Interview with a Professional Handler, Tara Hartman
Where do I live? How long have I been in dogs?
Tara Hartman: My name is Tara Hartman. I am an AKC Registered Handler, with a specialization in Dachshunds. I live on nine acres in Northeastern Pennsylvania with my husband, Joel, and daughter, Paige. I was born and raised in the dog show world. My parents originally began with Rough Collies in the 1960s and then purchased their first Dachshund from Adoph Bollinger in 1971.
When did I decide to become a Professional Handler?
Tara Hartman: As a young child, I was always drawn to the dog show lifestyle and to those who showed dogs for others. I come from the days of Michael Zollo, Dee Shepherd, Wendall Sammet, Joyce McComiskey, Patty Proctor, Richard Bauer, Teddy Young, Bill Trainer, Linda Stebbins, and other handlers of that era, many of whom I watched, helped, and learned techniques from as a teenager.
I acquired a “real” job upon graduation in my fields of study, but found that it just wasn’t for me. Thus, here I am!
Who did I apprentice under and for how many years?
Tara Hartman: Hennelore Heller, an icon back in the day as a very successful woman Dachshund professional handler, was my inspiration and, ultimately, my mentor. I am so grateful for all I learned from her. To this day, I am honored to have some of Hannelore’s dog show tools and equipment.
How many shows do I typically attend each year?
Tara Hartman: I attend about 100 shows per year.
How many dogs do I generally show on a given weekend?
Tara Hartman: I typically show 6-10 dogs on any given weekend; enough to make it worthwhile yet easily give individualized attention to each dog, go for walks, and have good one-on-one time with them.
How do I decide which All-Breed Shows to attend? What about Specialties?
Tara Hartman: I choose where I go based on the dogs I am currently showing, what I know of the competitors’ dogs, and without a doubt, the overall judging panel and the odds of being able to win with the dogs I am showing.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Do I have a kennel?
Tara Hartman: We have large fenced-in fields surrounding our home, and our kennel is adjacent to our home and deck, so the dogs are very much a part of our everyday life.
What’s it really like to be “on the road” with a group of show dogs?
Tara Hartman: Being on the road with show dogs is not always an easy task. Thankfully, good friends, wonderful dogs, excited clients, and a great support system compensate for the early mornings, late nights, complex schedules, planning, theorizing, stressful moments, and lots of driving that we do.
Am I going to Orlando? If so, what are my goals for my current string of dogs?
Tara Hartman: I am attending Orlando this year for the main purpose of showcasing my current Specials. Yes, for the judges’ opinion, but more importantly to the fanciers as a whole. In this day and age, judging is certainly open to interpretation, I think, more so than ever before. The dogs I am showing are correct, beautiful representations of the breed, and regardless of whether or not we get that sought-after ribbon that we all want, I feel they deserve the recognition to be seen by as many dedicated enthusiasts as possible.
I am blessed to have my daughter as my assistant—by her choice. She is caring and gentle, has great hands, is dog savvy, smart and funny, and as eye-rolling as any 17-year-old should be! And she is GOOD! As the years have gone by, she has shown me up with the skills and knowledge she has developed. She won her first Hound Group at 10 years old, has won countless Specialties and Group placements, and ultimately, she is my backup for just about everything on dog show day.
This year has been memorable and extra special for both of us. We were both in the Westminster Hound Group together, as I had won two Varieties of Dachshunds, and it was a repeat again at the televised KC of Philadelphia Dog Show Hound Group. Kids grow up so fast nowadays, and it is the small things that mean so much. And, as a parent, you cherish those moments. She is my daily dose of sunshine!