All About The Show Dog


How to use a Show Lead, Free Baiting, Table Training, Gaiting, Handler Tricks, Stacking, and Show Ring protocol.





by Linn Vandiver, Desert Breeze Ranch


You are a breeder or owner handler. You have a breed that is handled mostly by Professionals. You want to beat them! Great, me too!


Let’s begin by saying that I have owner-handled Akita’s, Shiba Inu’s, Toy Fox Terriers, Chihuahua’s, and French Bulldogs, and I’ve groomed and/or presented many other breeds for handlers and show friends. Each breed has subtle differences on how they should be shown, and large differences in how they are groomed.


Over the last thirty years, I’ve been blessed by close friendships with top ii Pro Handlers and breeder-owner-handlers who shared their knowledge with me. One thing I’ve learned and honestly believe is that owner handlers need to WAKE UP. Every year it gets harder for us to win but the fact is, the sport cannot afford to lose us. We are the backbone of purebred dogs and without owner-handlers, well, dog shows would be a farce. (Then who would make points for everyone else?)


I have never wanted to be a Professional Handler. Most likely because I’ve seen the other side, having hired a Pro Handler for various reasons. When a Professional Handler does not win with our dog, most owners think “Shoot, I can take the dog in and loose!”


Well, I want you to be able to take your dog in and win! So first let’s take a look at what the Professional does in promoting your dog.


Professional Handler

  1. He or she “looks” like a Professional.

  2. He or she presents your dog like a Professional

  3. The pro handler makes sure that when your dog walks in the ring, it is groomed and looks like a million bucks!

  4. He or she DOES NOT stand around ringside to gossip! (at least they shouldn’t)

  5. The Pro Handler has put in the time and energy each and every day to work with your dog; show grooming and coat preparation, ring training and conditioning exercise.

Breeder/Owner Handler

  1. Get yourself together. Walk into the ring well-dressed, not looking like you just rolled out of bed! Believe it our not I’ve seen people wearing slippers in the ring!

  2. Present your dog to the best of your ability. If you are new to showing, get to a handling class. Handling classes are not just for your dog. You’ll learn for example, if your dog’s front is not its strong suit, don’t have it be the first thing the judge sees!

  3. Don’t just bathe your dog – GROOM YOUR DOG. Clip or preferably, grind the nails. Clean the ears. Does your dog need to have a dental done? Dirty teeth, smelly ears, and long toenails are a turn-off to the judge. Get with a trusted AND experienced person and learn how to groom your BREED for the show ring. Each individual dog requires different grooming “tricks and techniques” to have it look his best! An improperly groomed dog shows lack of knowledge or worse yet, it is just a “filler dog” or an owner-handler who doesn’t care enough to clean his/her dog. Would YOU put that dog up over other properly groomed dogs?

  4. The old saying holds true… “If you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything at all!” People who don’t know me may think I’m anti-social because I don’t stand around the ring before and after judging to chit-chat. I’m there to show and win and I want to concentrate on that dog, that ring, that judge. When the show is over and everyone’s been judged, let’s be social!

  5. Work with your dog. Exercise, train, condition him physically and mentally. No one knows your dog better than you do, so put that to good use.

This is just the tip of an iceberg! The main thing I think we all need to remember is that this is a sport. We do this because we love it. We love our dogs, the competition. The world is not going to end tomorrow because we did not win today.


Above all, there is no reason to bad mouth another exhibitor or the judge because we didn’t win. It will ruin your budding reputation and it will sour your personality. Once we begin blaming others instead of addressing the real problem, we had all better look at what and why we are showing dogs.


If you and your dog are not having fun, if owner-handling is stressing you both, best that you look for a professional handler. Let him or her show your dog while you relax at ringside and feel proud of your dog. Alternatively, an honest opinion from a professional handler may lead you to get a more competitive dog.


I hope this has helped you “re-group” your approach to owner handling. If you are ready to move forward, we’ll explore ways to get your dog in top condition and groom to a bloom that no judge can ignore! Then we’ll talk about “promotion” because that is what professional handlers do best… EST 1998 14091708



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