Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thoughts on Owner Handling in AKC Conformation

I wrote this in response to a stated "rant" on Facebook. The author of the thread didn't seem to feel that my response was relevant and that I derailed her post. If a person is losing; I feel that we need to sit down and look at it in a logical way and realize that nobody wins every time and explore the possible reasons why.

 Perhaps the most important skill for a breeder is being able to look objectively at their stock and pulling/selling pet quality as pet quality. Being a "breeder" doesn't automatically qualify one as being able to assess quality.  I feel that way too many people get hung up on titles and never understand structure and movement.  Breeding two titled dogs doesn't guarantee that everything produced is show quality.  Other breeds seem to have a much better grip on this point.

 Speaking as a mother of an owner handler for the past 7 years in this breed (Afghan Hounds); I think that the first thing we have to look at as to why we're not winning is to look at ourselves. Do I know what I'm looking at? Is my dog of sufficient quality to win? How closely does it conform to the standard? Can I maintain coat? (This is a coated breed which some seem to forget.) What kind of performance am I getting out of my dog? If the answer to anything is "no" or leaves you coming up short; then that needs to be remedied-- whether it involves buying a better quality animal, going to training (handling classes), or realizing that one just has no concept of what they are doing and hiring a professional.

There are some dogs that just never should be in the show ring. They should have been sold as pets. Some breeders seem to be more interested in a brag that all of their puppies went to show homes, than realizing that they need to be much more selective about what is out there representing them. Puppies don't always live up to the expectation--and those need to be pulled. If you'd never consider breeding it; then you shouldn't be showing it. We need to always bear in mind that the point to showing is evaluating breeding stock--not just to rack up titles, get the most Best in Shows, or make the next top producer.

An owner handler never competes on a even playing field against corporately sponsored dogs. While you may beat them on occasion; it will take a brave judge to put you up over them. And you can never beat the rankings of a dog that has millions being poured into it.

One also has to consider the area that they are showing in. Some are easier than others. Here, we generally go up against all professional competition--sometimes handing a dog in every class. Another factor is of course strategy and the judge. When you look through a show catalog and see a dog entered 1 day out of a 4 day show circuit; it's almost betting odds that dog will win that day. If you don't read the catalog; start watching it.

We keep a DNS (Do not show to) list. When a judge points to the same professional handler for every class (and we've experienced that), something is amiss. Sure, sometimes the professional has the better dog and can do a better job. But sometimes, they get the cast-offs that nobody else can win with.  If the professionally handled dog has a lousy track record but beats your owner handled dog with a great record--you know what's just happened.

Lastly, if you decide to hang it up and hire a professional--look at them very closely. Watch how they treat their help (and sometimes clients). When they scream, yell and make scenes with people in public (who can talk back); it always makes me wonder how they treat the dogs in private who can't talk back.

Remember, a little common courtesy goes a long way towards encouraging someone. If you can't be decent out of the goodness of your heart; you might do it at least for strategy's sake. Ringside digs and snarky remarks are totally uncalled for, and my patience is finished with that sort of thing.

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