When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs?
Debra Ferguson: I found my first Poodle in a snowbank in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1966. I bought co-ownership of my first registered Poodle two years later. My father wanted to know which end I bought, the eating end or the pooping end. I cried for a week.
How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Debra Ferguson: I started out as a Junior Handler in Alaska. Had my first litter as a young adult.
Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Debra Ferguson: I have been attending handling classes since I was a teenager. I am still attending handling classes 50 years later. I’ve attended many handling seminars.
Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Debra Ferguson: Yes… must keep up to date. Virtual learning, however, does not give the opportunity for your teacher to mentor you.
Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Debra Ferguson: I have competed in the NOHS, and yes, the ranking is always important.
How important is the Bred-By Class to you? How important are specialities?
Debra Ferguson: I have finished many champions in the Bred-By Class. I have had several SBIS.
Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as a Breeder/Owner Handler?
Debra Ferguson: Of course it is a challenge to compete in any breed, and it is harder for a Breeder/Owner Handler to compete against Handlers because, frankly, Handlers are better trained and they usually train their dogs better than some Owner Handlers. And they have a larger selection to pick from.
Are you intimidated by Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Debra Ferguson: Professional handlers get to pick from the best of the best, whereas a breeder picks from the brood box. And because handlers can do a better job with a dog, my handler is currently showing my best dog. I am showing the second-best dog. Fortunately for me, both are very good examples of the breed. I won an award of Merit and Bred-By at the AKC National in 2021.
Who has been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Debra Ferguson: L’Dyne Brennan, Tim Brazier, Dana Plonkey, Wendell Sammet; some of the greatest names in the Poodle world. I was very lucky.
How important is the Breeder/Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Debra Ferguson: Breeder/Owner Handlers are the lifeblood of the sport. Without the Breeders who make a passion out of this sport, there would not be greatness. It is the intensity of the Breeder that provides us with the drive to do the research that determines how to breed a good front… or that straight shoulders restrict reach… and a tilted croup restricts the rear movement or a poorly set tail.
What are your goals as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder? Is there a milestone that has eluded you?
Debra Ferguson: My goal is to continue to breed a better dog. Not every puppy is an improvement. I am getting to an age where I will not be able to handle my own Special. I am sad to be “aging out.” Fortunately, I have a backup plan and will judge.
Breeder/Owner Handlers are the lifeblood of the sport. Without the Breeders who make a passion out of this sport, there would not be greatness.