I like to observe and gather data -- it is just how my brain works. Fifteen days in an RV at dog shows provided plenty of information to process. You had to know this was coming, right?

A Berner's life with on the road with a professional handler team looked like this:

1. In an RV with approximately 18-20 dogs. Do you imagine they are all loose? I don't. (Ahem -- Crate Prison).

2. Outside on a leash to potty about four times a day. If s/he doesn't poop, a matchstick may well go up the bum. This is not a potty "walk" -- this was standing around close to the RV with said dog on leash telling the dog to potty.

3. Weather and schedule permitting, the dog may be in a four-foot square x-pen for an hour or two --  "to stretch your legs." I kid you not -- I heard those exact words. In a four-foot square, and often with another dog -- stretching his legs. I would laugh if it weren't so sad.

4. Aside from screaming at dogs to be quiet (so effective!) and keeping large, active dogs crated for the majority of time, I saw no handler abusing dogs (we will discuss obedience another day).

5. I know, I know -- your handler is different. Everyone says that.

I understand some people cannot show their own dogs. Time may be an issue, or a job. A person may have a physical condition that makes it hard to show a dog -- someday that could be me!

A person may believe she isn't good enough to show her own dog or a person may get too nervous.

A person may think her dog needs the perceived advantage of a professional handler -- a handicap, so to speak. In other words, a perceived "inferior" dog needs a certain advantage in order for the playing field show ring to be more level. 

[An aside: Can you imagine how things at a dog show would shift if judges saw professional handlers and thought, "oh -- a dog that needs an advantage" instead of, "that must be a nice dog"??!!]

People get to make their own choices about the lives of their dogs; I understand that. It doesn't stop me from feeling so sad at the price paid for that new title -- and I am not talking dollars. 

No title would be worth sending this dog off to live in a crate for 20+ hours a day...



by Kay Lynn Odle-Moore on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:26

Personally, I'd NEVER send a dog out with a handler. I've witnessed sad situations (like those you described) @ shows, and know of some horror stories regarding the poor care/ resulting life-shortening illnesses which resulted when dogs were sent out with handlers for circuits or long periods of time..... So, the only time any of my beloved four-legged "children" ever go with someone else into the ring are when I have a conflict in rings (i.e. obedience/ conformation conflicts). And, then, they go with someone that loves them, knows them, and will play with them. I LOVE seeing owner-handlers working as a team with their dogs. The titles earned by those teams result in precious memories.

by Kay on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:44

I agree. Sending a dog out with a handler in one of those huge coaches seems like a cruelty to a good friend. I could never do it. I do use a local handler for conformation who is also a friend, but I do the grooming and deliver my dog to the ring. Then I enjoy watching my beautiful dog running around the ring. However, it's really more fun handling my own dog in performance events.

by Mary-Ann on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 17:48

"Cruelty to a good friend." Well said.

I think ringside handling is totally different than sending a dog off to live in Crate Prison for two or more weeks. You are there to see what is going on, and the dog simply gets to go have fun with a friend for a few minutes in a show ring.


by Erin Dunivin on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:15

You're kidding, right?!?!

by Mary-Ann on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 14:02

Nope -- I am serious.

by SharonM on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 13:09

My handler doesn't travel with 18-20 dogs. She does not travel in an RV. She stays in dog friendly hotels. Dogs either sleep loose in the room, or crated in the room - occasionally she has a client dog that is a kennel dog at home that is more comfortable sleeping crated in the truck (but it is about the dog's comfort, not hers). She sometimes gets up at 4am to walk dogs - because these are LONG walks, at least 30 minutes. She is very fit and trim and there is a reason - she spends a lot of time walking dogs!! So, it depends on how many dogs she has with her, and what time her first dog shows at, and whether it is a breed that needs a lot of grooming prep. For example, if Berners show at 8am, she will be at the show much earlier than if Vizslas show at 8am. All of my girls adore their handler, they are all very excited to see her and very happy to go off to the shows. Many comment on the bond she has with the dogs she shows - it is often VERY obvious when she is in the ring. I can guarantee you, what you see in the ring is the tip of the iceberg. It is the result of hours of attention paid to the dog outside of the ring. Walks, play time, grooming, etc. As my handler is also a close friend, we often travel together and share a hotel room - so I am a witness to the exemplary care given to all dogs she travels with. Some may ask - well, how do you know she treats them the same when you're not there to watch? Simple - I trust my dogs' reactions to her. And yes, she is my friend and I do trust her. So, the only price being paid for my dogs' Gold GCH, Bronze GCH and GCH titles is coming out of my wallet!

But even with the handling expense - my youngest Millie, finished her GCH in 11 shows before she was 2. She was out of the ribbons 4 of those times - once her first move-up as a CH at 14 months, once at the BMDCR regional, and twice with me handling her - SO, she was never out of the ribbons with Wendy handling her. She picked up 35 GCH points in a total of 13 shows - including a 34 breed point BOB win. Millie loves Wendy so much that she recognized her truck in February - and she hadn't been shown since October. Wendy wasn't at the truck - but I could see how excited Millie was, she knew it was Wendy's truck and that meant Wen had to be nearby (she may have been able to pick up her scent, more than recognizing the truck - not really sure). So for me, it is money well-spent and I have no regrets.

by Mary-Ann on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 14:05

I am betting Wendy does not take 20 dogs on the road with her!

by SharonM on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 21:20

Correct. And that is my point. Some professional handlers care for their client dogs, better than some owner handlers care for their own dogs. So yes, when I say "my handler is different" I know it, and I mean it. I just want my dogs to look their best in the breed ring, and I know Wendy accomplishes that! AND my dogs adore spending time with her.

by CA Heidi :-) on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 17:52

I am not at present show person. What some people thrive on often makes me anxious and upset. There is the scent of competition in their air, and it is just too much for me at this stage of the game. I could not let my dog go off without me. And I do not think I would be a good handler. But perhaps one day that will change - I leave room for that possibility, because I really DO love watching these magnificent dogs do their work -- in the right way, that is. I love seeing the joy of connection that i have seen in some duos -- Sparkle, Zoey, and I think it's a lady names Tina who won at Westminster, right? I like seeing her with her dog, because they are such an obvious team, and I love that. I would like to even aspire to it. But it will either be with me or not at all, because that is just nonnegotiable for me.


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