We Asked Owner-Handlers…


Jennifer Foster FlowersJennifer Foster Flowers
Starring Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Thousand Oaks, Calif.

1. I was raised and began showing dogs in Louisville, Ky., and now live in the Los Angeles area. My first show dog was a Golden Retriever; my second Golden became my first champion in 1978. With four children, I often had the usual family/dog show conflicts. Do I go to my daughter’s dance recital, a son’s water polo game or a dog show where there was a major or maybe a chance to win the Group? Proudly I can say I chose the kids’ dance recitals and games. Determined to do it myself, I finished more than a dozen Goldens of my own and a few for friends. I also campaigned several top-ranked Group- and specialty-winning dogs, and I have bred and owned several all-breed Best in Show Goldens. After the purchase of my first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel nine years ago, I have since handled all six of my Cavaliers to their AKC championships. I am a licensed real estate agent.


2. I take great pride in presenting my dogs to their and my best ability. I try to show my dogs to judges with a trained, unbiased eye to prove to me that they are breed quality and thus worthy of being bred. By handling my dogs myself I feel I have a bond with my dog that no one else has and of which I am extremely proud. Additionally, I always make it to the ring.


3. My first mentors in Golden Retrievers were Patricia Haines of Oncore Golden Retrievers and Laura Ellis Kling of Laurel Golden Retrievers. My Cavalier mentors are English breeders Gill Baker of Nevhill/Keyingham Cavaliers and Rick Aldous and Mark Smith of Aranel Cavaliers. Although I never showed terriers, I have learned so much over the years from various terrier handlers. I never tired of watching the late great George Ward in the ring and outside the ring grooming. The man was a genius. Today I admire Gabriel Rangel, another terrier handler, for his presentation and awesome handling skills. I am continually in awe of the talent in the terrier ring. One of my greatest regrets to this day is that I never apprenticed for one of these great dog men.


4. I have successfully shown my bitch GCh. Aranel With Love, ‘Bridget,’ to the top-winning Cavalier in the history of CKCSC, USA. I could not be any prouder of that achievement, but had she not had a good time every day she was shown by me, it would have been a very hollow victory. The bond I have with my dogs is something that I could not experience outside of the ring. If my dog is out of condition or not properly presented, then I can only look to myself. There are no excuses when you are doing it yourself. When I come out of the ring, win or lose, and I have presented my dog well, then I am happy. 


5. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a way to level the playing field with owner-handlers and the paid professional handlers in the current AKC system. In the past, it was possible for the very determined owner-handler to special a dog to top rankings. However, in today’s well-financed practice of backers, advertising, multiday cluster shows and extensive travel, it is extremely difficult for a lone owner-handler to compete against PHA handlers at the ranking level. That said, I feel it is possible for a talented, determined owner-handler to stay in the game. I carefully choose the judges who do not need to look up to the end of the lead for their winner.





Rachel IrvinRachel Irvin

Elan Afghan Hounds and Chinese Cresteds
Rome, Ga.

1. I have been a breeder/owner-handler of Afghan Hounds since my family acquired our first Afghan in 1967. Additionally I have raised Chinese Cresteds for about 10 years now. I grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago and now live on a 20-acre horse farm north of Atlanta. My husband and I own and operate East Coast Crates, and I have been a registered nurse since 1979. I continue to work part time in the operating room when we are in town. 


As a youngster, I showed briefly in juniors but my interest was in conformation competition. I finished my first conformation champion around 1970, took a hiatus from the show ring during college, began a family and returned to the sport about 20 years ago. Although I have a very limited breeding program, I have bred more than 30 Afghan and Chinese Crested champions under the kennel name of Elan and have finished about 20 of them myself. 


2. I am motivated to show my own dogs because I enjoy the competition and will continue to do so while I can still get around the ring. I love the whole process of breeding, raising, socializing, training, grooming and presenting the dogs to their best although I am winding down. I love the social aspect of dog shows and spending time with my two-legged friends. 


3. I grew up in a hotbed of top breeder/owner-handlers in Chicago. My earliest mentors were Lois Boardman of Akaba Afghans and Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghans. They were very close family friends. I learned so much from them, and we had a lot of fun. When Fred passed away, I really thought I was done. After a time I did return to the sport, and since then I have been in partnership with Jerry Klein of Sebring Afghans who has been my dearest friend and mentor for 20 years. 


4. My greatest satisfaction as an owner-handler was winning back-to-back National Afghan Hound Specialties with ‘Neo’ and the recognition received by breed icons Michael Canalizo and Betty Richards. It was nice to have my breeding program validated by respected peers but even better that the wins were breeder/owner-handled. The owner-handled all-breed BIS wins were pretty spectacular, too. 


5. That’s a loaded question with the presumption that it is not a level playing field. Judging is subjective and perceptions can be flawed so there is no easy answer to this question. The answer for me was to build a better mouse trap. Have good dogs and present them beautifully. However, there are still many times you may have to walk out of the ring behind lesser dogs. It’s up to the owner-handlers to present the dogs as well if not better than the pros, and it’s up to the judges to judge fairly and respectfully of the standard and not worry about who is on the end of the lead or about repercussions at the end of the day. All we can do as owner-handlers is look for good judges who  are knowledgeable and give everyone an equal opportunity. 






Gloria JohnsonGloria Johnson

Ayrwen Chihuahuas
Grand Haven, Mich.

1. I began showing in the mid-’70s with Golden Retrievers and West Highland White Terriers. Back then my husband and I competed in both conformation and obedience. We both always had a love and passion for the sport of dogs. My husband had many job transfers, which put our show efforts temporarily on hold. After being out of the ring for some time, we decided to jump in wholeheartedly with our new chosen breed: Chihuahuas. In February 2003, we purchased our first conformation Chihuahua, who quickly finished his championship in June 2003. Since then we have finished 33 owner-handled champions. 


We currently live outside of Grand Haven, Mich., a Lake Michigan community. My interests lie in fiber arts, and up until my full-time interest in breeder/owner-handling, I worked and taught in that field.


2. My love and devotion to my breed and desire to seriously present it in the manner that best exhibits the Chihuahua standard. I feel that Chihuahuas can be best exhibited by the owner-handler — the person who closely lives with them day in and day out and understands their terrier-like temperament along with the special needs of the smallest breed.


3. There have been many mentors along my journey, the first and most influential being Pat Regnier of Regnier Chihuahuas, from whom we purchased our first show and breeding stock. I would also include the many professional handlers who gave me tips in showing, ring presence and grooming. 


4. Breeding, owning and handling the top-winning Smooth Coat Chihuahua in AKC history, GCh. Ayrwen Star Kissed Delight. Our unexpected journey together from puppyhood on was very special. We didn’t know or expect at her coming out how special she truly would become. Her many fans and supporters ask about her all the time. I hear those special stories, like the time she stood down a Rottweiler on the up-and-back in the BIS ring to take home the big ribbon, and all the people who clapped and cheered for her that day.


Receiving a nomination for the Dogs In Review Winkie Award category for Owner-Handler two times and attending the banquets in NYC is also something that I will never forget, and was such an honor.


5. To successfully be part of the sport (especially beyond the breed ring), the owner-handler needs to show the dedication, desire and hard work that it takes to compete with those who make their living showing dogs. I don’t have any suggestions on changing the system, but I do know that being overly prepared will help level the field. That includes having your dog clean and properly groomed, being at ringside and ready to compete and showing respect for the other exhibitors. These actions will help the owner-handler to be taken seriously as a competitor.






Andrew KalmanashAndrew Kalmanash

Ruff-Wave Portuguese Water Dogs
Stamford, Conn.

1. With my wife Angela, I am a breeder of Portuguese Water Dogs under the Ruff-Wave prefix. I have received the American Kennel Club Silver BBE medallion, and finished a few more dogs not from the BBE class. When I’m not going to dog shows, I am self employed as a certified public accountant.


2. After finishing our first few dogs with agents, we realized that we were missing out as well as not fulfilling our responsibilities as breeders if we were not involved in the grooming and presentation of our dogs, expanding our understanding of their structure, movement and so on which becomes part of the exhibition process. In addition, we felt very uncomfortable not having complete control over our dogs.


3. Our first mentor was Deyanne F. Miller, the grand dame of PWDs, and in addition, I have been impacted by Linda Krukar, Anne Rogers Clark, George Alston and many of the judges to whom we have exhibited. Other mentors include Joyce Diamond, Diane Bauman and Dr. Nicholas Dodman. One of my most memorable moments in the ring was receiving a handling lesson from the late judge Melbourne T. Downing as he examined my exhibit. Another was when I was called to assist another exhibitor whose crates were collapsing in their setup, and my puppy exhibit got off her table and wandered into Council Parker’s ring while he was judging another breed!


4. The realization that the color of the ribbon that you may or may not receive on any given day, in no way reflects on the true qualities of an individual dog, and that only over time, through living with that animal and sharing your life with it, do you gain the benefit of a complete understanding of the strengths of that animal.


5. Not unlike the famous lines from the movie Field of Dreams, in order to become successful in showing dogs you must build that success before it will come. Changes to our sport often upset its equilibrium to an exhibitor’s disadvantage, whereas the efforts of the individual toward showing their dog better tend to return a more tangible benefit based on the efforts put in. The AKC has published a wonderful Code of Sportsmanship, but how many truly embrace it whether it’s in showing a dog or in mentoring a prospective judge? Perhaps if some of the economic motivation that has become so key to our sport was removed from the mix, as so many say in interviews, we could return to a time when dog shows were far more pleasant and more about the quality of the exhibits. One change that perhaps the sport needs comes out of the dog fancy’s realization of how entrenched the animal-rights movement has become in our sport. Perhaps a change needs to come from within to take our sport back from those who attempt to impose their unrealistic values on it.






Ken KauffmanKen Kauffman

Brehannon Cairn Terriers
Sellersville, Pa.

1. I have been involved with Cairn Terriers for more than 35 years, starting out in obedience and transitioning to conformation. My first Cairn, Lord Duffer MacBriar Rose CDX, Can. CD, was the No. 1 Cairn in obedience in 1974 and was the reason that I became interested in the sport of dog showing/breeding. Since beginning my breeding program, under the Brehannon prefix, we have produced and finished more than 50 champions. Always owner-handled, many of our Cairns have been Group and specialty winners. The most recent, GCh. Rocco’s Collar King Carl XVI Gustaf, was imported from Finland, and to date has won seven specialty Bests including Best of Breed at the 2012 Cairn Terrier Club of America National Roving Specialty. 


In addition to breeding and showing, I have been approved to judge Cairns for more than 25 years, and the Terrier Group for 15 years. I also judge 18 Toy breeds, Best in Show, and junior showmanship. My involvement has also included serving as an officer of the Cairn Terrier Club of America in various positions, and most recently as a four-term president. I have just retired from Girard College, where I had been an art teacher for the past 39 years. I live in Upper Bucks County in an historic farm house with my partner of 28 years. 


2. My primary motivation for being an owner-handler is the same for just about everything I do: I want to do it myself, and I love the challenge. That has given me such satisfaction over the years. To be able to compete with the best of them, in the ring and in the whelping box. 


3. I have had many mentors over the years, but the one that most comes to mind is Betty Marcum of Cairmar Kennels. She let me have my first brood bitch, and without her help and guidance, I would not be where I am today. 


5. I’m not sure that’s possible. There will always be owners who have unlimited resources, who can hire professional handlers, advertise in all of the magazines and fly their dogs all over the country. There are very few owner-handlers who can do that, and frankly, most wouldn’t want to.






Jon KimesJon Kimes

Pluperfect Cardigan Welsh Corgis
Kansas City, Mo.

1. I attended my first dog show when I was 8 years old through my own fascination with dogs, so that puts me at about 44 years in the fancy. As a teenager, I worked for two professional handlers, Marjorie Lewis of Al-Mar Maltese and Wendell and Dora Lee Wilson who specialized in terriers. I learned handling didn’t really fulfill my passion and found breeding dogs was really my purpose. I have owned or bred over 110 champions, mostly Cardigan Welsh Corgis but also Cairn Terriers, Bull Terriers and Löwchen. I have owned or bred specimens of five breeds that have gone BOW or better at their national specialties. My main kennel name is Pluperfect, but I have also used Misk, Whipshe and a few others. My paying job is governance for business-process improvement in one of Kansas City’s largest firms.


2. My primary motivator is actually developing a meaningful breeding program, not showing dogs. Having been trained in handling I am fortunate to be able to present my dogs with a reasonable degree of aptitude. It is a theme with me that doing what one can to pick and choose judges and try to compete in worthwhile competitions rather than hit shows every weekend is much more fulfilling to my purpose. Unfortunately, the Cardigan Corgi does not have a “specialty” fancy like Pembrokes, Cavaliers, Labradors, Bull Terriers or Bulldogs so these opportunities are sadly very rare.


3. I began my learning process through observation at shows and enormously through reading. My one true mentor, the person who actually affected how I think about dogs and how I approach breeding and shows, was Raymond Oppenheimer (Ormandy Bull Terriers in the United Kingdom). Mr. Oppenheimer never campaigned dogs even if they won Best in Shows. When the third CC was obtained, the dog was retired. He believed a talented breeder must come up with the “next” dog in the pursuit of continual breed improvement. I wish I could say I knew him, but the mentoring was done through digesting his writings beginning when I was 13. He was an incredibly talented, intelligent and wise man. I learned about dog husbandry through working for the aforementioned handlers who were incredibly ethical people and for whom the dogs and their care always came first. Marjorie believed toy dogs should enjoy their lives and they were not wrapped. Dora Lee and Wendell didn’t fix tails, didn’t fix ears and didn’t color. You won’t find many of their ilk today.


4. There is nothing as meaningful as showing dogs that have generations of your breeding; that manifest your concept of ideal breed type, structure and movement; and having them rewarded in representative competition under a knowledgeable breed specialist. I can’t imagine a higher accolade. Three littermates winning Best in Sweepstakes, Winners Bitch/Best of Winners, Winners Dog/Best of Opposite Sex and Best of Breed at the 1986 Cardigan National specialty is still a highlight.


5. Do I have suggestions! After many years of serving for breeders and judges education for various breed clubs, I have come to the realization that judging is more talent than skill. Judges who don’t have an eye for a dog will never have an eye for a dog. From my extensive observation of judging, I would say only a percentage of the judges should actually be in the ring. Nothing is going to persuade or dissuade a knowledgeable judge — not advertising, not handlers, not ranking systems, not gossip, not fancy presentation. When you show to them you are on a level playing field. They will find the right dogs. All of those things are going to influence people who don’t truly know what they are doing. So there is one correct solution, and this is to devise astute testing for judging talent. Nothing in the approval process incorporates assessment of talent. As long as the primary factor in good judging is not addressed, things will remain much the same as they are. In the cat world, apprentice judges must judge the same classes as the designated judge they are working under, and they must defend their placements. Many professions require demonstration of ability before they license applicants. We do have some very gifted judges who should be used in the evaluation process of new applicants. Too many in the dog fancy think if they have the desire to judge they should be allowed to judge, and the result is the fancy as you see it today.








Dan Nechemias and Lois ClausDan Nechemias and Lois Claus

Dawa Tibetan Mastiffs
Willamette Valley, Ore.

1. In 2006, the Tibetan Mastiff gained AKC recognition, and we began competing in conformation. In this brief period, we have owner-handled 10 dogs to their AKC championships, the first being ‘Barnes,’ Ch. Timberline Barni Drakyi. Barnes was also the first TM to win BOB at Westminster. Our dog, GCh. Seng Khri Bartok of Dawa, was the No. 1 TM all-systems in 2010 and the No. 6 Working Dog, garnering 10 All-Breed Best in Shows. This past February, Bartok’s daughter, GCh. Sierras’ Folly Loves Fame at Dawa, at 101/2 months of age, was BOS at Westminster. 


We live on a small farm in Oregon. Outside of dogs, we have full-time professional jobs. Dan is a sales manager with a winery, and Lois is an administrative manager in a wealth-management group at a bank.


2. We simply enjoy the time we get to spend with our dogs and relish the spirit of competition. Neither one of us is much good at watching for long. During the times that we do not have a dog to show or have a dog being shown with a handler, you will typically find us with aprons on, grooming and assisting for fun!


3. Over the years, several of the most knowledgeable people in our breed have mentored us, and we are very thankful for the time these people have taken to teach us the history and nuances of the Tibetan Mastiff. There are several people we have looked to for inspiration and guidance since we stepped into AKC showing who have generously offered and shared their experiences and advice with us. Specifically in all things related to showing dogs, Ed and Karen Thomason have been our closest mentors and friends. They have been our patient guides and have been a helpful sounding board, working with us and our dogs since before we set foot into an AKC ring. 


4. We have not been at this for all that long, so what we have found satisfying has not come in the form of owner-handling a dog to a Group win or anything like that. Overall, we would have to say that our greatest satisfaction from showing our own dogs and making the sacrifices that we have are the great relationships and friendships we have developed thanks to dog shows.


5. If leveling the playing field means leveling the competition that owner-handlers face each weekend in their respective breeds against seasoned professionals with decades more experience showing dogs, we do not have any suggestions for changing the system. We do not believe that changing the manner by which dogs are judged could level the playing field nor should it. We also come from the perspective of a rare breed which typically has low entries and there is a good mix of professionals and owner-handlers in the ring. In our opinion, if someone wants to level the playing field between professional and amateur handlers, start with a competitive dog. Be honest with yourself about you and your dog’s strengths and weaknesses. Work hard, practice, listen and learn from knowledgeable, experienced people in the sport, and do not give up. 


Also, setting reasonable goals as an owner-handler is important. We know we have more limited time than some others to perfect our handling techniques let alone get to shows every weekend. That being said, we have participated in the new owner-handler series being offered by the AKC and have really enjoyed the opportunity to showcase our dogs in this event. It’s great fun to now have a competition just for all of us weekend warriors.






Robert NewmanRobert Newman

Bakhu Pharaoh Hounds
Orange, Calif.

1. I have been in the sport for eight years, beginning with my first Pharaoh Hound, ‘Logan,’ in 2004. While I never intended to show Logan, I ventured out to a dog show one weekend and quickly became fascinated with the prospect of showing him in conformation. I signed up for some handling classes and mustered the nerve to step into the ring. My first time in the ring, when the judge sent me around, I went the wrong direction. I realized it halfway around, and continued the rest of the way. I approached the judge and said, “That was so you could watch me. Now I’ll go the other way and you can watch the dog.” She laughed and told me to “go right ahead.” I learned then and there that when in the show ring, you simply have to roll with the punches and work with what you’ve got. I finished Logan’s championship, and he ultimately went on to become a dual champion and therapy dog. 


After Logan, I was hooked. I have always been competitive, and the show world certainly fueled that fire. I have since owner-handled three dogs to their championships. I have won multiple Groups, multiple regional specialties and even a National Specialty, all the while facing off against professional handlers in the ring. I owner-handled a Pharaoh Hound to No. 1 all systems in 2009, winning an Eastern regional specialty, a Western regional specialty and our National Specialty in the process. 


In 2010 I established my kennel name, Bakhu, with the American Kennel Club in honor of Logan, and co-bred my first litter with one of the most influential breeders in Pharaoh Hounds. Now at just over 2 years old, that litter has produced five champions, three dual champions, three Best in Field coursers, three Group winners, and earned their parents AKC’s Top Sire and Dam for 2011. Out of that litter, I finished the puppy I kept with points at the Western Pharaoh Hound specialty and the huge Hound Classic Group Specialty weekend in California. Then I finished his litter brother at the National Specialty in Ohio. I also own an Afghan Hound that I finished at 18 months with three BOBs over specials. The Afghan is also a dual champion with five Best in Field wins to his credit.


I am an attorney in real life, frequently handling animal-related matters.


2. While I understand why some people need or choose to use professional handlers, the thrill of showing for me comes with facing off against those considered the best in the ring: professional handlers, who have a great deal more experience than I do.


3. I have been inspired by several owner-handlers, including Jennifer Darcy in Clumbers, Curtis Freeling in Ibizan Hounds and the Basenji Sisters. 


4. Winning the National Specialty in our breed with multiple professional handlers in the ring. 


5. I like the idea of the owner-handler competitions that began this year, but still believe that with the correct dog, the judge will find you. I do not necessarily subscribe to the theory that professional handlers will automatically win. If you learn the craft of showing a dog and present the judge with a correct dog in a professional manner, you can beat anyone.







SouzasJanet and Linda Souza and Jamie Souza Barlett 

Limerick Irish Wolfhounds
San Martin, Calif.

1. Limerick Irish Wolfhounds represents a three-generation family of breeder/owner-handlers. Janet and Linda are retired, and Jamie works for a consulting firm in San Francisco. Our matriarch, Janet, acquired and finished her first Irish Wolfhound in 1972. 


From the moment the Irish Wolfhound came into our lives, we knew this was our “forever” breed. It has been an incredible family journey. We have produced 15 litters in 40 years, resulting in 107 puppies. Forty-nine finished their championships, a majority handled by us and some by their owners. We have been honored to win both Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex at the National with two different dogs, and we had the No. 1 Irish Wolfhound in the breed for five straight years with four different dogs. Linda was one of the five nominees  for a Winkie as best owner-handler in 2010.


2. Our primary motivation for showing our own dogs is because we enjoy it. We love the interaction with the dogs and the camaraderie of friends. It has become our lifestyle.


3. We were mentored through observing owner-handlers like Patricia Craige Trotter. We were fortunate that Pat lived in our area and we spent a lot of time in Group rings with her. She was the perfect example for us to emulate. 


4. The greatest satisfaction was winning the National Specialty as well as three all-breed Best in Shows owner-handled with three different dogs — not an easy task with an Irish Wolfhound.


5. We love the idea of the new owner-handler competitions being offered at the all-breed shows. We feel many people do not show because they feel they have no chance against professional handlers. The owner-handler competition gives them their own stage. We feel it would be impossible to level the playing field without having a separate competition.

From the August 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the August 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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