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An Owner Handler Experience At Eukanuba

On my bucket list has been to show on the blue carpet at Eukanuba (note – not pushing for the TV version and being in the group, simply hoping to make it there at all). To make it an “honest” venture – I felt it had to be by invitation.

So I was thrilled when my homebred Belgian Tervuren boy finished his CH at 8 months of age completely from Bred By Exhibitor. My understanding was that this would give him two years of invitations to Eukanuba. Ooops, the invitations for BBE were discontinued. Well, darn. The invitations for being in the Top 20 or Top 25 were also discontinued – those may have been a bit of a stretch for us anyway. Looked like my feet would never tread the blue carpet!

CH Sensation Coyote Grand Slam TD HT RE BN NAJ NA NJP NAP
“Babe” out in a tracking field – much more her favorite sport

Along came the new Owner Handler events. Very few of these were offered in the Northeast in 2012 and while a few more shows offered this in 2013, I didn’t hit many of the shows that did. So, it was a total shock when my young bitch received an email invitation as being one of the Top Ten Tervs in Owner Handler in 2012. I freely admit I doubted the veracity of the invite. Babe had only shown in one Owner Handler event. As soon as she finished her championship I promised her no more breed shows except occasional specialties and special events since she greatly prefers performance.

I diligently checked out the AKC website showing the Owner Handler Stats. There she was – tied with 11 other Belgian Tervurens in 6th place with a grand total of 5 points – CH Sensation Coyote Grand Slam TD HT RE BN NAJ NA NJP NAP! Woohoo! I had my Eukanuba Invite!

Hotel reservations were made, plans to meet my daughter in Virginia on the way down to Florida from upstate New York were arranged and entries were sent in. I had a sit down with Babe and explained that this was one of those very few times I needed her to “suck it up” and do conformation for me.

Luckily we missed most of the bad weather on our drive down. We did not miss the traffic hold ups. I saw more cars in the hour and a half it took us to go the last 10 miles than I normally see in a month at home. Still, we were there! Crates and grooming table unloaded, dogs walked around the event center and off to bed on Thursday night.

CH Sensation Coyote Grand Slam TD HT RE BN NAJ NA NJP NAP

Herding group entries truly lucked out judge-wise. Our judge was Leah James who was personable, friendly, funny and clearly having a great time herself. Every dog got a thorough evaluation. You felt like every dog was truly a contender. We did not get the fairly tale ending BOB, but still had a fun time and a friend did take BOB so that was great. Babe showed well for me and I was thrilled with her.

Now, for comments to the powers that be at AKC.

  1. If you truly want to push the whole Owner Handler image, you need to change a few things. If OHs and their dogs are truly competitive, then you need to give out more than just BOB. Our judge was disappointed to have only one award and most of us were surprised that only BOB was awarded. I doubt you would do that at a competition where professional handlers were involved. After all, you gave out BOB, BOS, Selects and Awards of Merit at the “regular competition”. We deserve the same respect.
  2. The $20 entry was nice but you could have easily charged $30 and been able to afford a few more rosettes, etc.
  3. I, and the other Owner Handlers, had hoped for a nice printed invitation to frame for the wall above our beloved dogs’ beds. An impersonal email just doesn’t cut it. I can’t believe the cost would have been that much (see #2) and you would have made those who qualified but couldn’t come to the show happy too
  4. This was the “first ever AKC Owner Handler Invitational”. There were no t-shirts to purchase, no pins, absolutely nothing to commemorate this event. A cheapo button stating something like Top Ten Owner Handler would have been wonderful and worn with pride throughout the weekend (except in the ring) by all of us.


I doubt I will make the Top Ten ranking again but it was worth it for my big chance to gait on the blue carpet. Thank you Eukanuba for this event and one ticket removed from my bucket list!

Written by

  • Kelli Clark January 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Deb, I agree with ALL of your observations. I was lucky enough to come home with a rosette, but there were other dogs in the ring who deserved some recognition as well…and a commemorative t-shirt or pin would have been fantastic too.

    When watching other breeds being judged, I felt the judges truly put up quality dogs. I wish it was the same in regular conformation competition…no big-name handler or kennel bias getting in the way of truly looking at the dogs.

    Hopefully I’ll earn my way back to the blue carpet with another one of my dogs and the experience will be even better than the first time.

  • Terri VanSchyndel January 13, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    I have been lucky enough to have bred/owned/handled my Keeshond Seeker, Am & Can BIS, Can BISS, Multiple Am BISS Bronze GCH Wund-R Y’s Best Kept Secret HOF who was invited (before it was made a regular dog show) for 8 straight years, 2 of which we attended in CA. These 2 trips rank right up there with his All Breed BIS in 2009. I would love to see AKC do more to promote Owner/Handler series so that more strive to accomplish these feats with their dogs. I may never have another dog that reaches these heights for me being a breeder/owner/handler but if AKC promotes this and more all-breed shows start having the competitions, the average owner/handler may be more inclined to pursuit this.

    • Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.
      Deb E January 13, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      Wow Terri! Love those breeder/owner/handler accomplishments!

  • Terri VanSchyndel January 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Just a side note that our trip in 2006 earned an Award of Excellence and Best Bred By Exhibitor and 2009 he was awarded BOS. So in our 2 visits, he came home with notable accomplishments. He jsst retired from All-Breed shows at the age of 10 years and was still a ranked dog in 2013! SO Proud of my boy!

    • Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.
      Deb E January 13, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      Congratulations Kelli! Yes, hopefully the AKC will see that promoting the OH is truly worthwhile.

  • Gretchen milke January 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    I thoroughly agree with the points Deb has made. Very well said!

    • Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.
      Deb E January 13, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Sadly, many people spectating & staying to do Meet the Breed felt they would not enter again (had in the past) as it was now “just another dog show”. So you are correct Larkin, the event has lost a bit of its “sparkle”.

    • Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.
      Deb E January 13, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Thanks Gretchen – another top breeder/owner/handler – this time of Beagles :)

  • Larkin Vonalt January 13, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    The first year we had an invitation was for 2005 (which was held January 2006 in Tampa). The invitation arrived, a nice card in an expensive envelope. I still have it. We drove from Montana to Florida. It was so crowded I had to carry the dog (a Foxhound) in my arms to the ring. This particular dog could have issues with timidity– but not that day. She turned it on big time, and out of a large group of dogs, came out with the first Award of Merit from Dee Hutchinson. I was floored as I was clearly the least “big-time” person in the ring. We got a lovely rosette and all competitors got a nice heavy pewter keyring. (Still have it on the key ring for the dog truck.) All competitors received (from Eukanuba) a black duffel bag stuffed with goodies. Television coverage of the groups was live, that same night. It was worth the drive and the $60 entry fee (now $75 I think). We went the next several years to the show in Long Beach. Each year the show was a little less. They gave a little less. The thrill was a little less. It’s never going to be Westminster– but even the chance of it being a show in that league has been significantly diminished. I have no plans to go back.

  • Kelley Martin January 13, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Very well said! Kudos to you!

  • dab14
    Deb Bain January 13, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Deb, I never remember to tell you when I see you, but I REALLY enjoy all the articles you write for Best In Show Daily!!

    • Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.
      Deb E January 13, 2014 at 6:36 PM

      Thanks Deb! Of course you deserve credit as my first obedience instructor many moons ago with my ex research English Setter at Cornell :)

  • Laura Wells January 20, 2014 at 6:06 AM

    I started competing in the OH series last year and ended up #3 Rottweiler in my breed. I to was a little surprised by the email invitation. 8 years prior I finished a bitch out of the BBE class and received in the mail a beautiful invite that I did frame and it hangs on my wall to this day.
    My complaint with the OH Series starts on the local level. Having a working dog we get “stuck” in a regular sized ring for groups while next to a very large “regular” group ring going on simultaneously. It’s almost a slap in the face how we don’t really matter except for the cost of the entry. How can 18-20 dogs move in a ring that size. If the AKC wants this series to take off they need to adhere to better sportsmanship conduct and treat us equally.

    • Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.
      Deb E January 20, 2014 at 8:42 AM

      Oh I feel for you Laura! Belgian Tervurens often seem to get put in mini rings even for regular breed. the most ironic day was when 20 Tervs were in a small ring (with 2 columns in the middle) while next to us a bunch of Pugs were panting their way around a huge ring.
      And yes, OH groups deserve respect as well or otherwise they are almost a joke. At least the ones I have been in had “real” judges.

  • sanhurst
    M.D. Hawthorne March 2, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    With AKC looking to try to increase or boost competition and participation, one of the things they could do would be to make Owner Handler Competition with group and BIS competition an event to be held by all AKC shows rather than those who just choose to offer it. While most of us realize its just a bone being thrown to us, it is still competition and those with competitive juices will enter even if the BIS award isn’t a “real” BIS award, particularly if it were to become a well supported, qualified required event at Eukanuba? Plus, I think it would prove most interesting to see how some judges would judge said competitions when the familiar faces are not there.

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