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.
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.