I’m an owner handler exhibitor – well, I used to be an owner handler before I matured into an older lady who runs with a gimp and who can’t keep up with her dogs – I let a handler do the work these days. But, while I was an owner handler I love, love, loved being in the ring and it goes without saying that my overwhelming feeling of love amplified to rock music decibel when I also won. I finished dogs from the Bred by Exhibitor class and have earned my fair share of wins at Gordon Setter Specialties. Group judging was beyond what I considered my forte, that’s where I’d really expect a dog to shine and that’s when I would step back to let a pro take the lead. Today, with my physical restrictions I sit ring side to man the cheering station…oh, and the water bucket…and the brush…and, well, that list is quite long you know.
With all that said, I am sometimes taken aback when comments are made by exhibitors regarding how political a judge may be, how the win was stacked before the show started, how only professional handlers ever win under this and that judge, I’m sure you’re getting my drift. Sometimes when I’m watching Gordon Setter judging I am overwhelmed by the desire to help some hapless exhibitor get control over their dog, or grab a dog to show the owner a better way to groom, or maybe it’s to wake some exhibitor so they get to the ring on time. I’m no professional folks, I’m just like most of you, but one thing I do know and would like to share with you is that it is my belief that the professional often wins because he/she is a professional doing a professional job. Most times there is an obvious difference in the ring appearance of the professionally handled entry versus the owner handler’s Gordon Setter, and what I would like to say to all who bemoan their losses is that we must learn to look and act like a professional, to make our dogs appear to be handled professionally, to present only well groomed, conditioned and trained dogs if we intend to compete on that same playing field. Owner handlers can and do win without a doubt, but we too need earn the win by showing the judge the very best our dog has to offer.
So, I started out to write this long blog about the basics an owner handler needs to learn and master in order to be competitive in the dog show ring when what to my wandering eye did appear but an article, well written and presenting the same advice I would share with you, my fellow exhibitors. Whether you’re just starting as a novice handling your own dog or if you’re simply feeling like you just can’t win, before complaining or blaming the pro for your loss, perhaps you might read this and judge yourself and the picture you and your Gordon Setter presented when you lost. Did you do your best but were beaten by a better dog, or could you have done something more to stack the odds in your own favor?
I love owner handlers and I would do everything I know to help you win…but if you want really good advice, ask the pros and when all else fails take the time to watch them work, really watch them in action, there is so much to learn there! This article is a great place to start to learn how to be on your way to being a winning owner handler.
Here’s the article – hope you enjoy! Owner-Handlers: Advice from Pros and Peers edited and compiled by JP Yousha
Don’t forget – Be a Good Sport!