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Can the Non-Professional Win?

GCH CH Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici and
Breeder/Owner/Handler Jocelyn Mullins

One of the complaints I frequently hear from exhibitors is that the amateur owner-handler doesn’t have a chance in the ring against the professionals. I used to feel the same way. However, during my first couple of years in the sport I got some advice from the legendary handler, now judge, Robert Forsyth. After I whined about my 25-show losing streak, he told me, “Billy, bring a mediocre dog into the ring and I will beat you every time. Bring a really good dog and you will win your fair share.”

A while back, INFOdog published a survey with some surprising data, shown in the chart above. The 2010 survey showed that the amateur actually had the advantage at the Breed level and was very competitive at the Group Level. Only at the BIS level did the professional demonstrate any real dominance. Now the survey had a couple of issues. It was based on MBF catalog entries with an agent listed. Those entries did not account for all ringside pick-ups, nor all dogs owner-handled by professionals. Nonetheless, those exceptions did not significantly change the basic results.

Because I am a numbers nerd and because this subject still seems to be one frequently debated in our community, I thought I would take a look at our top dogs and see how many are professionally handled, owner-handled by professionals, and owner-handled by a non-professional. Even among our Top Ten Dogs All Breeds we have three breeder/owner-handled dogs: the Number Three Dog, the Doberman Pinscher, GCH CH Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici; the Number Eight Dog, the Boxer, GCH CH R and G’s Mystical Dancer; and the Number Ten Dog, the American Foxhound, GCH CH Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box. The Doberman, FiFi, is handled by a non-professional, breeder/owner Jocelyn Mullins. The Boxer, Danny, and the Foxhound, Jewel, are handled by professionals, breeders/owners Kimberly Steele-Gamero and Lisa Miller.

The above chart shows that among our Top 100 Dogs All Breeds, non-professionals account for only 20 percent of the dogs with another 15 percent of the dogs being owner-handled by professionals. Almost two thirds, 65 percent, of the dogs were professionally handled by non-owners. OK, I hear a collective “I told you so,” but remember, this is entirely consistent with the INFOdog data as these are all-breed points and reflect the dogs that have won multiple BIS and Groups.

I decided to dig a little deeper and look at the Number One Dog in each breed to see how successful owner-handlers were in the breed ring. Remember INFOdog had 38 percent of the breed winners handled by non-owners? Well, that was just about the reverse for the Number One Dog in each breed with 63 percent. Again, I hear that collective “I told you so.” Well, I suspect that if I had the time and inclination and included the top ten in each breed that the data would more closely align with the INFOdog survey.

I don’t know if any of this will change any exhibitor’s opinion of the influence of the professionals in our sport. However, I do know this. If amateur owner-handlers spend anywhere near the time on their dogs that the professional does, they will, as Bob Forsyth counseled me all those years ago, win their fair share. I would add that amateur owner-handlers have two other distinct advantages. First, they generally are showing one dog at a time, giving them more time to condition, train and groom their dog. Secondly, the experienced breeder/owner/handler who focuses on just one breed should have more in depth knowledge about that breed and be better able to select the show prospect than a professional who shows multiple breeds. Just remember, experience and knowledge in the dog game are not something you can gain overnight or even in a couple of years.

I’ll close with another piece of advice I got in my early years. There is no guarantee you will win at any show, but I can guarantee you won’t win if you don’t enter. 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.
Comments
  • pam October 27, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    was the ratio of original entries taken into consideration for this study? for example, say 100 dogs were entered, what was the o/h ratio there? not just the winners – at our shows, the o/h far, far, far outnumber the handlers, so the ratios seem a bit off – I do feel the handlers get more than their fair share.

  • Stella Bolitho October 27, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    I think it is breed-specific. In my breed, German Shepherds, I would bet all the stats favor the pros.

    • Janet Warner October 29, 2012 at 4:50 PM

      Yes, GSDs would be a hard one for quite a few owner/handlers because they are a hard running, several laps, kind of show style. Very few O/H are in condition enough to manage that style of showing.
      Most of the O/H I have seen in GSDs look awful.
      Quite frankly, I cringe at quite a few O/H in many breeds. They look like hell, make their dog look like hell, then come out of the ring bitching because they never win against a pro.
      Show me a POLISHED O/H and I will show you someone that wins more often then not.

  • Voila! October 28, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    Thank you for the article Billy. Excellent point Pam! As a breeder/owner/handler I will strive to combine nature and nurture, and “show up”… to hopefully earn a piece of the pie.

  • Carol Zaretski October 28, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    It can be done! My daughter and I did it with a Silky Terrier, late 2004-2007. At the age of 15 my daughter and our dog starting winning very competitive Toy groups in the northeast. “Rudy” was a top ten Silky in breed and all breed standings his entire specials career. His wins include a best in toy specialty win, and an AOM at the Garden. We never achieved an all breed BIS, but considering Rudy was our first show dog, we can’t complain. It takes perseverance, patience and a good dog!

  • Matt Abbott October 28, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    I agree that the OH has a fair shot for many of the reasons under most judges. I would guess, however, that the OH’s in the top 100 are either professionals or extremely seasoned and well-known in their breed. Not saying that is bad, at all. Just that it takes a new exhibitor a long time to become known and seen in many of the group rings, but eventually the success of a breeding program can pay off.

  • Linda Marden October 29, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    The statistics don’t consider the true “back story”. Owner-handlers are mostly regular people who show dogs as a hobby. They have full time jobs and cannot possibly attend 150 (or more) shows a year. So if there is a mediocre dog being compaigned by a pro handler weekend after weekend, there is no chance of competing on the same level. The owner-handler may get a few wins against the campaigned dog, when they meet head-to-head, but they have no hope of catching them in the rankings, no matter how good the OH dog might be. Using statistics, a dog that is shown 150 times and only places in the group 10% of the time will still have 15 group placements. A dog that is only shown 50 times and gets 15 group placements was a winner 30% of the time, so could be considered to be 3 times more successful, but that won’t be reflected in the rankings. That also doesn’t account for the “recognition factor”, i.e., that a reasonably good dog that is seen often is more likely to win than an equal dog that is rarely seen. Add in the far more obvious politics, the level of which is certainly arguable, but we all know it exists, and it is easy to see why OHs complain.

  • Cindy Cooke October 30, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Billy,

    Have you looked at the statistics by Group? I’m betting owner-handlers do better in the Working and Hound Groups than in the Terrier Groups. Would I be right?

  • Cindy Cooke October 30, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    One more thing: Why do people always say the owner-handler is concentrating on “just one dog?” Whenever I’ve been campaigning a special, I’ve also been whelping puppies, training and grooming a number of young dogs at different stages of development. The difference is that I have to work a job in order to pay for all of the expenses. The biggest setback for owner-handlers, in my opinion, has been the rise of the so-called “dog press.” In 1979, Buffy Stamm owner-handled the #1 Scottie all-systems, winning 41 Groups and 10 Bests in Show, as well as numerous specialties. She was competing against George Ward with Dominator, Lanny Hirstein with Jenny Jump Up, and Dick Cooper with Foyri Electrify. The only advertising then was Terrier Type which was published sporadically. Ten years later, I owner-handled the #1 Scottie all-systems, won 10 Groups and my only Best in Show. At that time, Dog News was up and running and Ric Beauchamp was publishing another weekly, that folded after a year. The last owner-handled Scottish Terrier to be #1 all-systems was Ch. Anstamm Low Commotion in 1992, handled by me. I expect to die with that record intact, I’m sorry to say.

  • Patty Harbison December 29, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Couldn’t possibly say it better than Cindy Cooke said it. Please let’s not pretend that an amateur owner-handler with a fabulous dog and no advertising budget is on equal footing in the ring with Gabriel Rangel. With some judges, yes, but not if you look at the season as a whole.

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