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Insights from an Owner Handler Will Bratcher

Owner Handler Will Bratcher with his dog


Interview with an Owner Handler, Will Bratcher


Where do I live? How many years have I been an Owner Handler?

Will Bratcher: I live in New Jersey. I have been an Owner Handler for about 10 years.


How did I get my start in my breed? In the sport?

Will Bratcher: My first Cocker Spaniel was a pet companion, the sweetest little buff girl that loved everyone. It’s because of her that we fell in love with the breed. Later on, we bought a show-quality puppy dog from a show breeder in California—with intention to show him. The dog finished fast with back-to-back 5-point specialty majors. The rest is history.


Have I always loved to show dogs? Have I always been a dog person?

Will Bratcher: My parents taught me the love for animals and I have loved dogs since I was a little girl. My neighbor had a beautiful red English Cocker Spaniel, and I knew that one day I would have
one myself.


Is there a story behind my decision to show my own dog?

Will Bratcher: Showing my own dog is something I always wanted to do, so I started taking handling classes. My instructor encouraged me to show my own dogs. My first weekend out as an Owner Handler, I won Best of Variety with my Special and two majors on my puppies. I was hooked… lol!


What makes showing my own dog so special to me?

Will Bratcher: The bond I have with my dogs is what makes it special.


In my opinion, is there a secret to having a great dog/handler partnership?

Will Bratcher: No matter what, it has to be fun for the dog.


Do I compete in the National Owner-Handled Series?

Will Bratcher: If so, for how many years? Yes, I have competed in the NOHS for eight-plus years.


What goals did I set for myself and for my dog in 2022? What about 2023?

Will Bratcher: My goal for 2022 was for my dog to place in the Top 10 NOHS among all breeds, lifetime. We will finish the year as Top 4! For 2023, I have some new show hopefuls starting their show career.


Am I going to Orlando? If so, what’s it like to have a top NOHS dog this year?

Will Bratcher: Yes, we are honored to be invited as No. 1 NOHS Black Cocker Spaniel for the fourth year in the row.


Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences as an Owner Handler?

Will Bratcher: Years ago, when I first started showing my own dogs, I won Winners Dog with my Bred-By puppy. Afterward, I headed back to the set-up only to be paged to come back to the ring for Best of Breed competition! I blamed the oversight on the splitting headache I had that day… lol! Thank goodness the judge had a great sense of humor.

The bond I have with my dogs is what makes it special.