620 – WKC Inside Scoop with Don Sturz, Tell YOUR Stories

WKC Inside Scoop with Don Sturz, Tell YOUR Stories

Don Sturz and host Laura Reeves sit down at the Rose City Classic to discuss the 2024 Westminster Kennel Club dog show and plans for the future.

Dr. Donald Sturz joins host Laura Reeves to discuss this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens, NY and plans for the future.

This year the club will celebrate the 90th anniversary of Junior Showmanship, Sturz noted, while the show is dedicated to the memory of Dave Helming. Sturz describes the search for new turf, new bracing over the courts for the outdoor rings, a gelato stand, an outdoor bar and new ticketing resources for evening events.

“We want to be respectful and pay homage to the history and the tradition of Westminster, but at the same time, attempt to move forward and remain relevant,” Sturz said. “Always keeping the experience for the dogs and the exhibitors as the priority. And it’s not always easy to juggle that.

“Will we ever be back in Madison Square Garden? That’s what you all want to know. Everybody wants to know, will we ever go back to the Garden?

“Okay, so my standard answer has been for the past year, never say never. Remember, I grew up in this. I showed at Westminster for the first time when I was 10 years old … I’ve moved to calling it Westminster because we’re not calling it the Garden … so I’d like to get back to being able to say “the Garden” so it is something that we’re working on.

“The fact of the matter is Madison Square Garden was remodeled and when they did that remodeling it’s what took away all that space. So there’s no way to have a daytime event. So that’s how we ended up with the Piers. So then that thing called covid hit and during that time Pier 92 fell into the water … so that’s gone. Pier 94 is actually being remodeled and will no longer be an exhibition space. It’s going to be smaller spaces for individual businesses and so on.

“So the Piers are off the table. (We) really basically looked at every possible venue in New York City or the metropolitan area. You know, we went to Newark … we had to exhaust everything, right? We also went a little further out into Queens, to the Nassau border and looked at an arena there. And all of these, we kind of looked at it from a space point of view, like, how would it work, right? In Manhattan itself, it’s very limited as to what venues… like, there’s really only one.

“We’re going to be in one of those kinds of venues that’s going to, hopefully, afford us the opportunity to then be back at Madison Square Garden in the evening. So, watch for that.

“The plan is to try to find something for ‘25 that is also ‘26 because we just need to stop moving. We need our home.

“There’s lots of fabulous events in our sport, but there is nothing in the world like Westminster. There’s something magical about that event. That’s something that we consistently commit ourselves to is the Westminster experience, right? Creating that magic.

“So. I think Westminster is in a really great place. I think it’s a pivotal moment for Westminster.”

513 – Owner Handled Journey to Success

Owner Handled Journey to Success

L-R Jann Butler, Will Bratcher and Terri Ebert

Will Bratcher, Jann Butler and Terri Ebert make up the team behind 2021’s top winning Saint Bernard. Their story, and their journey, is an inspiration for everyone.

Will, an Olympic level swimmer, his wife Jann and their friend Terri have forged an impressive team in a very short time. Jann, who suffered a terrifying dog bite as a child, was not a dog person. Will, who grew up with 4H and animals, wanted a Saint Bernard.

After acquiring their first dog from the Thrifty Nickel, they wound up talking to Stan and Joan Zielinski about what would become their first show dog in 2014.

Will and Ian.

“I didn’t even know what a show home was,” Jann said. “After three interviews with the Zielinskis, we got this dog and we committed to show it. I’m like, I don’t even know what that is. But they sent us to (professional handler) Marty Glover. They said Marty will help you.

“OK great! So, we go meet Marty Glover and then the next thing you know, he takes the dog away to train him. Which I didn’t think was part of the deal but I was like, ‘oh that’s really weird you put your dog in a van with somebody else and they go away and they get trained.’

“Anyway, his first show he got a major as a puppy. And, of course, I had to ask ‘what’s a major’ and we learned a lot there right at the beginning.”

“You know Will,” Terri said. “Once he gets started …. for those of you that are interested, if you have someone like this in your family, you just roll with it. So Jann learned to roll with it. He said ‘well, I think we need a third dog.’ I mean who doesn’t want three Saint Bernards, which is equivalent to 450 pounds and so we roll with Will.

“We are consummate learners. There is no pride in how we enter this. We come in saying we don’t know anything so we’re willing to ask everything and we’ll ask anybody. And that’s a hallmark for us.

Stick and stay and make it pay

“I think you do it for the fun,” Will said. “As soon as you lose that perspective you need to get out. The other one I have is “stick and stay and make it pay.” You learn a lot of things from training, working to build endurance and everything else.

“I apply the same thing towards my dogs (as in Olympic level swimming). I look at (Ian). I watch him just like my coach used to watch me. It’s about technique. It’s about endurance. It’s the whole package.

“For people who get into the owner handler, it’s scary at first. But when you really start winning, start doing, you forget about how nervous you used to be. Now you just start worrying about how did that handler do that, how am I running, … it’s just like running a race car too. You just wanna fine-tune and keep improving, and I still to this day.

“If I don’t think I did well, I’ll go to the judge and ask what can I do to improve. I’ve got judges just look at me (and say) ‘you sound like a junior handler.’ It all means everything to me. I’ve been getting a tremendous amount of coaching, encouragement and just that whole mentality of just keep going, keep going, don’t stop from the professional handlers.

“They’ve given me so much encouragement and help in handling and tips. There are so many things when you get down and nitty gritty. Just little things can make a big difference. So it’s been pretty humbling and I’ve really, really gotten quite an education. It’s not that easy. I have a lot more respect for handlers in general.”

Listen in to today’s show for the entirety of this heart-warming conversation.

322 – The Winning Edge! Panel Discussion With the Masters

The Winning Edge! Panel Discussion With the Masters

Host Laura Reeves moderates a Friday Night Forum Panel Discussion on the topic of the “Winning Edge” with Judges Rick Gschwender and Pluis Davern and Professional Handler Bill McFadden.

It is not the judge’s job to find a “diamond in the rough,” Reeves posits. “Polish your “gem stone” for your best chance of success.”

Good habits

Gschwender starts the discussion by asking the audience about their habits with the dogs they exhibit.

“How many of you train your dog? Road work him? Take video to see what the judge sees? Clean their teeth?” Gschwender queried. “I see people all the time, they’re paying $30 to enter the dog and haven’t even cleaned teeth.”

Gschwender adds, “Watch the judges. If you pay attention, you will see consistency in what they put up. You might not like it, but you will figure out what I like and come back and show that to me.”

Motivated by motion

Davern noted, in a fascinating observation, that people are *predators.* Which means “we are motivated by motion. What are judges looking at?” Davern asked rhetorically. “Motion. It catches the eye. You can *subtly* move your hand to show a pretty head, for example.

“You’re in the ring, you’re all showing the same “product.” There’s 20 boxes of cornflakes. What makes yours better than the others?”

Owner handlers have a huge advantage, Davern said. They are spending time with the dog they love.

“This is a great sport! Nobody takes a golf club to bed at night,” Davern said. “Life is not all about winning.”

Be prepared

“Take a deep breath and don’t rush,” McFadden advises. He also notes that in some cases, owner handlers who are long time breeders are “experts showing to novices.” Judges are life-long learners and may be new to a breed. “Present your breed the way it should be shown.”

Most importantly, McFadden said, be prepared. “Make sure your dog is in condition, physically, mentally, emotionally.”

“You’ll have successes and failures you deserve and ones you don’t. It happens to handlers too. We show 20 dogs and might win with two,” McFadden added.

For more insight from a couple of these panelists, you can listen back to:





112 – A New Perspective on Westminster Kennel Club: Gail Miller Bisher – Director of Communications

Gail Miller Bisher

A new public perspective and perhaps public outreach opportunity is offered by Gail Miller Bisher, the Director of Communications for Westminster Kennel Club, in this episode of Pure Dog Talk.

Winning Westminster Dog Show, or affectionately known as, the Garden, has been the dream of many breeders and exhibitors.  Any change to the perceived purity of the “Garden” may be met with resistance from the sport.

But as we listen to Gail Bisher, consider this… Westminster has the public’s eyes and ears.  Who better than Westminster to be the positive voice, to bring heartwarming stories of the love and dedication of our purebred dogs and fanciers.

While the Garden will always be… the Garden, maybe the show of shows has a greater role to play.

Greener Pastures for the Garden – Westminster Kennel Club

Here are a few highlights for 2018:

  • $10,000 Scholarship for Best Junior Handler
  • $10,000 Scholarship for Agility
  • $10,000 Scholarship for Obedience
  • Art Contest – $15,000 total ($5,000 each) – to be awarded to 3 Parent Breed Clubs for Rescue


Gail Miller Bisher – Westminster Kennel Club – Director of Communications

Gail Miller Bisher (pronounced By-sher) is a second-generation dog person with more than 35 years of experience in the sport as a handler, breeder, trainer, writer and spokesperson.

As with many exhibitors in the sport, her experience started as a family affair. Bisher was a team with her parents. While they handled most of the breeding (and her mother was a parent club president for many years) Gail did the grooming, training, conditioning and handling. In addition to conformation, she has earned titles on dogs in obedience, rally, advanced CGC and earthdog.

Bisher handled her first dog to its championship when she was just 12 years old. From her WD win at the first BCCA Specialty in 1979, she continued to handle her dogs and clients’ dogs to National Specialty BOB and BOS and All-Breed Best in Show wins, numerous top ranked positions and Junior Showmanship history. Gail was the first junior handler to qualify for the Westminster Kennel Club’s Junior Showmanship competition with a Beardie and the first to place, capturing second.

Since 1988 she has been judging regional specialties and supported entries and now is an AKC-licensed judge of Bearded Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and Junior Showmanship competition. In 2015 she judged the BCCA National Specialty. Although time does not allow for much other than a limited number of judging assignments while raising her daughter, Gail has stayed involved by earning four titles each on both of her miniature dachshunds, who recently passed away.

Her club work includes serving the BCCA as a former breed columnist and club-approved breed mentor, specialty conformation chairperson and she is currently the club historian. Additionally, she is a member of the Dachshund Club of America, Morris & Essex, Greenwich Kennel Club and the Dog Writers Association of America.

She has nearly 10 years of experience directing the marketing, brand development and public relations for the American Kennel Club and Webvet.com. In 2003 AKC hired her to be an on-air spokesperson appearing on national media outlets to promote the sport and purebred dogs.

Bisher credits her Junior Showmanship experience for creating the foundation for a successful professional career where she has gained recognition in advertising, marketing and the public relations industries. She is a Clio and Mobius Award winning broadcast producer with 12 years of experience in the advertising industry; has managed licensing programs to LIMA awards and produced a TV PSA that was featured on America’s Funniest Commercials. Additionally, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, has earned a Master of Arts degree in Communications and created the Super Fit Fido Club to educate pet dog owners about the importance of canine fitness.

Gail Bisher

Gail Bisher – Westminster Kennel Club – 2nd Place in Juniors


Gail Bisher - Westminster Kennel Club Jr Finals

Gail Bisher – Westminster Kennel Club Jr Finals

38 – Throw a Party with a Premium List: Betty-Anne Stenmark’s Guide for Dog Show Chairs and Clubs

A Dog Show Should Be Fun

Listen to Episode #38 of Pure Dog Talk as Betty-Anne Stenmark shares lessons learned of how to throw a party with a premium list; a dog show that all enjoy and attracts specialty clubs to party too.

Show Chairs, Club Members, Exhibitors and Aspiring Judges will all benefit from these words of wisdom.

If you missed Episode #31 – Not a Gene Pool…A Gene Puddle , or want to hear again the humor and wisdom of AKC Judge and Breeder of Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Mrs. Betty-Anne Stenmark, listen here.

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32 – Katie Campbell: Why the Public Shows Up at the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show

Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show Rocks!

Katie Campbell is a second-generation dog breeder and has been exhibiting and breeding under her own TAJI prefix since 1991. Though known worldwide for her highly acclaimed Basenjis, she is also a Breeder of Merit in Ibizan Hounds and Poodles. She has also judged across the USA and around the globe. Like many of us, Katie is an active member in an ensemble of purebred dog clubs, tirelessly aspiring to keep members active and replenishing their rosters. She does so with an inspirational message that mentors not only new owners and aspiring judges but effectively reaches the public to share our purebred dog message. As a member of the Seattle Kennel Club Board of Directors and show committee for Seattle Kennel Club’s upcoming large, diverse, and very public-oriented show, Katie shares with us how the Seattle Kennel Club uses media to attract gate and potential new purebred dog enthusiasts and club members.