Owner Handlers Stand Tall-Part 2



Owner Handlers Stand Tall Part 2

Why your dog is not winning: Is he prepared to enter the ring?

Part 2 of 3

Owner handlers, stand tall and look no farther than your own actions and the quality of your dogs for your wins. If you want to be a successful owner handler, you’ll have to take personal responsibility for how you and your dog show up in the ring.

In the first of this three-part series, we asked you to take a cold hard look at your dog. Is your beloved dog competitive and worthy according to the breed standard? In this second part we will look at how owner handlers and their dog move in the ring. 

Many exhibitors get upset and don’t understand why their beautiful dog isn’t winning. Others complain about the state of judging in the United States or how poorly they think the American Kennel Club vets judges for the task. They see others winning more than they do, especially professional handlers, and misconstrue that as handlers being favored by the judges.

The reality is that many owner handlers are not properly prepared to compete in the ring. These owner handlers have not taken the time to prepare their dog and themselves to enter the ring as a unit, ready to perform at their best. It takes time and work to deliver a Best in Show worthy performance.  

The sport of purebred dogs is the only one I know where the competitor enters the ring with no preparation. There are exhibitors who pull their dogs off the sofa and proceed with little to no prep work, experience or training, and have the expectation of winning. That wouldn’t happen in tennis, skiing, running track, or horseback riding. This is the biggest lack of preparation I see as a judge.

Why don’t exhibitors prepare?

Walking or running around in a circle with a dog appears deceptively easy. Not only does it look simple when performed correctly, it’s also difficult for exhibitors to recognize when they themselves are incorrectly presenting their dogs.

It is critical to have the physical awareness of where your body and where your dog’s body are in space. The “Marmaduke Syndrome,” is what dogs look like when they don’t know where their feet, legs and bodies are in relation to the floor. Think of a giant breed puppy. It’s the same concept. This is typified in the now-classic movie, Best in Show, directed by Christopher Guest. 

The ideal of poetry in motion to strive for are handlers with their dogs on the floor of the Garden. I encourage you to investigate how you and your dog move as a unit. Film yourself, practice different speeds and gaits. You may feel like you are running smoothly, but in reality, you may have more work to do.

Dog Show Mentor Tip: Take a ballroom dancing class.

  • Develop a sense of your body in motion
  • Develop spatial awareness
  • Learn how to move rhythmically
  • Develop teamwork
  • Feel your body in harmony as a unit

Rather than be horrified to realize that you don’t quite have the quick feet and rhythmic gait of a star handler, study and learn from the greats.

See you in the winner’s circle!

Lee Whittier


Copyright 2021 Lee Whittier. All rights reserved. Authorized use only; not for public distribution, exhibition or resale.



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