I get a lot of email about the influence of professional handlers in our sport. The best piece of advice that I ever got on competing against the professionals was in the ’70s from Bob Forsyth, then one of the most successful pros around. I had been showing my first credible show dog for a couple of months and after several reserves and no points, I whined, “Am I ever going to get the first point on my dog?” Bob responded, “Billy, if you bring a mediocre dog in the ring, I will beat you every time. You get a really good dog and you will win your share.” The most successful owner/handler in Westminster history is Pat Trotter of Vin-Melca Norwegian Elkhounds, who collected 10 Hound Groups at the Garden. (She had a Group Four this year.)
The superintendent, MBF, did a survey of their shows recently and found that 86% of Winners awards, 66% of Best of Breeds, 47% of Group Ones, & 38% of BIS went to owner/handlers, including dogs owned by professional handlers. Despite the actual numbers, most exhibitors will tell you that the pros have an advantage. That doesn’t surprise me. If an owner/handler had been showing dogs since he was a child and spent 60 hours a week grooming, training, & showing his dog, he would probably win just as much. Nonetheless, AKC has heard exhibitors and carved out a special place for non-professionals, with the AKC Owner/Handler Series. There have been four events so far this year and there will be one this coming Sunday at the International Kennel Club of Chicago show.
The AKC Owner/Handler competition will be conducted following Best of Breed judging in each breed ring. All dogs in the BOB competition (including WD & WB) will stay in the ring after the judge makes his placements in BOB competition. The ring steward will ask all professional handlers to leave the ring and then the judge will then select the Best Owner Handler (BOH). The dog and its owner will continue to accrue points for any group placements or Bests in Show.
Dogs owned or exhibited by professional handlers are not eligible for this competition. Professional handlers are defined as any person who belongs or has belonged to a professional handlers’ organization, distributed rate cards, or otherwise advertised or represented themselves as handling dogs for pay.
To find upcoming shows where the AKC Owner/Handler Series will be offered, visit the www.akc.org. And that’s today’s Back Story.