Insights from an Owner Handler Molly McCown

Owner Handler Molly McCown with her German Shorthaired Pointer dog


Interview with an Owner Handler, Molly McCown


My name is Molly McCown. I am from Birmingham, Alabama, and I have owned German Shorthaired Pointers for seven years now. I am an equestrian professional and very much a dog show/sport amateur! In addition to Conformation, we participate in Dock Diving and Hunt Tests, and we even host AKC FastCAT at our farm! I have loved learning to handle my own dogs and have far exceeded my initial expectations for myself and for my current special.

“Pickle” has multiple Group placements, multiple Best in Specialty wins, and multiple Owner-Handled Best in Show wins! She had her first litter this summer and I am looking forward to participating as a Bred-By Exhibitor for the first time in 2023!


Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?

Molly McCown: I live in Wilsonville, Alabama. I have been an Owner Handler for two years.


How did you get my start in my breed? In the sport?

Molly McCown: I grew up showing horses, and currently do so as a profession. My boyfriend had a Shorthair when we started dating, and I fell in love with her personality and energy! After we lost her unexpectedly a few years later, I began doing research and saw a huge difference in the health, structure, and temperament of well-bred dogs. I connected with a wonderful breeder through Instagram and, somehow, lucked out with the pick male from her current litter. When we got that pick male from our breeder’s litter, we agreed to show him. His name was “Lewis.”


Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?

Molly McCown: I have always admired show dogs from afar, but only started showing myself in 2018 when Lewis was a puppy. I have always been a dog person, yes! I grew up with dogs of all kinds. We had a Dalmatian, Basset Hound, Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd Dog, and several mixed breeds. My grandfather owned German Shorthairs for hunting before I was born, so it’s very special to have found a connection with this breed at this time in my life.


Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?

Molly McCown: After my first few attempts to show Lewis in BPUP, I learned very quickly that showing dogs was not as easy as it looks. As he grew up, we were recommended a handler to help him look his best and give him a real chance to show to his potential. That handler was Jennifer Bittner, and she played a huge role in encouraging me to start showing my own dogs. However, she wasn’t always able to be there for us when we needed her to step in.

Over time, we realized showing wasn’t Lewis’ thing, but I’d grown fond of the sport and wanted to participate more. We purchased a girl (Pickle) from the same breeder with the intentions to at least finish her championship. Pickle turned six months old in March of 2020—and then COVID hit. By the time shows had started back up, she was a year old and my horse show schedule had picked up. I decided to send her out with Jennifer to a few shows, to get her some experience in the ring.

In just three weekends of showing, she was finished with three major wins. Jennifer then said, “I’m moving her up and you’re showing her tomorrow!” I am so thankful she took the time to not just handle my dog, but also to teach me how to show her myself in the process. It’s been an amazing and unexpected journey since then!


What makes showing my own dog so special to me?

Molly McCown: I find it rewarding to show my own dog because it showcases the bond we have and the training we have put in. Coming from showing horses, I take pride in a “well-turned-out” dog and a well-prepared performance. As an aspiring breeder, I feel it’s important to gain experience and be as hands-on in the sport as possible!


In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?

Molly McCown: Yes, mutual respect and knowing your dog, inside and out, is key. Showing a very opinionated bitch has taught me that there’s a fine balance, and you have to listen to your dog when they seem “off their game.” After all, they are animals—not robots.


Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? If so, for how many years?

Molly McCown: Yes! I have competed in the NOHS for two years now.


What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?

Molly McCown: My goal for 2022 was to be No. 1 Owner-Handled GSP and to make reasonable efforts to keep her in the Top 10 Breed and All-Breed rankings. I also bred my first litter in 2022. My goal for 2023 is to finish one of my other girl’s championship myself. I have a few pipe dream goals as well that are definitely in fate’s hands, but I plan to work hard towards them!


Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?

Molly McCown: Wouldn’t miss it—it’s surreal! I’d bred Pickle in May and wasn’t sure if we could stay at the top (GSPs have several Owner Handlers with top-quality dogs), even after giving her lots of time off and showing selectively before then.


Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?

Molly McCown: I have a ton of stories, but two come to mind. Last year, I was showing in the regular Sporting Group. I’d watched six dogs before me do their down and back along the rail and, for whatever reason, when it was my turn, I took off on the diagonal. I realized I’d messed up, made it back to the judge, and was mortified. I said, “OMG, I don’t know why I went that way. Should I redo it?” The judge laughed and said, “No, you’re good” and sent me around. I naturally expected nothing and was teased by handler friends when I returned back to the end. I was so embarrassed over a silly mistake, but then the judge pulled us for a Group Two!

Also, on the topic of my bad handling skills, we won an Owner-Handled Reserve Best in Show at another show. While taking win pictures, the judge said, “It’s Best Owner-HandleD dog, not Best Owner HandleR!” to which I replied, out loud, “Obviously, here I am as proof.” That gave everyone a good laugh. The moral of the story is, mistakes happen and good humor goes a long way!

All joking aside, I always encourage anyone interested in showing to learn how to show their dogs themselves. It is such a rewarding experience! Do not feel intimidated by Professional Handlers. Instead, watch and learn from them. Befriend them and remain open-minded when receiving advice. Like I tell my riding students, when it comes to showing, you are either going to win or you’re going to learn. Most importantly, remember that we ALL get to take home the best dog each day!

  • I live in Wilsonville, Alabama. I have been an Owner Handler for two years.

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