You can do it!
As a professional dog trainer that specializes in positive training for show dogs, some of my happiest moments are when I convince owners to show their own dogs. I understand the purpose of dog shows and I understand that people want to win, but it is possible to have success in the show ring showing your own dog.
To be clear, I am not against people using professional handlers and I am certainly not against good professional handlers. The criteria with which I determine whether or not a professional handler is “good” is a subject for another blog, but I do think that there are plenty of good handlers out there who treat the dogs and their clients with kindness and respect. This isn’t about whether or not to use a professional handler. This is about people who enjoy training and competing with their dogs and want to handle their own dogs.
I work with a lot of clients who have show dogs that they would like to show themselves. Many of them really enjoy training their own show dogs and feel like they would like to try actually doing the showing as well. What makes me sad is that many of these people have their confidence crushed by other people who believe that the dog has a better chance of winning if someone else handles him. This may be the case, but for some people, they are okay with that and would prefer to take their time doing the training, showing the dog, learning the ropes and finishing their own dog. For some people, it isn’t about finishing the dog quickly and just getting it over with. Some people actually want to learn to show a dog, specifically their own dog and the only way that they are going to get more confidence and skill is by doing it. Being rushed at ringside and told everything that they did wrong and how they blew it for their dog does usually not build confidence, but breaks it down.
So, if you are a show dog owner with a dog that you want to show yourself, I say “go for it”! Frankly, showing a dog is not that difficult once you understand how to do it and if you have trained and competed in obedience or agility, you sure as heck can learn to exhibit a dog in the show ring. Do handlers have an edge? Yes, they do this for a living and many are very skilled at it but they all started out not knowing how to do it either. This is one of the only sports where amateurs compete against professionals and you won’t always win, but I can tell you that sometimes you will. I finished my first show dog owner handled all the way. Did it take longer? Yes, I am sure it did, but I did it! There is really nothing like finishing a dog owner handled. If this is what you want to do, do it!
If you are a breeder, co-owner, handler or just a friend of someone who wants to show their own dog, support them and encourage them, but don’t put them down and don’t tell them, they can’t. Remember, we were all there at one time.