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AKC’s Owner-Handler Series

GCH CH Fuzzy Farm Twist and Shout & owner Alice Lawrence,
the current leaders in the Owner-Handler Series.

Eighty percent of all entries at our AKC shows are owner-handled dogs, the vast majority of which are nonprofessionally handled. (I don’t like the term “amateur,” for I believe many of our nonprofessionals are talented, experienced handlers.) It is for that group of nonprofessional handlers that AKC created the Owner-Handler Series.

The series got a great start, showcased at the huge Dog Fanciers Association of Oregon show in Portland, OR, and at the Oakland County Kennel Club show in Novi, MI, both on Jan. 21st this year. The series had three more test drives in February, but was only offered at a total of 17 shows through July. However, the series has been popular and will be offered at 30 more shows through the end of the year. You can see the whole schedule here.

The current leader in the series is Alice & Steve Lawrence’s Puli, GCH CH Fuzzy Farm Twist and Shout. Alice is a good example of the reason I don’t call these owner-handlers “amateurs.” Alice & Steve, 2011 AKC Breeders of the Year for the Herding Group, have been breeding Best in Show dogs for over 40 years. They originally showed Komondorok, but concentrate now on the Pulik & Havanese. Alice has been an enthusiastic participant in the series, but thinks there is plenty of room for improvement. “First, change the name to the ‘Owner-Handled Dog Series,'” she says. “Put the emphasis on the dog, not the owner.”

Alice believes that the Owner-Handler Series should be on a par with the Bred By Exhibitor classes and be limited at most shows to non-titled dogs. Because her Puli Twister is a multi-BIS winner and usually is in contention in the Herding Group and BIS at every show in which she is entered, Alice would like to see the Owner-Handler groups scheduled without conflicts with the regular groups. Alice is not sure how long she can remain a serious contender in the series as there are too few Owner Handler competitions near her Connecticut home. Alice and her husband are like most exhibitors. Dog shows are a hobby for them, and they cannot travel frequently enough to remain at the top of the series.

GCH CH Peremi Roll the Dyce and owner Joan Weiskopf
at the World Show in Salzburg, Austria.

Joan Weiskopf’s Bedlington Terrier, GCH CH Peremi Roll the Dyce, is holding down the Number 15 spot in the series. Joan, who has been breeding Bedlingtons for over 35 years, agrees with Alice about the scheduling. “At the Trenton show in May, five of the nine owner-handled Terriers were also the Best of Breed winners and had to choose between appearing in the Owner-Handler group or the regular group.” Joan also thinks that clubs should avoid holding the series on any day other than a Saturday or Sunday. “While I can make a Friday show, many of the competitors have jobs and can only attend the weekend shows.”

Joan looks forward to an expansion of the series and thinks including champion and grand champion dogs is a good thing. “I would like to see the series continue and see more people participating,” she says. I agree with Joan. Anything that gets more people participating in our shows, the better. While there seem to be some start-up problems with the series, here’s something I can get behind. I hope other owner-handlers will do the same. This is an idea that if it is embraced by our community will bring in a lot of new exhibitors. It might even bring back some old ones. And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.
  • Robin Gates August 3, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    Thanks for all of the great BISD articles. I appreciate the emphasis on owner handlers as of late as we all work very hard to show our dogs with often times much less money, assistance and time that the pros have. I also like your statement that amateur does not really apply in most cases as many of us have been doing this for years.

    However, I keep seeing this statistic used quite often, “Eighty percent of all entries at our AKC shows are owner-handled dogs.” The source of this data comes from analysis that looked at entries which included a handler listed on the dog. That is a misrepresentation since many entries do not list the handler. I did my own unofficial analysis by taking a sample size at several shows. I actually watched who brought the dogs into the ring. Although my sample size is much smaller and is in no way scientific, I found that it was closer to 50/50. Of course you have to take into account the breeds I observed and the size of the shows but it speaks to the fact that truly 80% of dogs are not owner handled. I am referring to the AKC definition of an owner handler which indicates the handler of the dog cannot have “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.”

    I know it would a huge undertaking to do the type of analysis I did to get a better sample size but in fact it would be a truer representation. Maybe with the new owner handler series, we will see how many entries over time have the owner handler box checked. I suspect it will be far fewer that 80%.

  • minnahpage
    Melody Tate August 3, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Thanks for the continued emphasis on owner handlers. I agree with Robin, that the 80% number is high, though I suspect that the actual number varies with the part of the country one is in.

    I’m pretty new to the show world, but I have, and continue to, work hard to improve my handling and presentation skills. I really enjoy showing my own dogs, but have, on more than one occasion, watched the breed judge look at the wrong end of the leash, and make placements accordingly. I don’t mind competition, and have become a better handler because of it, but I do get tired of feeling like Sisyphus.

    If AKC is really interested in encouraging “regular” dog owners to get involved and stay involved in the dog show environment, it will vigorously support and reward the dogs being handled by their non-professional owner handlers!

  • Ameatur Owner August 5, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    In logic the owner handler series is a great idea!! But in all reality it’s not. I went to an event. The judges casually made there way to the ring. Not a priority… Then a few judges were complaining that it’s just another way for AKC to make money. The judging that I saw was sub-par. It’s a shame really that it’s not popular other than the participants.

  • Charlee August 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    The OH Series is what we make of it. Many people scoffed at the BBX medallions when they started too, but it has become a badge of honor. If WE chose to give this value, it will have it! If we treat it as a stupid imposition, it will be that too……….

  • Sonya Henderson,Raynics Bassets August 21, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    I have the best of the situation as an owner-breeder -handler of 99% of the Bassets that I enter and handle in the ring. I have finished dogs from bred-by classes as well as open and some others,during my begining years several from novice as well as Am-bred. I always try to enter and show my Bred By dogs from that named class and have been so glad when they are rewarded all their CH. pts from the same named class. That Bred by class was the early form of the OH class and very well done in a new form as many owners are not the breeder of their own dog that they are showing. GOOD SHOW AKC!!!

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