Interview with Owner Handler Susan Watkins
My name is Susan Watkins. My husband and I live in a small town in Pennsylvania. I help to run our excavation business during my “down time.” We have two Cane Corsos, “Diesel” and “Demi.” They are my life and my passion.
1. When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Susan Watkins: I have always loved purebred dogs. Their beauty and confidence are some things I remember noticing when I was watching the Westminster KC Dog Show as a little girl. I was first introduced to the Cane Corso by my husband in 2017. His nephew owned one and he said, “You have got to see this dog.” Needless to say, eight months later (after tons of research and looking for a breeder) we found our boy, Diesel. We purchased him from our wonder breeders and friends, Jody and Amy Riley of Warren, Ohio.
2. How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler?
Susan Watkins: I have had dogs my entire life. In 2018, the Cane Corso became part of our family. Diesel was purchased as a home companion/protection dog. I started to show some interest in conformation, learning as much knowledge as I could, and so I decided to transform my companion/protection dog into a show dog. In 2019, I started out with a professional handler. I went on to doing the National Owner-Handled Series in 2020, earning most of Diesel’s grand champion points. I’m currently finishing his GCHB.
3. Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Susan Watkins: Yes, I am a member of my local all-breed training club. I attend the handling classes that they offer with seasoned instructors. Attending a seminar is on my “to do” list. I plan on doing this in the near future. I love to learn and grow as a person, and with my dogs.
4. Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Susan Watkins: Virtual learning tools have come a long way and are helpful in a lot of ways. However, nothing teaches you and makes you improve as much as just getting out there in the ring!
5. Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Susan Watkins: I have competed in the NOHS and also, in 2020, in the NOHS Finals in Orlando. We were ranked #4 in 2020, and in 2021 we also made the Top 10 at #7. I believe rankings are important, to see where you stack up against the competition. It is an honor to have the opportunity to compete in the NOHS and to make the Top 10! I am very proud to be an Owner Handler.
6. In which class(es) are you most likely to enter your dog(s)? Why?
Susan Watkins: I currently show Diesel in BOB, and I am planning to start a young female later this year in the 9-12 Month Puppy Class.
7. Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as an Owner Handler?
Susan Watkins: I believe every breed has its own challenges. I’m proud of what I have accomplished with Diesel, and we continue to strive for the best with true sportsmanship.
8. Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Susan Watkins: I am definitely not intimidated by them. I respect the Judges and Professional Handlers, and look up to them in many ways. Their dedication for what they do is admirable.
9. Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler?
Susan Watkins: When I first started conformation, my primary Professional Handler taught me everything, and I’m forever grateful. I’m blessed that Professionals, along with Owner Handlers, saw something in me. I’ve come this far because of their guidance and my dedication to this breed.
10. How important is the Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Susan Watkins: I think it’s very important, as an Owner Handler and a new breeder, to keep the breed to the standard. We definitely are the future of the dog sport.
11. What are your goals as an Owner Handler? Is there a victory that has eluded you?
Susan Watkins: My goals are to always evaluate myself while improving in everything I do. Also, in the future, to show in NOHS with a Bred-By.
12. Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as an Owner Handler?
Susan Watkins: There is not one particularly funny story. I love spending time with my dogs and with friends, and we always have fun. We try to make every show enjoyable for everyone!!