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The Owner Handler | Colleen Wilson

Colleen Wilson

The Owner Handler | Colleen Wilson

1. How were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?

Colleen Wilson: When I was around eight, my Mom found a reputable breeder of Mastiffs. I showed briefly with them then. Fast forward, I started grooming when I was around 17 and fell in love with the world of purebreds in my 20s through competitive grooming. I connected with Vickie Haywood with Central Carolina Poodle Club, when I decided I wanted a Miniature Poodle, and joined the club. I definitely found my Breed/Variety and the rest is history.

2. How many years in dogs? In your breed?

Colleen Wilson: My whole life has been “dogs.” While we had our Mastiffs, my Mother also founded a 501c3 non-profit Pug rescue. I spent a lot of time accompanying her on transports, home checks, etc. Later, when I started grooming competitively, I knew I had to have a Miniature Poodle. I loved how versatile and intelligent they are. Beauty and brains. Plus, I wanted to try an array of venues in the dog world. I’ve always enjoyed training animals. I got my first Miniature Poodle four-and-a-half years ago. He’s my first true show dog and we’ve done many other things together. He has his GCH BN CD RI SHU BCAT ACT2 CGC TKA ATT. We plan to step back into the Obedience ring soon.

3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended in-person handling seminars?

Colleen Wilson: Yes! There are a couple of AKC kennel clubs around me and I enjoy attending their classes.

4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Videos? Websites? Social Media? AKC Canine College?

Colleen Wilson: From grooming to handling, I’ve always taken advantage of webinars, videos, and subscription platforms: Groom Haus, Leading Edge Dog Show Academy, etc.

5. Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?

Colleen Wilson: I always check the box for Owner-Handled if it’s offered and very much enjoy tracking our progress.

6. In which class(es) are you most likely to enter your dog(s)?

Colleen Wilson: I’ve shown both of my Miniatures through to their Grand from the classes. I aim to enter the Bred-By class in time.

7. Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler?

Colleen Wilson: Vickie Haywood. She opened the door to the breed for me. She also came with me to my first show with my male Poodle and held my hand. I was so nervous and will never forget that day! Cathryn Catelain and Marion Epperson, too. They bred and co-own my foundation bitch. I can’t even begin to say how much I’ve learned from them.

8. What are the benefits of competing with your breed(s) as an Owner Handler?

Colleen Wilson: I can really focus on presenting mine to the best of my ability—from hair to handling. I find many of the professionals and long-time breeders are supportive and want to see me succeed, too. I’ve been given tidbits from many of them, such as Sarah Perchick, Ann Rairigh, Julia Kinsey, Michael Lamb, etc., and I am quite thankful for that.

9. How are you encouraging new exhibitors to participate in the sport?

Colleen Wilson: I’m encouraging new exhibitors by serving with our local affiliate club as Secretary and Breeder Referral. I also invite fellow groomers and grooming clients to the local shows, especially when they’re considering a new dog. It’s a treat helping them find one from a reputable breeder. I’m always happy to help however I can—be that with my breed or the sport as a whole.

10. Are there any suggestions you’d like to pass along about the presentation of your breed(s).

Colleen Wilson: Practice and patience. Poodles are a beautiful, intelligent breed and I enjoy presenting the whole picture the best that I can for the dog.

11. What are your goals as an Owner Handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?

Colleen Wilson: My goal is to never stop learning. There is always a new trick, technique, skill, or words of wisdom I’ve yet to learn. Even if something doesn’t work for me and my dog, it’s another tool in my toolbox.

We’ve hit a lot of goals of varying degrees and they’re all very special, from receiving an Owner-Handled Best in Show to an Award of Merit at our first Westminster. Yes, I can think of big dreams we have yet to achieve and maybe someday we will. I just hang on and enjoy all the special moments, big and small. It all goes so fast and our dogs give us so much.

12. Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an Owner Handler?

Colleen Wilson: This past year, I was going full speed and tripped over the rolled matting in the ring, in the Group, in front of everyone. Cue audible gasp. We still got a OH Group 4. My toe still reminds me sometimes… but I didn’t let go of the leash!