a liver roan Brittany if it had not been for good breeders telling me she would finish with a bang and she did). I try and help or find someone if possible when someone asks me to help.

Nancy L. Hittepole

I’m retired and living in western middle Ohio and the Outer Banks in the winter. Outside of dogs, I like enjoying the outdoors, walking the beaches, bird watching, bike riding, and genealogy.

I rescued a wire bitch in the early 90s and when she passed too soon, started looking for another girl wire and after a few months of newspaper hunting found a new litter ad—whose breeder just happened to live, not knowing, within a few miles away.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? NOHS has provided the owner/handler an equal opportunity to show and provides the breeder owner/handler another opportunity to promote their breeding program.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? It takes two to do well in dog showing—the handler and the dog. If the dog is structurally and physically sound, meets the breed standard and enjoys being in the ring and the handler knows the strengths and limits of self and the dog, proper training and communication should result in an enjoyable and successful bond.

Do breeder/owner/handlers have an extra added advantage when it comes to showing? Maybe, but, it shouldn’t matter. In some showings, it’s a discriminator.

Where do I whelp pups and how do I determine optimal breeding time? Breeding and whelping are usually done at home. Breeding is considered if there is a dam or sire that can help the breeding program. Each bitch’s whelping time can be different ranging in days from high 50s to low 60s in combination of loss of appetite, temperature increases, vulva licking, panting, cramping, restlessness, vomiting, contraction or nesting.

At what age do I place show or pet pups? Placement can occur once solid food is the primary source of nutrition and body functions are normal and thoroughly vet checked and appropriately vaccinated, and, suitable owners are vetted. With the breed standard as the basis, show prospects are usually identifiable early and validated by demeanor, attitude, attentiveness, temperament and sociability.

Has local legislation affected my ability to own, breed and raise good dogs? Not really, the township limits the number of dogs a residence can have and breeding only occurs when suitable sire or dam can improve breeding program.

Which mentor gave me the most valuable advice? Jason Taylor, Royal Canin as well as other notable Wire Fox Terriers breeders and other breed breeders.

Ronald Jacobson

My wife and I live in upstate South Carolina near the town of Clemson.

We moved here from Nebraska as a promotion with my current employer. While this job increased my responsibilities of managing the division inventory and production of our components plants, it did give my wife the opportunity to stay at home and enjoy life after owning restaurants for the last 15 years. The nice thing about living in the south is the weather is very enjoyable ten months of the year and opens up a lot more time to play golf and enjoy time in our large back yard playing with the dogs.

I have had Gordon Setters for about 25 years. Before that I had English Setters for hunting and Australian Shepards for working the horses. It was not until 2008 that we got our first Gordon that was a hunter but also became a grand champion show dog. He loved to find birds but he really enjoyed going to shows.

The NOHS program has given me an opportunity to do more in the show ring with my dogs and compete against other non-professionals. It has also given me the chance to meet many other wonderful people in the NOHS group ring that probably would not have happened without this program.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? I feel there is a wonderful bond between us and doing show work allows us to spend more time together.

However, I can see similar bonds between some of the professional handlers and the winning dogs they show. The key is to have a good dog that enjoys being in the show ring with his handler.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? All wins are very important and rewarding. Winning a breed specialty confirms you have a good dog against your dog’s peers which is special. Winning an all-breed confirms you have a good dog compared to the other dogs showing in your group. That is a wonderful accomplishment and feels great.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? As I noted before all wins are special. I am always thankful that my dog is recognized by the Judges for his attainment of the breed standards, but knowing I was able to handle him in the ring to get the award is a great sense of accomplishment.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? This is the same issue for a large number of people, there is never enough time to get everything done that we want to get done. Showing dogs is no different.

I would like to tell the world it is easy and anyone can do it. But all of us must establish life’s priorities, and those at the top of the list will get actions, those at the bottom of the list probably will not. Focus on those items that you enjoy doing.

Advice to a newcomer: get involved in their breed clubs or local kennel clubs and talk about getting started. Go to a few shows and watch what is going on especially with your breed.

Most breeders will not only encourage you to show if that is your interest, but they will help instruct a newcomer on how to get
started showing.

I know from our personal experience that meeting and talking with other handlers is a great, way to get help. There are many wonderful and knowledgeable people showing and a large majority are willing to help new people to the show world.

Stacey Johnson

I started in Neapolitans in the mid 1980s, winning multiple Nationals, Westminster and Royal Canin. I currently own the number one Neapolitan in the US with 16 group placements. I breed under the name Double Trouble.

I live in Brooksville, Florida. I am an International Dog Show Kennel Club owner. Passions outside of dogs, is there anything other than dogs? I’ve been in my breed for 36 years.

How the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? It is a confidence builder.

Do I feel owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? No, professional handlers hold a distinct advantage. Unfortunately with AKC allowing judges to see who the OH are in the Breed sheets, it actually hurts.

Between an All Breed and Specialty win: an All Breed win is more important to me.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are wins that much more special? Sometimes if over handlers and definitely in group.

Is fitting the show schedule into our “regular” life a constant balancing act? We actually schedule our entire lives around our
show schedule.

Advice to a newcomer: have a thick skin. Not every person will welcome you, but there are good people involved in the sport. Set goals, but be reasonable.

Julia Kinsey

I’m currently living at Litilann Kennels in Louisville Kentucky, working as Ann Rairigh’s assistant. As I have been involved in dogs pretty much my whole life, they really are my passion.

Flirt is my first Toy Poodle, but I have had Standard Poodles since I was ten years old and started showing them at 15. I always wanted a Toy Poodle, so when I had the opportunity to work with Janet Reed in a co-ownership I was very excited!

Because I work as an assistant to a professional, I am ineligible to compete in the NOHS program. I do think it’s done a lot to keep more owner handlers involved in the sport though and I have several friends that are competing in NOHS. I love cheering them on!

I think successful owner handlers certainly have that bond, but so can professional handlers. An owner handler that works on “upping their game” by constantly working on their grooming and handling skills can be a formidable opponent.

I would say that a specialty win is more important to me. Winning the variety at PCA this year was a dream come true. To compete with and be recognized by my peers was an amazing feeling.

I have finished Standard Poodles of my own breeding and that was certainly fun. I also enjoy working to bring out the best in our client dogs.

As an assistant, my show schedule is a part of my regular life.

I would tell a newcomer to find good mentors and handlers to help them learn and improve. I was fortunate enough to learn from some of the best and I continue to learn more all the time.

I would like to thank Ann Rairigh who lets me step away to show my own dog and is always there to cheer us on. And thanks also to my friends and family—the support Flirt and I receive is truly overwhelming.

Kandice Kostic

Kandice Kostic started going to dog shows in 1981 after getting her first show Dachshund, a standard smooth. She bred her first Dachshund litter in 1982. Greyhounds came into the picture in 1990. She co-bred her first Greyhound litter in 1998. Dollidachs Dachshunds currently has bred or co-bred 147 champion and other title holder standard longs, smooths, and wire Dachshunds. Trireme Greyhounds has 12 champions to date with a litter born on average every six years. Ms. Kostic is a licensed Junior Showmanship judge and enjoys judging puppy and veteran sweepstakes.

I live in Northern Virginia and I’m a program specialist. My passions outside of dogs include travel, reading and making jewelry.

I’ve been in Dachshunds since 1980 and Greyhounds since 1989.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? It has its place. Good experience and training arena for young dogs and new exhibitors.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Not necessarily. I think it depends on the dog and handler.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? All wins happily accepted.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? I am a breeder/owner/handler. Certain dog’s wins are extra special, like finishing my current Greyhound special at the 2017 Greyhound Club of America national specialty from BBE. He won his first BOB as a special the next day as a move up.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? It is a balancing act. I am fortunate I can telecommute some days of the week and can accrue leave without a cap. Sometimes there may be a show you really would like to go to but it just isn’t feasible with what may be going on at work.

Advice to a newcomer: try to find good people, in and outside of your breed, to mentor you. I learned how to groom my first
Wirehaired Dachshund from a Wire Fox Terrier person. Study your breed standard. Always keep in mind what the breed was bred to do because form and function go hand in hand.

Linda Kunicki

Linda’s background includes a lengthy tenure in health care as well as a strong business background. She has been working in her current position since 2013. While her primary focus has been management, training and marketing, Linda has taken on and succeeded at roles in Sales, Human Resources, and Project Management. Every position she’s had has allowed her to fulfill her passion to serve others from children to seniors, which gives her joy each day. Her experience has led her to being on the board of the Chicago Chapter of the Case Management Society of America for multiple terms, as well as for the Greater Chicago Infusion Nurses Society and serving on many committees for Aging Care Connections and local Health and Wellness groups. In the past Linda has also been on the board of FITE a Center for Independent Living and has served in nearly every office of the Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Club since joining in 1986.

Linda has owned Shetland Sheepdogs aka Shelties most of her life. For many years, she has been involved in activities with Shelties that have guided her to breed championship and performance dogs earning titles on many of her own dogs and help others do the same.

Linda’s favorite quote, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” —Zig Zigler

I live in a Chicago, Illinois suburb and I’m a marketing director and community liaison for a Private Duty Home Care agency. My passion has always been to be helpful to others through working in service industries and volunteering with non-profits that positively impact some part of a person’s life. In my current position I help healthcare professionals and families put together the best resources for a patient, so they have all they need for comfort and care right in their home.

Growing up we had a couple pets, which were Shetland Sheepdogs aka Shelties. My mom, a widow, liked to find fun but different things for us to do on the weekend, when I was 11 she took us to the IKC dog show in Chicago and I loved it. Finally, in 1985, my husband and I, now in our thirties, started learning more about showing Shelties. In 1986 we joined the Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Club and later I also became a member of the American Shetland Sheepdog Club.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? The NOHS has not in itself affected my view. However, I think some clubs make it more special for owner-handlers than others do. For instance, I am grateful to clubs offering NOHS on Saturday and Sunday as many of us have job schedules and also giving Rosettes and not just ribbons for the groups.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? No, as I see many handlers with wonderful bonds to the dogs they show.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Very hard to answer as when you do a limited amount of shows due to job schedules all wins are important and special. I still have some goals to accomplish which are winning BIS and BISS, and having a Platinum Grand Champion.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? As a Breeder, Owner, Handler the wins are very special. Especially since we do a very limited amount of breeding with co-breeder/co-owner, Christy Calkins, who lives in Wisconsin.

In the early 1990s Christy and I, along with my husband Len, decided to work together to breed our next show dogs. We each keep a very small number of Shelties and our dogs live with us through their veteran years. So, we pick our show dogs carefully and have had several who went on into their ‘teens’ winning major awards. Due to job and life changes, for about eight years I did not show my dogs. Then in 2011 I thought I’d take the ‘old guy’ out for fun to IKC show and then put him in Veterans 12+ class at our National. Rudy had always loved dog shows and even at almost 13 years old this hadn’t changed, even after not being in the ring for eight years.

The Grand Champion competition was new at this time. At IKC the judge awarded Rudy with Select Dog and said he deserves his Grand. At our National specialty, that same year, many came up to me and said Rudy deserves his Grand. Since Rudy loved the ring so we started taking him to shows again. In five months he became GCh. Starlites Cast in Red, turning 13 years old as he did it.

In 2016, a singleton, Grant, was born and soon we knew he was destined for the ring. Grant finished in 2019 and continues earning awards in both the Breed and NOHS arena in limited showing. Ch. Starlites Echelon Take Command, Grant, is featured in my ad for the Breeder/Owner/Handler special edition of ShowSight. Grant was 2018 NOHS Top Ten Shetland Sheepdog rankings. Now in 2019 as of June he is in the Top Ten NOHS Shetland
Sheepdog rankings.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? With a full time job in home care and all the other things that goes on in even in a regular life, yes, it is a balancing act. Being a Owner-Handler with a full time job, outside of showing dogs, limits how many shows we can attend and how far we can travel. It limits many things compared to someone who is a full time handler.

Advice to a newcomer: find and read every book and article on your breed of interest, volunteer and join your local specialty club, go to shows to observe and absorb. You must develop your patience, listening skills, knowledge and tolerance for losing more than winning, stay objective and make friends with conformation and performance people alike. If all you gain is some new friendships and help preserve the breed you love you have won the best part of being a part of the dog show world.

Savannah Kutz Lay

I live in Lakeland, Florida. My main “job” is as an assistant to professional handler, Renee Rosamilia. When we’re not traveling and showing though, I work at the western wear and livestock feed/supply store owned by my husband’s family. Eventually, we’ll inherit the business, so I manage things when I’m at home.

I’ve been competing with dogs since 2008 and I’ve had Border Collies since 2010. I’ve only just gotten seriously into conformation and breeding a few years ago though.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I think it was a great idea in the beginning, but it kind of feels like it’s turned into something else. For example, I’m not allowed to compete since I’m a paid assistant. But I still own and handle my own dogs, so why am I not an “Owner Handler”? I think it needs to have a name that fits its exclusivity.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Not really. Honestly, the dogs that show and travel with professionals develop a bond just like those with owner/handlers. They don’t know that the Professional Handler doesn’t own them. The dogs just know the care, love, and attention that the Professionals give them. They respond to that, not a paper
of ownership.

What’s more important to me: an all-breed win or a specialty win? It’s hard to say. My favorite wins are the ones my dog makes me work for. Up until now, the dogs I’ve shown have always been eager to please and willing to do whatever I asked of them. My current special, well, he’s not an easy dog to show. He’s eager to please, but in his own unique way. Any time we both put in a good performance and get rewarded for it is an exciting win in my book regardless of whether it’s all-breed or specialty.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? I think the wins are the most special when you’ve started with the dog from the beginning. To see your time and energy result in something spectacular is an unforgettable feeling.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Thankfully, the family business allows for a lot of flexibility. I’m able to take off for shows whenever I need to. However, neither one is truly independent of the other. While I’m at shows, I also am in contact with my employees at the feed store: making orders from the hotel rooms, arguing with sales reps in the car, reviewing applications while grooming dogs. And vice versa: even at the feed store I’m planning for future shows, drafting invoices for my handler’s clients and remembering to count crates for the upcoming trips. It’s a balancing act for sure.

Advice to a newcomer: It’s very easy to get discouraged. Snarky comments made ringside, a foul trick played inside the ring, slander on social media—I promise, not everyone’s bad! Don’t give up, you’ll find your people. Mentors are invaluable in this sport and they’re the type of people who will celebrate your success as hard as you do. Find one and don’t let them go.

Jeanie McAdams

My husband and I live in Denton County, Texas just a few miles from our dental practice in Denton. My husband, Doug, is a dentist and I manage our practice. Besides loving to put a show record on a dog, (especially a bred by), my passions include traveling, exploring, learning and trying new things, snow skiing, waterskiing, design, architecture and construction, reining horses (I used to own/train and show them) and just hanging out with Doug and the dogs at home!

I bought my first Miniature American Shepherd in 2007 and started showing in conformation then at the ‘rare breed’ shows. This was before the breed was accepted into AKC and they were registered as Miniature Australian Shepherds. I was on the parent breed club board that negotiated entrance into AKC and was the liaison for our Breed Standard Committee. Our breed (under the new name Miniature American Shepherd) was accepted into AKC FSS in 2012 and became fully recognized in 2015. I have had Australian Shepherds since 1975 but did not show them. Most of my Aussies were not much bigger than my Minis now! I am a board approved Judge’s Education Mentor and have done many Meet The Breeds promoting our breed to the public including numerous years at the AKC National show in Orlando, the Rose City Classic in Portland, Oregon and the Houston Reliant show.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? Since I started showing conformation in 2012 in AKC Misc. and our breed was fully recognized in 2015, I don’t know what it was like showing AKC before NOHS was introduced since it was already implemented when we were fully recognized in 2015. I think it’s only logical to have this opportunity for Owner Handlers and I believe it was a very good business decision by AKC . Coming from a horse show background it’s logical to have different classes for different levels of competition, whether it is for the handler or the dog. My philosophy managing reining horse competitions is that the more classes you can offer and the more winners you have that day the more growth you will see.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? I think they should but it all depends on the owner/handler and their attitude. It also depends on their work ethic, passion, energy level, mental outlook, physical ability, desire to learn, etc etc. There are many OH out there that work hard and are passionate about showing and they do very well not only in the OH ring but the ‘regular’ ring also. I also see some OH’s out there with nice dogs but they have a negative attitude and don’t try very hard so they may not win a lot. They always want to blame someone or something besides themselves. Many times they blame their dog, the judge and/or pro-handlers. But that’s not the dog’s fault! The dog will only show as well as you have trained him. I have helped numerous OHs over the years and some have been eager to learn, take advice well, then they go on and succeed. Then there are some that no matter how many times you tell them the same thing they don’t do it and/or make excuses. That is frustrating, especially when they have a nice dog. So you can’t generalize about any group, there will be a range of talent and passion. I love to see an OH with their dog out winning not only in the NOHS ring but in the regular group and regular Best in Show ring! They have a wonderful bond with their dogs!

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? I love them both! A specialty win, especially the National Specialty is thrilling because of what it is! I have been fortunate to win our regular National Specialty twice and Select/ Bred By Exhibitor and BOB/OH BOB the other years I have shown (until our club changed the rule on not allowing ‘Specials’ to compete for BOB BBX). Most of these wins were with Bred By dogs which is especially thrilling! My dogs have won the AKC National BOB OH every year we have shown in it. On the other hand, there is nothing like winning a regular AKC Best in Show with your bred by dog! To be in the regular Best in Show ring with some of the top dogs and top handlers in the country is a thrill! I have had the honor of winning two regular Best in Shows and 1 reserve BIS with two different bred bys, father and son! The dog I am currently showing is the only MAS to have won two regular Best in Shows and 25 Group Ones! He also won our National Specialty last year and the AKC National NOHS Best in Show in 2016! He was the number one ranked NOHS all breed dog for several months earlier this year! I showed his sire to a regular Reserve Best in Show and four Group Ones in addition to numerous NOHS BIS! To win any big show under a judge you truly respect and admire, a real ‘dog man’ (or woman), is a thrill to me!

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Absolutely. Nothing compares to that feeling! It really feels wonderful when you are showing a third or fourth generation bred by!

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? I don’t know how I manage! My ‘to do’ list is never done! You just have to prioritize and run off adrenaline! Managing our dental practice, taking care of our ranch and dogs, breeding, training and showing dogs, all without a lot of help is exhausting actually! But, I know that one day this will all end so I want to take advantage of this time in my life and not waste a minute of it!

Advice to a newcomer: if you have a nice dog and are a good student you can do well especially showing in the NOHS. Buy some handling books and if possible take lessons. Keep it fun for your dog. Study show videos, like Westminster breed videos on their website. Know your breed’s breed standard and carry a copy with you. Study the AKC rulebook. Know your judge’s ring procedure. Get to the show early and be prepared. Be organized. Keep it fun for your dog. Watch other breeds, the group rings and Best in Show. You can learn something from everyone, either how to do something or how not to do something! Keep a positive attitude, don’t talk poorly about anyone or their dogs at the shows and smile! Don’t take it personally if a lot of the people showing dogs seem to be in their own little world and may not come across as being friendly. A lot of them are there to do their job and are focused on their dogs and schedule. You can introduce yourself to others and especially owner handlers showing other breeds. Keep it fun for your dog. Be positive on social media. Most dogs love going down the road with their best friend, make it fun for them! Train at home, be prepared when you get to a show and have fun! Remember you are either going to win or learn a lesson that day. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go as planned. When it does all fall together though it is a blast! Did I mention keep it fun for your dog? Keep it fun for you too!

Teri McAllister

I was born and raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina and still live there. I’m a groomer and love it. A passion of mine outside of caring for dogs is photography.

When I first started working at a veterinary clinic in Rock Hill, one of the employees had a litter of Lhasa pups; that was 26 years ago. I love this breed and their personalities. They don’t seem to have many health issues and are long lived.

When NOHS program first came out I believe everyone was on equal footing but things seem to have changed.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? The all breed win is more important to me.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Balancing my show schedule with my home life can sometimes be challenging, but I have good friends who come forward to help out and we seem to manage well with both.

My advice to newcomers is don’t give up, enjoy showing your dog whether you win or lose. Your dog is happy being with you. Grooming a Lhasa can be relaxing. Be proud that you have a beautiful friend on the other end of the lead.

Beth Mercier

I live in St. Marys, Georgia and I’m the Vice President of Q2, a software company based in Austin, Texas. My passion outside of dogs is historic preservation and early southern material arts. I serve as the Chair of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts Advisory Board, Secretary of the Board of Trustees for Old Salem Museum and Gardens and on the Decorative Arts Council for the Georgia Museum of Art.

I have been in Portuguese Water Dogs for over 15 years. Before Portuguese Water Dogs, we had Newfoundlands and Labs.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? It has made the sport more accessible to me and allowed me to live out my dream of handling my dog in the conformation ring. I have watched dog shows all my life but always felt that the ring was only for professionals. I am grateful to the AKC for introducing the NOHS and to the all breed clubs who support the series by offering NOHS events.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Owners do have a bond with their dogs but I’m not sure that this is necessarily an advantage in the ring. Handlers have the advantage of experience and know how to respond or adjust to situations in the ring. Handlers also may have an advantage because their relationship with the dog is based more on working together rather than being a companion.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Both! I actually haven’t handled my own dog at a specialty but plan to owner-handle Blaze at our National Specialty in September in Colorado. I set this goal for us in January when I first started showing Blaze, and have been showing her every month to get
practice. A specialty win would be very special because you are getting the recognition in a lineup of beautiful PWDs. All breed wins are exciting because the competition is so varied. I love it when we are recognized in an outstanding lineup of working dogs.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? It is wonderful validation for the breeding decisions you’ve made when you can be a breeder/owner/handler.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? It is! I have had to take vacation days to travel to and participate in shows. This also means time away from my family and catching up during the week when I’ve been gone all weekend. We also get up early every morning to exercise and condition before work and typically do any bathing and grooming at night.

Advice to a newcomer: find a mentor! I am very fortunate to have two strong mentors, Margaret De Fore, who co-owns Torrid Zone Portuguese Water Dogs with me, and Elizabeth Volz, who keeps Blaze’s groom in pattern and trains me on how to present her. Both of these dear friends cheer us on and encourage us to believe in what we can achieve.

Darcy Morgan

We’re in Spring, Texas—just north of Houston. I’m a fulltime Project Manager for a tech company so most of my off hours involve the dogs. Nice weather finds us outside playing and training in the yard, walking, or going to the dog park. I’m an avid house and yard DIYer, so I’ve always got some remodeling, decorating, or crafting project going on. Hot weather drives us indoors where I’ll sometimes create videos or catch up on email and social media.

I had Mini’s before deciding in 2005 I was ready for the challenge of the Standard. I fell in love with the breed and have progressed from being a pet owner to showing in Conformation and breeding.

Anything I’d like to share about your experience with the NOHS? First, never believe for a moment that showing your own dog will cost less than hiring a pro handler. You will need to take training classes with your dog. You will spend your spare time practicing with your dog as well as teaching yourself how to move in the ring. Depending on the breed you own, you might find that you’ll need to invest in grooming tools and supplies, and you’ll need travel supplies like crates, mats, exercise pens, and a dolly to schlep all your gear in and out of the buildings. The cost of entering your dog in the shows is not exorbitant, but you will also have fuel, parking and hotel bills when you travel. If you’re employed, you’ll likely use some—if not all—of your vacation time to go to shows. And, you may need a whole new wardrobe if you don’t currently own
“show clothes.”

Choosing to be an Owner-Handler is all about the journey with your dog. The training you do together should build a bond between you. There’s trust involved; forgiveness for mistakes or an off day; joy when something difficult is mastered—there are even moments of hilarity when it seems both you and your dog are laughing together. The places to which you travel for a show may be places you wouldn’t have known to visit otherwise, and the sum of all your travel together are adventures you get to keep as memories.

When you start competing against pros that have been at it for decades longer than you, it’s intimidating! They know handling tricks you don’t know; they pace the dog just right; they show the bite with a smoothness and effortlessness that you haven’t yet grasped. They exhibit at so many shows that they’re on a first-name basis with many of the judges. You’re aware that your performance—if not impeccable—could cause your perfectly-performing-pup to not make the cut that day. It can be frustrating and emotionally exhausting. Then, one day, you and your dog take the win over a pro-handled dog and you almost kiss the judge. As you progress, your confidence builds, your skills improve, and you start winning more consistently. The takeaways from being able to compete in a ring with seasoned professionals are great. Even outside the ring you walk a little taller.

The rewards of winning in the NOHS are more momentous because of the personal investment you’ve made. Your dog’s performance reflects on you and your communicative skills with your dog. The whole experience is heightened because you’re invested in it. You don’t just have skin in the game—you’ve got your heart and soul in it.

Melissa Mulchahey

I live in the greater San Francisco area—in the Livermore wine country. I work as a Vice President of Client Strategy and Business Development for Xcenda, a division of AmerisourceBergen. I’m responsible for working with new and existing pharmaceutical company clients to craft and execute patient access strategies and support programs for life changing therapies. Outside of dogs I’m an active breeder and rider of dressage horses. I currently stand three breeding stallions at stud and actively compete as a dressage rider. I also love cooking and traveling with my husband of 25 years.

I am fairly new to French Bulldogs—only the past two years. In the past I was active in Great Danes and Whippets. Currently I have two AKC Champion Frenchies and am about to import a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? Many years ago when I first started in the dog world this division didn’t exist and would have been very received even then. I’m so happy to have a division for us “amateur owners” to compete against our peers, have the chance to show and bond with our dogs, and promote our breeds of choice and the purebred dog world.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Well, I think it depends on the dog! Some are more distracted with their owners and others like the security of having their “person” with them. My current NOHS dog, Truman, really sparkles with me and always gives me his best efforts every time in the ring.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Both are special in their own way. I do think an NOHS group win at an all breed show—and the opportunity to go in for Best in Show is really a lot of fun.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? It’s definitely a juggling act. It makes it hard to be able to go out on longer circuits so I try to show as much “locally” as I can. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve had to cancel show entries due to the requirements of work. I’m looking forward to retiring in about five years and having the flexibility to show more and travel more for shows. I’m definitely envious of some of my fellow competitors who are at that stage in their life already and get more ring time than I do. But on the other hand there is a lot of satisfaction in balancing work and hobbies—and makes each opportunity to show more special to me.

Advice to a newcomer: find a good professional willing to coach you. I owe a lot to my handler, Ruben Lemmens, who always watches me in the groups if he’s not in another ring, offers constructive criticism and enlists our other handler friends to come cheer for me as well. Keep detailed notes on shows, locations, judges—it really helps to be able to look back year to year and make educated decisions on which shows to enter. Watch all of the classes in your breed, stay and watch the groups and cheer on the other owner handlers—even if you don’t make the group yourself.

Nancy Nykamp

I live in Northern Virginia, one mile from the Potomac River and 20 minutes from Washington DC. My town is family oriented, with lots of horse farms and lush green acres—ideal for a family involved in dogs.

After retiring from the US Army, I chose a second career in Homeland Security. I presently serve as a Senior Executive specializing in Aviation Security.

My passion outside of dogs is my family. I have three fabulous kids and a wonderful husband. They keep me very busy with sports, scouting (I serve as a Girl Scout Troop leader), and community activities. I also love the outdoors, gardening, hiking, and working on projects around the house.

I grew up with Airedale Terriers, so let’s just say I’ve been in dogs for 50 or so years.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I think it is an excellent venue that serves to broaden competition. It makes the sport more appealing for 85% of the handlers who are also owners. It also promotes healthy and supportive competition, much like I recall from the 1970s when I was a junior handler in a ring that was comprised primarily of adult owner hander/breeders.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? The bond with our dogs is what makes the competition magical. My favorite photo with my Special Bitch is a candid that was taken during Westminster. It is of us in a free stack under the American flag. This photo captures the essence of our magic. While I am not sure we have an advantage, I do think our bond can make for a most charming presentation.

Do breeder/owner/handlers have an extra added advantage when it comes to showing? Our advantage is that we typically have fewer dogs to maintain and presumably more time to spend on the nuances of presentation. Last summer, I maintained four dogs (three Airedales and one Russell Terrier) in preparation for the Montgomery Kennel Club Show. That’s about ten fewer than my friends (who are Terrier handlers) maintain. The smaller number of dogs to maintain enables me to focus on coat conditioning, physical training for muscle development and happiness.

Where do I whelp pups and how do I determine optimal breeding time? Puppies are whelped in my home. We have a separate floor of the house that is devoted to whelping, weening, and a puppy head start program. With easy access to the outside, a washer, dryer, and a bedroom, it’s an ideal setup.

At what age do I place show or pet pups? Pet pups are typically placed at eight weeks. I am very lucky, as Airedale show prospects are generally easy to identify at eight weeks. When possible, we will keep the strongest show prospects for a few more weeks and make a final assessment at 12 weeks.

Has local legislation affected my ability to own, breed and raise good dogs? Fortunately, local legislation has not negatively
impacted us.

Which mentor gave me the most valuable advice? I have had many, many great mentors over the decades, all with meaningful and lasting advice. The single most consistent theme has been to remain passionate and committed to advancing the betterment of the breed.

Advice to a newcomer: welcome! Seek out new friends and mentors, be willing to work hard and continuously learn, embrace the unexpected, and always, always remember this is supposed to be fun!

My parents started showing and breeding Airedales in the 1950s. They passed the love of the breed and showing to me at a very early age. Now, I am happy and proud to say that I have passed the same passion to my three children: Olivia, James, and Hugh. Last year all three of them showed their dogs at the Montgomery Kennel Club show, and Olivia (age 17) handled her dog to his championship. This year, Hugh (age 11) has shown his puppy to several wins, including six Best In Sweepstakes, a major win, and a Terrier Group placement.

Melisa Ruppert

I have been showing dogs for nine years. In 2017, Carolyn McNamara, Divine Acres Great Danes, and I co-bred my first litter of CH Journey’s Whaddya Got with my bitch BISS GCHS Divine Acres Busy Being Fabulous AOM. That breeding produced, Lovely, MBIS MRBIS MBISS BIF GCHS Landmark-Divine Acres Kiss Myself I’m So Pretty, AOM, HOF who I co-own with Stephanie Taylor. Lovely has truly been a once in a lifetime dog! As of May 31st, she is the Number Four Working Dog in the country and currently has with eight Best in Shows and ten Best in Specialties.

I live in Wisconsin and am the president of a commercial cleaning company. Between the business, kids and dogs, there isn’t time for anything else!

My first Dane, Winston, was a one year anniversary gift from my husband back in 2006. He taught us a lot about the breed, finding a good breeder and made us advocate for well-bred dogs. A fun fact is that Winston won the nationwide contest for the first ever Milk-Bone Spokesdog back in 2009 for their 100th
year anniversary.

I loved competing in NOHS and have participated in the program in the past years. That program gave me the experience and confidence to compete at a larger level with the professional handlers. Due to that and the encouragement of Lovely’s team and her co-owner, Stephanie Taylor, we have pleasantly surpassed the goal of being ranked in the NOHS. I am currently enjoying Lovely’s eight Best In Show wins with confidence.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Yes! When you are showing a dog that you bred, and you were the first thing that dog knew besides its mother, there is a bond that no professional handler, or anyone for that matter, can match. You know their quirks, personality and mood just by the twitch of an ear.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? For a Breed win? Hands down a Specialty! These wins are from judges that should have an intimate knowledge of your breed. But a Specialty vs Best In Show? I’d go with a Best In Show. Representing the breed you are passionate about in the BIS ring is an incredible feeling. At that level you are competing mostly with professional handlers and dogs that are out every weekend, traveling the country and advertising constantly. So, when you get that BIS, breeder-owner handled with a dog that is just starting their campaign at the tender age of two and minimal advertising—that’s a dream! We are so grateful to the judges that found and awarded Lovely’s BIS wins: Dr. Gerard Penta, Dana Cline (two), Robert Hutton, Jason Hoke, Desmond Murphy, Eric Ringle and John Constantine-Amodei.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? I don’t want to take away from anyone else’s wins, but to me, they are! So much planning, time, effort and disappointment go into breeding, so when you get that once-in-a-lifetime, special dog that you bred, own, train, raise and handle that is also an integral part of your family—it’s as if the stars have aligned!

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Balancing act?! More like constant chaos! Haha! Currently I have two young kids (ages four and one), five Great Danes, run a company and am actively campaigning Lovely, who is ranked number four in the working group. Oh, and we thought this was a good time to build a house! I manage through an incredibly supportive husband, great family and team of people that help me get through each day. They say it takes a village and never has that statement resonated with me more!

Advice to a newcomer: everyone always says start with the best dog you can get, which is absolutely true. Beyond that, surround yourself with people that are willing to help you. Everyone has their own ways of doing things, so learn as much as you can from many different resources: breeders, handlers, owners, judges, etc. and find what works for you! Additionally, the days of breeders having large kennels of dogs are no longer. Build a team of people with similar vision and goals. The wins are great, but this sport has brought so many wonderful people into our lives that have become family. We are always there for each other through the ups and downs. Win or lose, with a great team of people, you will always have fun!

Dr. Natalia Samaj Kunze,  DVM

I live in Virginia. My profession is veterinarian, board certified in Theriogenology—I am a reproduction specialist and pediatrician focusing on dogs and cats.

My passions include my work; I live my life in the clinic. In the very spare free time left, I like to travel
and hike.

I’ve been in the breed for 28 years, getting my first own Kerry 25 years ago.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? It gives the owners more opportunities to practice with their dogs. It encourages the amateur handlers to compete under more
fair conditions.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? No, not really. There are fair more obstacles “the regular folks” need to overcome to compete in this sport.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Absolutely the Specialty win. Just as much as the breed over all
breed rankings.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? The personal achievement has a very high value. Having a Top winning dog is fulfilling, accomplishing it all by yourself
is unbeatable.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? It is a constant struggle. On one hand my profession does allow for some flexibility, but on the other hand the OBGYN and newborn patients require us to be available for 24 hours a day, all year around. Added to 40+ hours a week at work, I am also “on call” three of five workday’s overnights and additional 72 hours during the weekend, when not at the show.

If the show is close enough, I compete during the day, and work or I am on stand-by for emergencies overnight. As I am unable to take enough time off for a travel and show prep, I drive to the show overnight. It’s like having two full time jobs. Juggling the competition for a top dog and a service to my breeder clients, I go months without a break.

Advice to a newcomer: have a grit. There are three components making a whole picture—your dog’s anatomy, your grooming and your handling. You may not be able to change the structure of your dog, but you can always improve your presentation. Expect to lose and get better by trying again.

Francisco Sanguino

I live in the midwest. I work in shipping and receiving for an industrial company. I love spending time outdoors (fishing, boating, swimming, sports, etc) with my wife and kids. I also enjoy coaching kids in sports.

I began in Rally and Junior Showmanship at the age 16 and so it’s been 14 years now!

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I don’t know that it’s really altered how I feel about the sport in general. However, it’s allowed breeder/owner/handlers to find additional success in the show ring. It also allows owner/handlers to hone their skills, build the relationship with their dog to be successful, all without the pressure of competing against handlers.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Unfortunately I don’t think there is an advantage in the area of success, because of our bond with our dogs. However, our dogs are bonded to us, want to perform for us, and enjoy the sport because of our bond with them.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Specialty win, hands down. Especially when you bred the dog and your dog is recognized at a specialty. Your dog is only against one breed standard and the acknowledgment amongst your peers who are also passionate about your breed is so much more important than that of an all breed win. Not that an all breed win, isn’t rewarding! They, too, can be an amazing experience. But, it’s an either/or question so have to answer that a specialty win is more important to me.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Of course. When we take the time to research what dogs might better the breed, then take all the hours whelping, raising, and evaluating the litter, to grow them up to be successful and acknowledged, makes any win more special.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? Yes. It takes a ton of planning because I have children who have active schedules, as well as my wife works so it’s always tricky. My wife is the conductor on this crazy train and takes us where we need to go.

Advice to a newcomer: surround themselves with good people who are supportive. To always remember this is a game and to convey to the dog that you’re having fun and they’re beautiful, no
matter what.

I came into this sport a troubled youth. My foster mom, Steph Anderson, got me to try Rally, then I began showing Jr. Showmanship and Conformation. This sport, literally changed my life. It gave me a positive outlet for all my energy, put positive people in my life that showed me I could achieve something through learning and hard work. I feel very fortunate to have been placed with Steph as a foster child because she got me involved in something that became so meaningful to me that I was willing and wanting to turn my life around. It remains an important part of my life and now I’m bringing my own children into the sport.

Dave & Darlene Scheiris

We live in Raymore, Missouri and we’ve been professional handlers since 1988. Is there a life outside of dogs?

I’ve been in Havanese since 1994 as a handler in Canada in Rare Breed and Miscellaneous. My foundation bitches came from Grace Westerson, Alberta, Canada. Both were AM CAN Champions with Best Puppy in Shows, Multiple Group Placements, and Mannie was Best of Opposite at Westminster. Along with my wife, Darlene, we have bred well over 100 Champion Havanese, with titles all over the world.

Black Russian Terriers since 1998 when I first fell in love with the sire and dam of my first BRT at the World Show in Mexico City. BRT was the first AKC Champion. We have bred over two dozen BRT Champions, and have multiple group and specialty wins, and our last special, Varias, was a Best in Show winning dog.

Bichon Frises since 1984. While we do very little breeding at this time, we still love this breed and enjoy the grooming and exhibition of these exquisite dogs. Multiple group wins in the USA and Canada. Placements at Westminster and the AKC
National Championship.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I am not eligible to participate in this competition, but as with everyone, I have an opinion on it. On one hand, I believe that the NOHS program has encouraged entries, but on the other hand, I believe that dogs entered in NOHS are occasionally overlooked for higher placements with judges who want to ‘share’ the awards. Likewise, owners with inferior dogs are entering and being awarded, just to have something to brag about, rather than acquiring a better dog. Those people will only enter days with the NOHS competition, and no other. There have been numerous times when I have witnessed a judge go back to check the judges book, see who is NOHS, then make their placements, and as they are handing out ribbons, state “There, everybody gets a ribbon!” and seem very pleased with themselves. I have many friends, with great dogs, who refuse to enter NOHS because they feel that it is not worth the ‘risk.’

In my humble opinion, to alleviate this possible misconception, while truly awarding the most deserving NOHS dog, I would like to see the following changes:

  • The NOHS entries should not be marked in the judge’s book.
  • After final Breed Placements (BOB, BOW, BOS, SD, SB, and at specialties AOMs) the NOHS BOB should be chosen.
  • This would ensure that the best dog on that day is awarded, not that it given as a consolation prize.
  • If a dog is entered in NOHS, and also wins BOB, it should be required to be owner-handled in the regular group. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched owners try to ‘play the game,’ and show the dog in the breed and in the NOHS Groups, then hire a professional handler to show the dog in the Regular Group. Either you are proud of showing your own dog, or you are not. Choose one.
  • Another option would be to do NOHS as a completely separate entry, judged apart from the regular breed ring.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Most times there does need to be some sort of bond between dog and handler, whether that handler is the owner or a professional. It really depends on the dog and handler. Many owners want to bring a dog to the show and expect great things from a handler, yet never give the handler an opportunity to truly bond with the dog. Some dogs just don’t care, they will show for anyone (the ideal client dog!). Some dogs just need a few minutes of bonding, some take a couple of weeks (or longer) at the house, or on the road, with a handler to really bring out the best.

I had a client who did not want to send their dog on the road, or even show regularly, yet wanted a top ranked dog, especially when they saw the Group wins every time I showed their dog. They could not understand that the dogs in the rankings to which their were aspiring, had been with their handlers for months or years, had been show-groomed weekly and bragged about on a regular basis. These are the bonds of an owner (while not on paper), not just a handler.

Do breeder/owner/handlers have an extra added advantage when it comes to showing? This depends on the handling skills of the exhibitor. I have seen people who I thought must be a professional, but were not. They just took extreme pride in doing the very best with their own dogs. Conversely have seen people who are terrible in the ring but love exhibiting their own dogs, and look at it as strictly a hobby, not caring whether they win or not. As long as they are having fun, that is what matters, however, I really like to see them improve so they do win more, and develop the confidence and skill needed in the ring. I often lend a hand, or offer advice, to help them be better. Sometimes, this does come back to bite me, as the people that have taken my input, have sometimes ended up beating me at a later date. I guess that makes me a good teacher? Our sport needs more mentoring in this respect.

Where do I whelp pups and how do I determine optimal breeding time? Puppies are whelped in our bedroom. The dam is put in her whelping pen, next to the bed, about a week prior to the due date. Breeding time is determined by a combination of the sighting of vulvar swelling, first blood, vaginal smears to check cornificaton, occasionally progesterone testing, and the ‘radar’ detection of the males in the house. I really miss our Bichon ‘Magic’ as he could walk right by a bitch in season up until the day she was ready to be bred, at which time he made it very clear that this bitch needs to be bred! Thirty-five years of breeding experience helps too.

Determining whelp date is also a combination of things. Initially, we go with 63 days from the first breeding. Then one must consider the age of the dam, her eating habits, rectal temperature and her behavior. Then it is up to her. We monitor the dams 24-7 for the last week of pregnancy.

At what age do I place show or pet pups? None of our pups go to any home prior to ten to 12 weeks of age, depending on the home and maturity of the puppy. I feel that removing a puppy from it’s dam or siblings any earlier does the puppy a disservice. In those last four weeks, the puppies learn a lot of respect for other living being and getting through the initial chewing and teething phase. If they bite a littermate, they get bit back, if they need something to chew on, it is something for teething, not a piece of furniture.

Most breeds are easy to evaluate young. I start looking as soon as they are born and by seven or eight weeks have made my litter rankings. Many people have never evaluated their own dogs, so do not understand that you can evaluate a puppy with the same standard under which the adults are judged.

Has local legislation affected my ability to own, breed and raise good dogs? Well since anybody can breed ‘bad’ dogs, you cannot blame legislation for not being able to breed good dogs. No matter the laws, you still must follow standards to breed to improve your breed, otherwise, do not breed at all.

Local regulations did affect the number of dogs we can have, however, by following the legal process, we were able to obtain an exemption allowing us to own and breed, on our acreage, within the city limits. It brought us to tears when we saw that the entire city council room was full of neighbors and friends who had come to testify on our behalf. Had we not been able to obtain this variance, we would have been forced to move, or give up having the dogs—and giving them up was not an option.

Which mentor gave me the most valuable advice? Life is a constant learning process. If we think we have nothing left to learn, we are wrong. I have been fortunate to have many mentors, in many different areas. It is impossible to choose just one. When it comes to grooming and handling, I must thank Brenda Combs, who was a great help, when we both lived in Canada (although she was possibly a nun with a ruler, in a previous life). Grace Westerson with breeding Havanese, choosing great foundations, and doing the best for the breeds. Jon Rawleigh is a plethora is all information related to dogs, dog shows, and judging, and life in general. Elaine Mitchell for handling, grooming, and breeding. Too many more too mention here. I have taken their advise, done the best I can with it, and tried to share.

I will offer advice if it looks like the person is receptive, and will gladly help if asked. It seems that people are afraid to approach top winners, or professional handlers, for advice, and most will help, and if they refuse, don’t stop, find someone else. It is a joy for me to see someone who has taken my advice and done well with their dogs.

Advice to a newcomer:

  • Do not breed just to breed.
  • Do not breed your bitch just because it has obtained
    a championship.
  • Do not breed to a dog just because it is yours, or belongs to a friend, and has a championship.
  • Do finish the championship on your bitch.
  • Do OFFA certifications for eyes, heart, hips, patellas, elbows and any others recommended by your parent club. If she passes, proceed with the rest of the list, if she fails, re-test, then if she fails again, do not breed her.
  • Do evaluate your bitch with a discriminatory eye. Know her positive and negative attributes.
  • Now that you have evaluated your bitch and know what needs to be improved upon, start your search for a stud dog. He must have what you need to improve. He must have passed the OFFA certifications. He must have
    a Championship.
  • Know why you want to breed. Any good stud dog owner will ask that and much more.
  • Do not duplicate the negatives!
  • Ask friends and other breeders who they might recommend. For example, “I am looking for a stud dog for my bitch but need one with a nice strong rear and great movement.” This is where handlers can be a true resource. They see dogs all over the country, in all breeds, many of whom are not advertised in magazines, and you would otherwise never know exists. These dogs could become a great asset to your
    breeding program.
  • Assemble a support system. Have a veterinarian whom you know will be there for you and your bitch, night or day. Have a breeder support system: someone who will answer the questions you think are stupid and that won’t ask your vet (there are no stupid questions!); someone who will be there if you need help or moral support when it is whelping time. Read. Read everything.
  • Do not rely on social media. If in doubt, head to the vet.
  • Have all of your supplies ready prior to one week before her due date.
  • Have her vet checked and possibly radiographed one week before due date to see number and position of puppies.
  • Keep your support system informed as to how she is doing as the due date nears.
  • Pray that all goes well. Have credit card handy and vet on standby when she goes into labor, in case she needs a c-section. Have your bitch and puppies checked within 24 hours of delivery.
  • Check dam’s milk and make sure puppies are getting enough and gaining weight.
  • Enjoy!

Many exhibitors cannot discuss their own breed and breed standard, let alone other breeds. Most people do not stay for groups or watch other breeds being exhibited. Some do not even stay once they have lost their class. There is so much that can be learned from these activities. Learn what makes a dog a good example of it’s breed and learn what makes a good show dog. Hopefully yours is both. There are many top dogs who are great show dogs and many great dogs who are not good show dogs. You do not have to like a particular breed, but something can be learned, and sometimes more can be learned by watching a breed you may not be fond of. You can then concentrate on structure, movement, and presentation, and not get caught up in ‘your favorite.’ You can then evaluate based on observation not feeling.

People often ask me what a particular judge likes. Hang around and watch them judge their assignments, and the groups, see if you can figure it out. Do not rely on something that ‘someone’ said. Fact check. The more time you spend at a show, the more you will learn, the more people you will meet, and the more information you will have in your breeder/owner/handler arsenal. Pull out your phone at ringside, look up the standard for that breed, and follow along. In the long run, it can only help you with your own dogs.

Kathy Shifflett

I live near Annapolis, Maryland. I am retired from NASA where I was the Program Business Manager for the Earth Science Program Office. I have bred, raised, trained and shown horses in hunter, jumper and cross country events throughout my life.

My husband and I Bred our first Curly-Coated Retriever litter in 1997.

The NOHS gives owners an opportunity to showcase their breed and receive recognition for showing a quality exhibit.

I don’t necessarily believe that an owner has an advantage when they show their own dog. Many professional handlers develop a true bond with the dogs they show weekly.

I think it depends on the size of a breed win. I would say personally for me winning the CCRCA Speciality, Westminster, Best in Show and Best in Show in the NOHS are very meaningful wins.

As a breeder, owner, handler, wins in the breed ring help, to validate our breeding program. It is an honor to represent our breed and be recognized by the judges.

Now that I am retired, it is my easier to fit the shows into our schedule. We have had the opportunity to attend shows in areas where when I was working it just wasn’t possible due to travel commitments.

Find a mentor in your breed and learn as much as possible about your breed. Your need to be objective about your dog and know it’s strengths and weakness. Find a handling class in your area and learn how to show your breed—not all breeds are shown the same way. When you are attending a dog show, observe the judge’s ring procedures prior to your ring time. Watch and learn.

Christine Staten

I live 1½ hours south of Kansas City in the very rural area of East Central Kansas. I am retired after 30 years as owner and manufacturer of porcelain dolls. Although retired, I now manage the farm we live on and have a growing art business. Mostly custom dog painting, of course.

I have been in and around dog showing for over 50 years. My Belgian Sheepdog is the first Showdog I personally have owned and shown. She is 4½ years old.

I had not planned to get a Confirmation Dog. I had planned on a good, healthy, companion dog and maybe do Rally. As it turned out I ended up with the pick of the litter and was ask to show her for six months to a year. It was a judge that ask me why I wasn’t showing her in OH. I didn’t even know what the was. He said, “You pay your entry fee, then the name of the game is how many times can you get in the ring for the one entry fee.”

I stopped looking for the points to Ch. win, and started trying to get back in the ring one more time, or two more, then three.

I no longer worried about not having competition as there are almost no Belgians where I show. I was going to groups and OH BIS all on the one entry fee.

I don’t think OH have any advantage, some of us have something special with our dogs and it shows. Some of us are better handlers. Some better looking in the ring. Some of us just have better quality dogs. All this can also be said of the Professionals also. There are judges that love us and some hate us. At the end in the largest percentage of the time the right dog wins. The Owner Handler does have the advantage of being able to proudly say, “This is what my dog and I did today.”

For me personally I would treasure an All-breed win. Sad to say National Specialty wins are the domain of the good old girls and boys. Not that they don’t have great dogs but they tend to be Breeder Judges that know of the dogs and are looking for them.

An All breed win, group 1 or higher where you and your dog are standing with the top of all the breeds and excellent Handlers both Pro and OH. That is what makes me enter shows.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Not a breeder. Yet!

Being retired is why I can show as much as I do. But we have planned a wedding around my show schedule. And I have holes in the show schedule that I use for the “regular life” stuff.

I schedule my life as I did for my business and so dog showing has not changed that much. I have a certain time blocked out of grooming and training, in the same way I would have new designs and sales meeting.

Advice to a newcomer: this will sound like a motivational speaker but, “Just do it!” Don’t forget to check the OH box for every show. If you are brand new why pay for class time when you have already paid for ring time. Look around and try to look like the people who are winning. I so want to take some people shopping. Find a mentor, it doesn’t have to be someone in your breed. Better yet find a traveling partner (or more than one). There is nothing more disappointing than big wins and having no one to happy dance with. Talk to strangers at shows, they may be your new best friend.

Susan Thibodeaux

Susan Thibodeaux is Vice President of a company which provides services to the Federal Government. She recently joined her current company after leaving a 30-year career culminating as Sr. Director of Operations for a major Federal contractor with global operations. Susan earned her MBA from Webster University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama. She is a Six Sigma Blackbelt and is a Certified Federal Contracts Manager.

Susan started with Cocker Spaniels in the 70s. Although her first official conformation show was in 1978, her first two Cockers, while well-bred, weren’t quite good enough and she got into obedience. Those two Cockers, Sinbad and Yankee, were good in obedience and excelled on the recall. They would sit at the end of the mat and wiggle their butts and with all their body language say “Call me! Call me!” Hence the kennel name Kallmee! Susan got her first Vizsla in 1983 and finished her first champion Vizsla at the AKC Centennial Show in 1984. Susan’s husband spent 20 years in the US Army, and that afforded her the opportunity to live several years in Europe and show her Cockers, Vizslas and English Cockers overseas. Although she phased out of Cockers in the mid 1990s, Vizslas have been their breed for 36 years. In 2013 Susan decided to segue into Toys and she now has Toy Fox Terriers and one Toy Manchester. She is an American Toy Fox Terrier Club Board Member, Brevard Kennel Club Board Member, is in charge of the ATFTC’s Meet The Breeds, Judge’s Education, and Facebook page and is the Legislative Liaison for BKC. She is a past President and Training Director for the Brevard County Dog Training Club and has been an active member of other clubs over the years. She stewards for two Ring Steward Associations and enjoys judging matches and sweepstakes.

I live in Cocoa, Florida. I am a Vice President for a company which provides base operations support services to the Federal government. My other passion besides dogs is horses! I have three Appaloosas and over the years I’ve shown to Reserve National Champion, Reserve World Champion and multiple times Top Five and Top Ten and Superiors and ROMs. And I started doing photography a few years ago and have won two photo contests.

I have been in Toy Fox Terriers for six years and Ricky is my first Toy Manchester—didn’t plan to have a TMT but fell in love with him when he was six weeks old and I was helping to take photos of the litter for the breeder to send to the co-breeders. I’ve been in dogs for more than 40 years though—my first time in the ring was May 13, 1978 with a Cocker Spaniel. I’ve had Vizslas since 1983 but we are sizing down because we want to travel more and Toy Fox Terriers are our main breed now.

How has the NOHS program affected my view of the sport? I have made so many friends in other breeds that I would never have met if it hadn’t been for NOHS. NOHS gives many people who used to leave after they showed in breed a reason to stay all day and that gives us time to chat and get to know each other. We root for each other and are happy for each other’s successes. I see much more sense of community—almost like it was when I first started showing dogs.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? No. I think the fact that shows have gone to weekdays and big clusters has given an advantage to professional handlers that a bond with our dogs can’t overcome. With the heavy numbers of shows they go to the handlers have much more face recognition with the judges than most owner handlers who work five days a week and are limited to the number of days off for dog shows. Also, the question implies that handlers don’t bond with the dogs they are showing and with them out there four and five days a week showing and on the road with the dog for weeks they are bonding with the dogs just as if they were theirs. Some of the well known teams campaigning have amazing bonds!

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? Specialty win because the numbers competing are higher and because you’ve won against the best in your breed, Specialty shows also give you a chance to see and learn more about your breed because there are more to compare your dogs to and people in your breed to learn from and grow. Also, many all-breed shows have very low entries of Toy Fox and Toy Manchester Terriers. That said, every group placement thrills me. Still on the hunt for a Group 1—I won groups and BISs when we lived in Europe (my husband was in the Army for 20 years and I took eight Cockers, English Cockers and Vizslas to Europe in the 80s), but still striving to get those wins here in the U.S. My best known Toy Fox Terrier, Sparkles, came close with three Group 2s among her many group placements. And my most exciting win with her was BOB at the 2015 Eukanuba/AKC National Championship show. Sparkles had been BOS each of the two years prior and winning BOB and getting to show in the televised group was my Christmas present that year! Sparkles was the Lifetime Leader NOHS TFT for several years—just this year she moved to second because we retired her to have puppies and her next litter is due in July—I am so excited!

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Absolutely!

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? It is a constant balancing act with my husband and I both holding jobs that entail some travel. And we raised three children and often he was deployed and I was juggling children, career and dogs/horses schedules. I think it used to be easier when most shows were two or three days on a weekend. Until recently I worked for the same company for 30 years and had built up a lot of vacation days—how do younger people with limited days off participate? I understand financially why so many clubs have moved to clusters, but for young families with jobs and children, taking off for clusters hours away from home (many towns no longer have shows since the clubs moved to the cluster)—I don’t know if they will come and stay in the dog world.

We have bought an RV so we can carry our dogs with us and not use a dog sitter. Still working on the horse sitter issue—its pretty pricey getting someone to take care of three horses while we are gone to a long circuit plus the travel days. One advantage though is we are at a point in our careers where we can work where we are at so we set up the RV table like an office with wifi and carry our computers and work when we aren’t showing.

Advice to a newcomer: don’t let your feelings be hurt easily and remember it took us years to get where we are. Most of all remember we started this because we love dogs—win or lose its still about them. And hang out all day and meet people, that’s how you make friends and learn. I’ve always been amazed at people who just show their breed and leave. It’s fun with smart phones to pick a breed, pull up the breed standard on the phone and sit ringside and watch and compare to the standard. Learning about different breeds is fun and develops you as a dog person. And who knows – one day you might want to be a judge and you’ll know what the other breeds are and something about them. Ask people to go over their dogs when they aren’t showing and tell you what their dog’s strong points are. It will help you meet people and learn more about dogs. Keep your sense of humor and have fun!

Judith Webb

My husband and I live in a small town in the quiet corner of Connecticut . I trained as a Dance Teacher, although retired now I still enjoy the arts and spend my spare time painting my favorite subject, Cockers.

I started out with my first Cocker 15 years ago taking part in agility. Couple of years later I found my first show potential and two years later bred my first litter. I have over 20 Champions, mostly Owner/Handled.

The NOHS has been a great event for me, it has helped build my confidence, my handling skills and the determination to always do better. I have also made wonderful friends outside of my breed.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? In part yes I think as an Owner/Handler we do have a special bond, but I also think the professionals form a very strong bond with their clients dogs.

I campaigned a dog, JON, last year with a handler, Jessica Legath and seeing them together was amazing, they made a wonderful team and their bond was undeniable.

What’s more important to me, an all-breed win or a specialty win? A specialty win is most important to me, its recognition by peers of my breeding program and to win is the
highest complement.

If you’re a breeder/owner/handler, are your wins that much more special? Most definitely, showing and winning with a dog you have bred is so exciting, its recognition of your breeding program.

Is fitting the show schedule into my “regular” life a constant balancing act? I’m lucky as I don’t have a fulltime job, I can pick and choose my shows and travel, although I prefer to stay close to home to keep the cost down.

Advice to a newcomer? I would say keep it fun and enjoy the time with your dogs and good people. Be Humble, Kind and always be a good sportsman.

I always think about my time in Agility, Judges meeting before we would start the trial always ended with,“Remember to be kind to your dog, they are here because you wanted them to be, they don’t care about the ribbons, they do it to please you”. Also important, at the end of the day we all take the best dog home.

Lori Whorff

I’m originally from California, I moved to College Station, Texas in 1988, to Boston, Massachusetts in 1993, then back to Texas in 1995. I currently reside in East Texas with my husband and two college age sons. I was a molecular biologist, but now own an Optical Shop. My passion aside from dogs? It’s baseball! A long time fan of the breed, I bought my first English Setter to show in 2000.

My main goal as an owner handler is to win at the breed and group level. I enjoy competing in the NOHS because I think it helps make us a better team. There are many strong owner handled teams out there and competing against them gives us
great experience.

Do I feel that owner/handlers have an advantage because of their bond with their dogs? Yes, I do feel that owner handlers have an advantage because of the bond that they have with their dog. However, to benefit from that bond you still have to work very hard. It’s important to practice at home with your dog, go to class, go to seminars, work on grooming. It’s only an advantage, if you take advantage of the opportunity.

I think that an owner handler can have just as much success with their dog as a breeder owner handler if they put in the work. As a breeder though, there is a great deal of pride in showing an animal that you bred. When you have studied the pedigrees, gone over stud dogs and made the best choice for your bitch considering her strengths and shortcomings, and then whelped the litter and raised the puppies—it’s very special to take one of those youngsters on to a championship, a grand championship and beyond. On the day that I finished one of my young bitches from the bred by class—we went on to a Sporting Group One. It was an incredible moment for me as a breeder/owner/handler.

Where do I whelp pups and how do I determine optimal breeding time? Our litters are whelped and raised in our home. When a bitch that we plan to breed comes into season we use progesterone timing to help ensure that the breeding takes place at the right time. I can’t stress how important it is to work with an accomplished canine reproduction veterinarian. Dr. Kirk Esmond in Carrollton, Texas is exceptional and he helps me execute all of my breedings. If you’ve done progesterone timing, then you know when your bitch ovulated, so it’s fairly simple to determine the whelp date as the birth will occur approximately 63 days after ovulation. Within a few days of the due date, I monitor the bitch’s temperature, as a drop to around 98 degrees or lower indicates that whelping will occur within 24 hours. This has worked perfectly for me and it’s advice that I’ve shared.

At what age do I place show or pet pups? Our English Setter puppies head to their new homes at right around ten weeks. For choosing show prospects we grade the litter at eight weeks and I usually have several other dog fancier friends of mine over to look at the pups and share their thoughts and opinions.

Has local legislation affected my ability to own, breed and raise good dogs? Local dog legislation hasn’t affected our ability to own, breed, rear or train our English Setters. I’m fortunate to live in a rural, farm oriented area.

Which mentor gave me the most valuable advice? The things I’ve learned and the people that I’ve learned them from are far too numerous to list here. I’ve learned a lot about proper calcium supplementation in the dam and early puppy grading from Sherri Doratti. I’ve learned about grooming and presenting the English Setter from Eileen Hackett. I’ve learned about pedigree lines and associated traits from M.A. Samuelson. I also am a member of Lee Whittier’s Dog Show Mentor Program and that has really helped me fine tune my skills as an exhibitor. All of these people and more have been so important to my success. I have to say though, that the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that there always, always, is more to be learned. Never take for granted what you know and always seek to add to it.

The advice that I would give to the newcomer would be to spend a few years in the breed before planning your own litter. Go to Specialties, go to your National, really spend time watching your breed and learning about it. Talk to folks that have spent years already as breeders of your breed. Memorize your breed standard. Start out with the very best bitch that you can get and make sure that she is from a strong bitch line. Know her strengths and shortcomings. Seek advice from her breeder on selecting a sire for her litter. Work in conjunction with a good canine reproduction veterinarian. Take advice from other breeders about preparing for whelping and caring for puppies. Learn as much as you can and be prepared. This is the advice that I have taken myself.

It’s possible to succeed as a breeder/owner/handler. You have to be tough, take criticism and work hard. Don’t make excuses for why you didn’t win that day. Always be ready to listen and learn. When you’ve been dedicated and have put in the work there is nothing sweeter than being a successful owner handled team with a dog that you
have bred.


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