HOW TO RISE TO THE TOP 20 PERCENT OWNER HANDLERS: WHEN YOU ARE AMONG THE 80 PERCENT MAJORITY
BY LEE WHITTIER
A whopping 80 percent of the competitors in today’s dog shows are comprised of owner handlers. This means that as an owner handler, you’ll be in good company and plenty of it. There’s a lot of quality amongst the owner handlers—quality dogs and quality presentations. Despite being a strong field, the over-arching question for many owner handlers has been, “How do I strategically make my dog stand out among all the professionals in the ring?” But what if you shifted the focus to, “Who, amongst the entire field, is your real competition and why?” If you are within the majority, how—you must ask yourself—will you strategi- cally stand out and rise to the overall top 20 percent? How will you win with your dog? Let me propose a scenario. What if you knew nothing at all about dog shows and were invited to attend your first show? You observed some competitors getting tangled in their leads, tripping, and stumbling around with their dogs. In contrast, you also saw competitors who moved with grace, confidence, and flowed in a way that highlighted their dogs. Their beautiful presentation caught your eye—yes, even as a novice. They may have even mesmerized you enough to influence your choice for a breed. It’s likely you wouldn’t have known whether the standout presenta- tions were professional handlers or owner handlers. You simply noticed a difference. The point I’m trying to make is that reflecting on how to make your dog stand out amongst the professionals in the ring isn’t always the right question. Perhaps, the focus shouldn’t be on who the professionals are, but who the winners are. Who are the handlers with the dogs that win the most? While think- ing about these numbers, it’s important to keep in mind that the top dogs’ handlers are a co-mingled mixture of owners and professionals. With this broader perspective, the next challenge will be to consider what it will take for you to rise to the top. What is required to compete at a level that will yield success and wins for your dog? All photos are courtesy of Lee Whittier.
184 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, MAY 2021
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