I ask because I am learning the pro's and con's of each by process of doing. I currently have had a male out with a very well known PWC handler for about 45 days now. She is very good and about as top notch of a handler for my breed that you can get. She wonderful but.....
I think I am beginning to realize that perhaps her "fame" is possibly a down fall to implimenting a good strategy. 1. She is handling several Pems right now, even in the same Open Dogs division, who is handling the other dog or better yet, my dog? I am sure she has help but things I just don't know.
To have her handle the dog, she could enter him in Am. Bred so she her self could handle both but then she might have to outsource for the Winners class. Would you consider this a conflict of interest? She frequently handles dogs in several of the age divisions and has multiple dogs in the Winners class.
Another thing I have heard is that sometimes even if a handler does have the best dog in every class, some judges won't want to be accused of playing favorites and actually not place that dog 1st in its division because the handler has already won 2 or 3 classes.
I am picking him up at a show a week from today (Sunday)because I have him entered in a show the following week that I plan to handle him at which the handler is not going to. I am new to handling but have gone to some IABCA shows and handling classes and feel quite confident about owner/handling now. I feel like since he and a puppy bitch are the only dogs I am showing right now that I will have better 1 on 1 with my dog and be able to impliment a less conflicted stragegy.
This is why I didn't want to get into an AKC breed. I wanted to start with a rare breed. I show my own dogs, go to rare breed shows (akc dogs can show also). Learn and have a good time.
I couldn't afford a pro handler, the ones at the rare breed show offer great advice for free. They are wonderful people, and great to talk to. Also a pro handler doesn't always handle your dog. They have other people who work for them. If they have more then one dog in a class, then other peoples dogs get handled by someone else. Or not at all. Why should I pay for that. If the handler also breeds dogs, they show there own not ours.
I will not show in AKC right now, I feel I would be the class clown. I have only been doing conformation for 3yrs. I will work myself into over time, and I see AKC judges at the rare breed shows.
I am currently working for a pro handler (she mainly just shows Shelties, but does occasionally take on another breed).
Here's the perks to a pro - 1) They know the judges - therefore they aren't going to waste your entry fees by entering under a judge who won't like your dog. They don't know ALL judges - but 85% of them. For me, I've saved a lot of money by listening to the handler I work for and not entering specific dogs under a judge who would never do anything with them (for example - the judge places strong emphasis on showmanship and I have a dog who only shows when he feels like it - it's NOT a breed fault for my breed not to show, but some judges focus on showmanship. OR the judge is known for liking smaller dogs - it would be a waste of my money to enter my male who is at the top of the standard). 2) They get to more shows and get to more judges than you can showing yourself. I have a friend who refuses to send her dogs out with a handler AND she'll only go to shows within a 3 hour driving area... that means she's literally waiting for the right judges to come to her... whereas a handler is going to travel to judges and get your dog out and seen. She put 2 points on a dog last year... that was it... 3) They know how to best present your breed. As a novice I made a lot of mistakes that didn't show my dog off to the best of it's ability (moved it at the wrong speed, I was clumsy and didn't gait him smoothly, didn't know how to stack him out correctly). This may not be as big an issue with PWC's - but grooming plays into it with my breed. The better handlers are also better groomers than novices and know how to highlight attributes and downplay faults.
The downfall is, yes, that sometimes your dog gets handed off. Here's the deal... as an assistant :) - most handlers will not allow an assistant to take a client dog in the ring until they are confident in their handling skills. So your Pro Handlers assistant is still going to be a better handler than you are probably. (I'm good enough that last weekend I went out and beat the handler I work for, all our client dogs, and the rest of the entry to go WD/BOW/BOB with my own dog AND I looked like I belonged in the Group Ring). The handler I work for started me off by letting me enter a couple of my own dogs, and helping her with HER dogs (her personal ones... not clients). She spent A LOT of time teaching me what she considered good grooming and showing me how she expected dogs to be exhibited. She still won't hand me a client dog unless I get explicit instructions on what should be done to best present that dog - even if I'm just taking it back in for Winner's. I've beaten her with client dogs on more than one occasion.
The thing you have to ask when hiring a Handler is - "Is my dog your priority OR do you need to finish someone else's dog before mine becomes your top priority?"... Often times, handlers take on a new client (you) and put you in Am.Bred while they finish the dog they are currently showing. This allows them to bond with your dog, work out any issues that may be there, etc... I don't know that I would be happy being "second fiddle" for more than 4-8 weeks - UNLESS you're seeing results. If your dog is still picking points up... I wouldn't be upset.
Unfortunately - some judges do pay attention to who is on the end of the leash... this works in your favor even if the handler only shows your dog in the classes because really what happens is the judge often gets "lost" and doesn't know who to point to... they then tend to look at the handler they know always brings them nice dogs - so they go the "safe" route and put them up.
You CAN give your dogs more one on one attention - but that doesn't necessarily mean that you're presenting them better than a professional would. At the same time - your dog may be more inclined to "sparkle" for you because you are bonded to it... and it can work in reverse...
I actually just sent Stormy (my avitar dog :) out with his breeder who also handles professionally. He is TOO bonded with me. I tend to get a little keyed up and nervous when it's my own dog I'm handling... and he feeds off of that and tends to get worked up and nervous also. She's had him for one weekend and she said he's confident, and showing non stop for her... which he has NEVER done for me...
I think some dogs NEED a handler. Others do better or just fine for their owner. Aslan (my sable dog) shows perfectly for me and we look good together. In fact - he's made me look like a professional handler because he makes things so easy for me I can calm down and "present" my dog. (tons of fun when you have a push button show dog). I could send him out with a handler - but since I get out 2-3 weekends a month and can take him to judges he needs to go to and we look good together... there is no need.
A lot depends on you... if you really want to finish your dog yourself - there is something to owner handling. If you don't mind it taking 2-3 times as long to get him done... go for it. It's rewarding. But if you want him finished quickly, you want him seen by other PWC people (who may consider him for a stud dog)... a handler is worth the money you'll spend.
And honestly - hiring a handler is NOT that much more expensive than going yourself. Most handler charge a base fee plus a portion of gas and motel. They usually split the expenses between how ever many clients they have (so the more clients they are taking on, the cheaper it is for you...). For example - the handler I work for billed out one of her clients for a two day show for 1 dog... it cost them $150 (plus entry fees) for the weekend. Motel alone would have been $120... gas would have been at least $50-60... food would have been at least $20-30...
Unless you're only attending shows in your backyard - it's often cheaper to hire a handler... put it depends what "extras" they tack on... I spoke to one handler when I was looking at sending Stormy out and she quoted me about the same as the one I work for...except she threw in additional charges for bathing, grooming, if he happened to win there were additional charges... His breeder is charging me a lot less (because he's her breeding, she benefits from having him finished also - not only does his dam just need 2 more champions for her ROM, but she's also in contention for ASSA Breeder Of The Year almost every year and that is based on how many champions you breed each year). And the judges out her way are better for him than in my area.
It's not a politics thing MOST of the time. Most judges will put up a "nobody"... but not if your dog is poorly groomed and not well presented... Details novices don't see or understand are often what bring them to making the statement "the handlers always win"... They win for a reason. It's not a hobby for them. It's a job. It's part of their livelyhood - which means they spend A LOT of time perfecting their craft. More than the average person can devote. It's taken me a year of essentially going out 2-3 weekends a month to get where I am. A year ago I still looked like a novice. Now I can tango with the big dogs. But I am not nieve enough that I think that just magically happened... I worked my rear end off.
And sometimes you still have to hand dogs off when you owner handle... I've entered 2 dogs and had to make the decision of which to stay on.
The cruddy side of being a pro... your own dogs take a lot longer to finish. You HAVE to stay on the client dog - even if the judge likes your dog better... For example - I won with my own dog last weekend... I should have also gone Winner's Bitch with my Bitch puppy too... The judge loved her... but knowing my expenses are paid by the client dogs I handed my puppy off to someone else ringside and she pitched a fit - while I stayed on the less stable client bitch I'd been assigned to who ended up going Reserve. It doesn't look good when the handler or assistant win in both sexes... so you compromise on your own dogs a lot.
With ALL that said - not all handlers are alike... Some are more honest. Some are more reliable. Some forge better relationships with the dogs. Some click with YOUR dogs better... A good friend once told me - she chooses her handlers based on how they interact with the dogs. She watches them in the ring and in the grooming area, when they ex- dogs... she wants her handler to CARE about each dog in their charge. It works well for her. It may not be the "top handler" - but her dogs always look fabulous because they fall in love with their handler and then they sparkle - and inevitably win. :)
So I can't tell you if sending your dogs out with a handler is the best thing for you - I can tell you that there are big perks to using a handler... but not every handler is the same. The "game" sounds political and not necessarily ideal... but when played correctly, by honest people it works well. At least I know it works well for the handler I work for...
I have thought my self in circles over the past week. There are alot of perks to having a handler, I have benefited from that already and my dog has been seen and well received by some of the breeder judges at some speacialties the past few weeks. I wouldnt be able to do the specials like she does. However, I REALLY want to learn to handle my own dogs and have a pretty flexible schedule that will allow me to attend quite a few. I have 6 consecutive weeks worth of shows this summer that I could take him to. I kind of plan on being in my breed a while so learning to handle will probably be a great asset. The only way to really learn is to go to the shows. My boy is a fairly easy dog to show, he did great at handling classes before he was sent out with the handler.
I have developed a really good contact base with PWC show people that I can go back on, one of them being the handler. When I pick him up next weekend she is going to go over grooming with me. I think I have the grooming thing down, but want to make sure what I do matches what she is doing and that I'm not missing anything. Pems arent the hardest to groom, I can imagine Shelties are quite the opposite. The Pems do need a wash and blow in the correct direction, there is no sculpting allowed accept to tidy feet.
I think I have almost talked my self into handling all 6 weekends. Even if we bomb a few classes I think I will be OK with it. I know it will be apart of the learning process and mistakes are going to be inevitable.
I go to Harrison, AR in 2 weeks, a small show but enough to at least point. Perfect for a greenhorn.
Abby, I got to meet an AppleAcres dog last month at a show, VERY PRETTY. Sheltie handlers must have arms of steele to be able to brush that much body into a coat. Maybe I will run into you in the herding group ring someday.
I handle my own, always have. To me, showing is the icing on the cake. It is a blast, I get to spend more time with my dog. I dont get to as many shows as a handler would, but I enjoy doing it enough that I prefer taking longer to finish them and doing it myself to finishing faster but missing out on it.
I believe much depends on breed, too. Some breeds in AKC are very competitive to the point that a novic BOH would get lost in the crowd. Though IMO a good judge will find a good dog in all of it whether your a familiar face or not.
We show both AKC and UKC (UKC does not allow professional handlers to be hired) I have wanted to check out an IABCA show, but here they only come around twice a year and it always falls on the weekend of one of our regular shows in the other venues. So, we have not got to check them out yet :(
I say, if your confident and willing, show him yourself. You'll have a blast! If it turns out its not for you, you can always send him back out professionally.
I use a handler, in my breed you don't stand a chance if you don't use one.
My handler won't take two dogs in the same class, my bitch should have been in the open class yet she showed her in the AmBred class until she finished the bitch she had in the open class. She did the same to another bitch when mine was in the open class.
Draw back was when she went into best of breed her special (if she had one that day) got top priority, then open, and so on.
The handlers do know the judges and the judges get to know the handlers. I many times saw a pro handler win over an owner/handler when the owner/handler had the better dog/bitch.
The thing to watch for, and the pros will deny this, If this is the pros only source of revinew they need to have "X" number of dogs to break even for the week and some, not all, will take dogs for what I call "GAS MONEY"
I could handle my own dog in the best of breed class if my handler has a conflict, but I know my dog will not get looked at so I have her passed off to another handler who didn't make the BOB class and have taken the points on more than one occasion that way.
A lot of the reason I decided to handle most of my own dogs and am so passionate about getting out to shows myself is because you learn SO much that way. I love the different seminars available at some of the specialties - and getting to talk with breeders who have been doing this for decades... it's priceless.
Don't get me wrong - I don't think you HAVE to have a handler. You just have to make the choice about whether it's important to you that your dog finish quickly and is seen - or if it's important to you that you and your dog take the journey together as a team. It's why I'm doing what I'm doing. Being an assistant to a handler is a pain in the rear (after you bathe 9 dogs, blow them out, trim and grind their nails, scale their teeth - every weekend... unload everything by yourself in sub zero temps a couple of times... stand out in the rain ex-ing dogs a couple weekends in a row...) - but the knowledge and experience is TOTALLY worth it! And that's what you get by pounding the payment yourself. And being able to go over lots of dogs, converse with other breeders... SO valuable!(plus, I really like the handler I work for as a person... she's 5 hours from me distance wise and is my best friend - so it gives me an excuse to see her on a frequent basis!)
But I know a lot of owner handlers get really frustrated when they don't win very often (heck - I get frustrated when I don't win very often!)... and there is usually a good reason why they don't. Not always (the system was created by a human - therefore it is NOT perfect :).
You'd doing it the right way. You're motives are right on.
In fact - you might be happy doing what a friend of mine did... When she could get to the shows on a regular basis she showed her dog herself. She put ALL the singles on him (her first show dog - which she bred from her first litter out of a bitch she leased). She sent him out with a handler when she couldn't get out herself for any length of time - and the handler put both majors on him (in 1 weekend actually). She had a finished champion before he was 2 years old (which is not common in Shelties). Now she's enjoying specialing him herself.
Maybe there is a happy medium for you?
Ultimately, showing should be about your breeding program... not necessarily about getting the dog finished. It's why I'm taking 2 puppies with me to the ASSA National in 2 weeks. I have mature dogs that could have been entered - but I bred both the puppies and they are a statement about where my program is heading and what I'm about as a breeder. They have great attitudes, pretty structure... and emphasize the direction my program is going...