495 — Amanda On… Owner Handlers, Winning, Losing and Fun

Amanda On… Owner Handlers, Winning, Losing and Fun

Amanda Kelly, breeder-owner-handler of Fwaggle Toy Manchester Terriers in Canada, joins host Laura Reeves for a pragmatic, insightful and realistic discussion on the challenges and assets owner handlers bring to the competition.

“You really need to examine how are you viewing winning and losing as a first step,” Kelly noted. “And secondly, in addition to how you’re viewing winning and losing, you also, I think, need to start with realistic goals of what you want to achieve.

“You are not being realistic if you have your very first show dog … you’ve never groomed a dog, you’ve never shown a dog, but you want to be the number one Cocker spaniel in the United States … that’s not going to happen. It’s just not. It could be the greatest Cocker Spaniel that ever lived and it’s not gonna happen.

“We all recognize that there’s a kind of an innate imbalance there (between professional handlers and owner handlers). Let’s talk about how people can fix it. Because if you didn’t have any hope of ever being able to overcome it, then why would you bother to enter and go to the show?

“I think the best thing that you can do is to find yourself a really great class. Find yourself a really great mentor. If there’s no classes in your area, there are tons of online classes and opportunities to be mentored by professionals at a distance.

FUN is job #1

“Your number one job is to make sure that, whatever it is that you choose to do in the ring with your dog, that it’s fun for your dog. I see so many people who are so concentrated on their dog being perfect that they practice them to death by boredom. The dogs just start to hate it. So my own tip for people whenever they ask me, ‘what can I do to help make my dog stand out,’ I always say make sure that your dog has an arsenal of tricks.

“Behavior training for the ring is just trick training. Every single thing that we want them to do when you walk into the ring is no different than you teaching your dog to sit, or rollover or sit up and beg or spinning a circle. They’re all tricks, (even if) some of them are a little bit more complicated tricks.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

“The greatest gift you can give yourself is, first of all, patience with yourself and the greatest thing (you can give your dog) is patience with your dog. The second thing you can give yourself is to find a good teacher who can help you teach yourself and your dog the behaviors that are involved in showing in bite sized pieces that you can actually eat and have some success with. If you try to do everything all at once you are going to get discouraged and you’re going to stop.”

332 — Secret to Success with Owner-Handler Matt Palmer

The secret to Success with Owner-Handler Matt Palmer

The 2019 Secret to Success award goes to owner-handler Matt Palmer winning Best of Breed at Westminster Kennel Club with his first show dog. Host Laura Reeves gets up close and personal with everyone’s newest hero.

A Missouri State Public Defender, Palmer discovered Golden Retrievers at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia dog show he visited on a whim. He took AKC’s advice on how to find a reputable breeder, winding up with “great mentors, breeders who took a chance on selling a nice puppy to someone they didn’t know.”

“It’s remarkable the number of people who have “scaffolded me” in this sport,” Palmer said. “People have been amazing. Everyone I’ve come across has helped me in one way or another.”

Palmer said his secret to success came when he was working his dog at a handling class. An instructor noticed the dog tensing up when he was hand-stacked. After working through the problem, Palmer said he realized he “was worried about my jacket riding up and basically mooning everyone.” He bought a pair of suspenders on Amazon and his confidence skyrocketed. The team’s success took off from that point.

“I now own 10 pairs of suspenders and have a couple pair of extras in my tack box,” Palmer said.

“I wanted the purple and gold”

Palmer said his high school sports experiences left him “competitive to a fault,” and gave him the drive to achieve more. While he competed in the National Owner Handled Series his first year or so, glad to have extra time in the ring to practice, “I wanted purple and gold, not the maroon ribbon,” he opined.

Missouri to Manhattan

Deciding to attend Westminster Kennel Club was sort of a lark for Palmer. “I thought it would be cool to go see it. I had absolutely no expectation of significant success,” he said.

As his case load was starting to build up at work, Palmer had planned not to go. After visiting with professional handler friends at the dog show, he finally decided to go ahead and make the trip with them.

Professionals, not adversaries

“I think there is a divide between owner-handler and professional handler when there doesn’t need to be one,” Palmer noted. “I tell people I’m happy to help, hold dogs, etc  if they could give me a few minutes of feedback.

“Any chance to learn from professionals is invaluable. I try to absorb things that are second nature, reflexive to them.

“My (professional handler) friend came early to meet me at the Piers so he could be ringside for the breed. He could have been in bed, but instead he grabs a bucket and a towel and stands ringside and cheers me on.”

Poop strike

The most terrifying moment of the Garden experience, Palmer said, is his dog wouldn’t potty. “He grew up in Kansas and Missouri, he’d never seen all that concrete. He wouldn’t poop! I was mortified he was going to touch that green carpet and decide it was a perfect place to poop,” Palmer said wryly.

“Dog shows have been a great social outlet,” Palmer said. “We’ll keep going. It’s so cool, everywhere you go, you see somebody you met somewhere else…

“Sometimes we win, most the time we don’t. But when we do, it’s pretty fun.”

For more inspiring stories of owner-handlers check out some of these past episodes:

57 – Best in Show: How an Owner-Handler Competes with the Pros – Tricia Stanczyk

318 – Owner Handler Secrets: Make a Plan and Be Consistent | Pure Dog Talk

25 – Patricia Trotter: Legendary Breeder, Author, and AKC Judge – Vin-Melca’s Norwegian Elkhounds

238 — The friendships and journeys of a successful owner-handler | Pure Dog Talk