1. When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Owner Handler Lihi Ruvio: You can say that I was born into it. My mom bred Cane Corso for many years. I grew up with these big-sized and big-hearted dogs. I used to crawl under them as a baby and ride them when I was a kid. When we moved to Michigan, they used to pull our sled in the snow. It was fun!
2. How many years in dogs? How many as an owner handler?
I started showing our Corsos when I was 10 years old at UKC shows. But soon after, I started showing them at AKC as well. Phil Booth, who was our handler back then, was the one who encouraged me to go into the ring.
3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
I did attend show handling classes. I also got really good guidance from Phil (and other professional handlers) who took the time to work with me—which I truly appreciate. I also love to watch how top professional handlers show their dogs.
We show our dogs because we love them
4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
I watch past videos of shows (Westminster, in particular). I love to see different styles of showing. I think there is a difference [between] when you show a dog versus when you make the dog show. I try to make my dog show himself in the best way possible. You never stop learning, even when showing your own dog.
5. Do you compete in the National Owner handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
I have competed in the National Owner handled Series during the past two years. My dog, Royal, and I were ranked Number 1 NOHS in our breed in 2019 and 2020, and we are ranked Number 1 so far this year. We are also ranked Number 2 as lifetime. I love to see my dog getting the recognition he deserves. (But, which owner does not love that?)
6. Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as an owner handler?
Yes. It is very hard to compete with my breed as an owner handler. We have some of the top handlers who show Cane Corsos. As a 15-year-old owner handler, it is very hard to compete against them. But, to be honest, I don’t know if this is because I’m still a kid or because I am an owner handler. All I can do is show the best way possible and hope for good results.
7. Are you intimidated by the professional handlers? By the judges?
Judges are normally very nice to me. They are all very professional—and so are most of the professional handlers. I got a lot of support and help from many of them, but some of the professional handlers are far from being professional. I feel sorry for these individuals who feel the need to bully an owner handler in order to feel important. It just shows how insecure they are. It’s a shame, really.
8. Who have been your mentor(s) as an owner handler?
With no doubt—Phil Booth. He was the one who encouraged me to go into the ring. And even today, he always has a good word to say. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to see him and Amy show our dogs and their dogs, and to learn from them. They are great people.
9. How important is the owner handler to the future of the dog sport?
I think owner handlers are the future of the dog sport. I see more and more professional handlers drop out of the sport; especially after COVID. But, it seems like the number of owner handlers is consistently increasing. We show our dogs because we love them. They are everything to us. It is a much stronger motivation than money.
Also, think about any other sport. How many professionals are there versus non-professionals? Dog shows will not be any different in the future. We are the future of this sport.
10. What are your goals as an owner handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?
I really want to make my dog, Royal, the Number 1 lifetime NOHS Cane Corso. I also want to end the year ranked at the Top 5 Cane Corso Breed ranking, so that I can get invited to Westminster. In 2020, we ended the year ranked #5 in All-Breed, and missed the fifth place in the Breed ranking by seven points.
11. Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an owner handler
Lihi Ruvio: One time, I forgot to change my shoes before entering the Owner handled Group ring. I was wearing bright pink Crocs with a blue suit. I ended up winning OH Group 1 that day. I guess they are my lucky Crocs.
Owner Handler Profile: Lihi Ruvio