Interview with Owner Handler, Tammy Breckenridge
I have been evolved in dogs for most of my life, starting with 4-H and AKC Junior Showmanship, and also as a professional groomer. I returned to the AKC show ring after showing national level-winning AMHR Driving Horses, and I fell in love with the Miniature Poodle after finishing two Standards.
When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Tammy Breckenridge: I, like most people, grew up watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and as a young teen I started as a bather in a grooming shop owned by a woman who showed German Shepherd Dogs. She took me to many shows with her as a kid and she allowed me to show her dog in Junior Handling.
I’ve been a professional pet groomer for 30-plus years, and through my shop I met L’ydne Brennan and Cindy Rochow with Brighton Poodles. I acquired my first show-quality Standard Poodle from them nine years ago.
How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler?
Tammy Breckenridge: I have nine years in purebred dogs, 35 years working with pet dogs. I’ve been owner-handling my Poodles for nine years.
Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Tammy Breckenridge: When starting out, I attended as many handling classes as I could to learn ring procedures and patterns. I still try to attend as many handling seminars as I can.
Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Tammy Breckenridge: Yes, I’ve learned quite a bit from Allison Alexander and Leading Edge Dog Show Academy, Pure Dog Talk, and several show Poodle Facebook groups.
Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Tammy Breckenridge: Yes and yes. I compete in the NOHS at every show that offers it that I attend. Together with the judging panel, it affects my choice of shows. I follow the rankings for my dog to make sure we are staying on track with my goals.
In which class(es) are you most likely to enter your dog(s)?
Tammy Breckenridge: I enter my dogs in Bred-By Exhibitor and Best of Variety. Why? I’m just starting to bring out my first BBE, so this class is important to me to show off my breeding.
Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as an Owner Handler?
Tammy Breckenridge: Yes, Poodles are a Professional Handler-heavy breed and our grooming requirements take years to learn and perfect
Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Tammy Breckenridge: I was intimidated by the Professional Handlers at first, but now I watch and learn. I’m not intimidated by the Judges.
Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler?
Tammy Breckenridge: My mentors have been Michele F. Polito, Michael Lamb, and Denise Agre-Gill.
How important is the Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Tammy Breckenridge: I feel the Owner Handler is very important. I believe the NOHS is important to the sport of dog shows because, for many new exhibitors, it is their first chance at participating in a Group competition. For Owner Handlers in a Professional Handler-dominated breed, it also allows us to perfect our presentation in a Group setting.
What are your goals as an Owner Handler? Is their a victory that has eluded you?
Tammy Breckenridge: My goal is to leave the Poodle breed better than when I started, and to place in the Group at the NOHS Championship. A NOHS BIS is a victory that has eluded me, although I did win the NOHS Best of Breed at PCA with my current Miniature Poodle Special, GRCHS Kiyara The Executive.
Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an Owner Handler?
Tammy Breckenridge: I was showing my very first Standard Poodle at our fourth show ever. We won OHBOV and made our way to the Group ring. After all the dogs were examined and the judge was walking down the line, he came back to me in the front and said, “Standard Poodle” while making a vague hand motion. In my inexperience, I took that to mean to exit the ring. So, I headed to the exit gate where the steward and judge promptly stopped me and asked me where I was going—and if I didn’t want my Group One placement.