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From Junior Showmanship to Professional Handler

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166 – The Annual, 2019-20

By William Given

Over the course of my thirty-plus years in the sport of purebred dogs, I have heard more than just a handful of young people express their desire to become a professional handler when they grow up. And, when the remark is directed at me, I find it easy to be encouraging because it simply requires time, dedication and hard work to master the skills necessary to make their dream a reality.

Just recently, at a show in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I overheard a young lady in the Open Intermediate class say to her mother, “I love showing my dog in Junior Showmanship. I really wish I could learn to handle dogs well enough to become a professional.” It was in that moment I suddenly felt very positive about the survival of our sport. Here was a young person–and the sport of Junior Showmanship is replete with such promising and passionate young people–willing to make sacrifices and work diligently to master the skills required to earn a living doing something they love.

Maybe your parents or grandparents have shared an old saying with you (mine did), “If you choose a job you love and spend your life doing it, you will have never worked a day in your life.”

The Anecdote of an Unfair Advantage

There are some exhibitors who are of the opinion that professional handlers are given preferential treatment by most judges and that the owner-handler is not given equal consideration. These exhibitors will share their anecdotes with anyone who will listen. And, though there certainly exists a handful of judges for which the above stated concern is rightly justified, I do not believe it is largely true. Let us consider the most likely reasons for why it might be, by asking a few questions.

First, “How many people, whether breeder, exhibitor or fancier, novice or seasoned veteran, really understand the full measure of the requirements and responsibilities to be satisfied in order to be a highly successful professional handler. Clients will certainly have their expectations, so will the judges. And, believe it or not, so does the American Kennel Club.

 Click here to read the complete article
166 – The Annual, 2019-20

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  • November 2020