Interview with Owner Handler Jamie Riley – Purebred Great Dane Dog Breed
I got into the sport of conformation in 2018 while my husband was deployed. I found that I was extremely passionate about well-bred dogs and I found showing to be an art form and really fun! A fellow Dane lady took me under her wing and let me practice with her dog during class times. She gave me pointers and taught me how a show runs. Shortly after we moved from Alaska to Kentucky (thanks, military) I got my first real show dog. The experience and journey with her have been nothing short of amazing. I hope that I can help other Owner Handlers to get out there and go! It’s scary, but I think you’ll find that it’s also really fun.
“It is a challenge, but my grandfather used to say that nothing worth having in life is easy.”
1. When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Jamie Riley: I’ve had Great Danes since 2013, but I wasn’t introduced to the sport of conformation until my husband was on his second tour to Afghanistan in 2018.
2. How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler?
Jamie Riley: I’ve had and have loved dogs for as long as I can remember. I started out handling dogs in class for a friend and then got “Scarlett,” my first real show dog, in 2019.
3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Jamie Riley: I do attend classes! I’ve been fortunate enough to have kennel clubs close to me that offer them. I haven’t been to a seminar, but I’d love to attend one someday.
4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Jamie Riley: I have found social media incredibly helpful. There are more than a few Facebook groups for critique, and people are normally more than happy to help. YouTube also has some really great handling videos, and Jeff Brucker has a DVD that has been really helpful.
5. Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Jamie Riley: I do compete in NOHS! It’s a great tool to really be seen as a Handler. I haven’t competed in NOHS competitively, but I do plan on doing so in the near future. I think rankings are very important, as we Owner Handlers really give it our all and work hard for the rankings.
6. In which class(es) are you most likely to enter your dog(s)? Why?
Jamie Riley: I finished my dog out of the American-Bred Class, but I really think it depends on the dog and the maturity level of the dog. Some dogs mature slower than others and may not stand out in an Open Class.
7. Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as an Owner Handler?
Jamie Riley: It is a challenge, but my grandfather used to say that nothing worth having in life is easy. I think that if you have a nice dog and enough determination, the judges will find you.
8. Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Jamie Riley: Professional Handlers are artists and they are REALLY good at what they do. I did used to be very intimidated by them, but then I got to know a few and most are incredibly passionate about the dogs and what they do. They are usually more than happy to help you out. Same with the judges. As a “newbie,” I have not had a bad experience with a judge. I do still get nervous, though.
9. Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler?
Jamie Riley: I’ve had a few mentors. Christine Asay was my first mentor. She used to let me practice in classes with her dog “Zeus.” Lynn Adams, my dog’s breeder, has ALWAYS been there any time I need her and she’s more than happy to give tips and pointers. Melody Carvajal has been very influential and hands-on in my learning. I will always cherish and appreciate the time we have had together. There have been so many others who have given me pointers and who have cheered me on.
10. How important is the Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Jamie Riley: Owner Handlers are incredibly important. We are passionate and driven, and I feel like watching an Owner Handler succeed in the ring will inspire others to get into the sport as well and not give up. It’s so easy to be discouraged, but we are all in this together.
11. What are your goals as an Owner Handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?
Jamie Riley: This is such a hard question. I could talk all day about my goals, but I’ll give you a few: A huge goal of mine is to get a BISS on my dog. I also want to place in the regular Groups as an OH, get a OH BIS, make the Top 10 NOHS, and be invited to (and compete in) Orlando. As far as elusive victories, I think we all lose more than we win. We are in it for the love of the breed and simply to have fun with our canine partners.
12. Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an Owner Handler?
Jamie Riley: Absolutely! My very first time in the ring with my dog, Scarlett, I showed to Dr. Ronald Spritzer. Scarlett was barely six months old, and on our down and back she bent down to sniff the floor for a rogue piece of bait. I tugged her head up and she gagged and threw up hotdogs all over Dr. Spritzers shoes. I was MORTIFIED! I started cleaning the floor and his shoes, and he laughed, turned to the crowd and asked, “Why do beautiful women always vomit when they look at me?” His ringside manner and kindheartedness that day towards a newbie is something I’ll never forget. He awarded her RWB that day.
Main Photo Credit: Gina Clear Photography