Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I got the idea for this article from a friend that told me how much she pays for a handler to board and train her dog. She asked me if I could write something about this subject. Seems the handler has had the dog since the National and charges $400 a month for boarding and training. Now I’ve got to ask right up front……just how much training does a dog need month to month to get ready for the show ring? Just to fill you in, this dog had a high placement in a huge class at the National and has been shown just a few times since then. His owner has had Select and Futurity winning dogs so she’s very familiar with owning show dogs. She’s probably one of the best double handlers that I know. Just how much training is enough training? I told her by the time this animal finishes his championship you will have spent a great deal of money to attain it. She’s frustrated. Take the dog back home I told her! Come on now, the dog has already shown that he is competitive in the show ring by doing so well at the National! What is he being trained for? Give me a break!

Years ago, this was unheard of. How many people sent their dogs to handlers to be trained for several months? We all know that the German Shepherd is a very easily trained dog. Unless you are elderly, disabled or pressed for time is this really necessary? Of course it isn’t. No dog needs months of training to get him ready for the show ring. This is a lot of nonsense. Unless the handler is keeping the dog at his place and showing him every week end or so, what does he need your dog there for? Someone is eating steak for dinner…….and it’s not my friend!

How much money are you willing to put out to have your dog finish his championship? Are you willing to pay your handler to show your dog week after week? And for that matter, can you afford it? How many reserves are enough? Is there a limit to how long you’ll continue to show your dog? Do you have an unlimited, bottomless bank account to do so?

Some people are willing to do what ever it takes to own a champion dog. They truly love the sport of showing and they are having fun no matter what. They will do whatever it is that they need to do to finish their dog. Then there are others who don’t care about having any fun (Oh yes, I’ve had people tell me this already), they come to a dog show to win. Nothing else…….end of story!

I know of someone that has been showing their dog almost every week-end. I think the dog needs another major to finish. The dog is over seven years old. Is it a good dog? In his owner’s eyes he is. His owner wants the dog finished and is determined to make sure that he does. His handler doesn’t mind. He’s getting paid. The owner is happy. The handler is happy. The dog…….well he’s got a pleasant personality so he’s just a happy dog anyway. By the time this dog finishes his title, he will be a very expensive champion. It makes me wonder, who was the most expensive dog to finish his championship title and how long did it take him to do it? I wonder how old he was. Does anyone know?

Is there a limit on how long it should take a dog to finish their championship? Are you of the belief that you just keep on plugging along until he does attain it? Some will argue that they are doing it for the fun of it. How much fun is it to lose the majority of the time, I wonder? One would think that they are no longer doing it for the experience. But hey, if these people are truly having fun, then it is their business. Then there are some who believe and have said, “We don’t need anymore mediocre champions in the breed!” Yup, I just read that the other day on one of the e-mail lists that I belong to.

Under normal circumstances, showing dogs is an expensive hobby. We’re talking about handling fees, traveling fees for the handler, his meals, his lodging, and tolls on the highways. Add to that any bonus you may throw his way if he wins the points or goes Best of Breed. Then you have to pay your own expenses to travel as well. Then there’s the entry fee for the dog, the expense of grooming equipment and supplies, leashes, collars, and any special supplements you may add to your dogs already expensive food. So owning and showing show dogs is a luxury, and in this day and age, a luxury that many can’t afford.

How expensive is it to show your dog at the National Specialty show? If you go with a popular handler, it will cost you quite a bit. Remember that these professional handlers have their choice of which dogs that they want to show. Most of the time they will choose the dog that they think they will have the best chance of winning with. Also most of these handlers have a loyalty to their long standing clients and those clients will normally have first choice of these handlers. It can run you thousands of dollars to show at the National level. And don’t forget the bonus’s that these handlers are accustomed to receiving if they do big winning with your dog. This is the biggest show on earth in the German Shepherd Dog community. Also many people show at the Canadian Nationals as well.

Then take a look at the Futurity/Maturity shows. Some people consider these shows nothing more than glorified match shows. Try telling that to the big winners at these shows. There are no points awarded to winning at these shows. Years ago this was considered a breeders show so one could see what blood lines were producing the qualities that they may be looking for in their own breeding stock. Now days, many exhibitors consider them just as important as any other show because they know if they win the big awards here that it is their ticket into the futurity/maturity finals at the National Specialty show. This is where their dog will have a chance to compete for Futurity Victor/Victrix and Maturity Victor/Victrix. So once again, showing at these types of shows will cost the owners of these dogs more than a pretty penny.

So how deep is your pocket? Do you work around a budget that you save just for showing your dogs? I have a friend that works a part time job just to support her show dog hobby. Yup, she takes the money that she makes from working to show her dogs. Do you eat hamburger helper every month to ensure that you have enough money to show your dog? Is it foolish to be so “dog obsessed?” For most people, they don’t care. They are doing something that they love!

I never sent my dogs to a handler for training. Looking back on it now, most handlers weren’t set up to take other peoples dogs for training. It seems like times have changed and more and more people are sending their dogs away to a handler. I believe in the saying: “Never say never” because you don’t know what you may do that you normally wouldn’t have in the past. That said, how I feel about it is, even if I could afford to do it, I wouldn’t. I don’t feel like a dog needs to go away with a handler under most circumstances. However, if the dog is one that the owner wants to show all over the country looking to win Best in Show awards, then I can see where they’re coming from. It’s almost impossible for most people to take off of work to travel all over the country to show their dogs so sending them to handlers makes sense.

As much as most of these beautiful dogs do lots of winning all over the country, there’s another side as well that some people don’t like to talk about. Because I’ve never sent my dog away, I’m only relating here what I’ve been told by some people that have. What about those dogs that gets sick, or worse dies when they’re away? What about those dogs that get loose and either are never found again or are killed by a car? What about those dogs that bloats and dies? No handler wants to make the call to an owner with this type of bad news.

A friend of mine that is a German Shepherd Dog judge told me one time she sent her dog away to a very well known trainer. She told me when she got her dog back that his temperament was never the same again. Yes, this is the negative side of this discussion and most of the time these things don’t happen, but try telling that to those people’s dogs that did have this happen.

As some of us get older, our desire to show our dogs may still be there, but sometimes we are just not physically capable of doing what’s necessary to get them trained for the ring. This is when I can see a trainer or handler can be very useful. But does he need to be away for several months? Not in my opinion, he doesn’t! I’ll keep the “jingle ling a ling” lining my own pockets!

Just because sending a dog away isn't right for me, doesn't mean it isn't for other people. Many of those people have the trophies, blue ribbons and champions to prove that it is. Everyone's circumstances are different. For some people getting a phone call from their handler telling them that their dog just won the points is a wonderful thing. I on the other hand like to be there watching my dog do the winning. Whatever works for you and your dog!

I’ve worked with the best handlers in this breed at one time or another. I admire the hard work and dedication that they put into their craft. I always brought my dog to the show ring, ready to be competitive and shown to perfection by his handler. As positively that I feel towards handlers and the tremendous contribution that they have made to the sport of showing dogs, I still want to enjoy my dogs and want them home with me. They’re my companions first and a show dog second. If I can’t get them ready for the show ring myself, then maybe it’s time for me to check into a nursing home. And if it’s any indication about how “wonderful” I was in training my own wild child “Bu” for her futurity, I just might be checking in there sooner than I planned!

From the book: "BEST IN SHOW"......"...this book is an absolute "must have"...an unqualified triumph." -- - Dog World (UK) "A bible for all dog show enthusiasts...a treasure that nobody in the dog show world can be without, at least not if they want to maintain their credibility." -- - HUNDSPORT (Sweden)
"A must-read to help you enjoy and understand the world of dog shows even more." -- - David Frei, co-host, The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on USA Network
"We put this workhorse to the test at the GAZETTE and it became indispensable in about 15 minutes. We can give the book no higher praise than that." -- - AKC Gazette, February 2008 "a treasure trove...the be-all and end-all book about dog shows." -- - The Ringleader (Australia)

My rating: handlers: (4), sending dogs away to be trained: (2-4)

1 comment:

  1. When my bitch Kiz was younger, I was advised to send her to the handler to get her finished. Because I was suffering from Chronic migraines, I found it nearly impossible to make every show that was entered. I could not consider sending her away at that time...she was my "baby" who slept on the couch. Twelve years later, Kiz never did finish. The 13 points and one major cost me MUCH more than it would had I sent her for probably the couple of months it would have taken to garner that elusive Champion title. I know that Kiz does not care, and I do not love her less. On the other side of the coin, due to my declining health, I sent Kizzy's daughter Arwen to her handler for 2 months when she when she was 6 months old anticipating having to place her and to train her for the show ring. She did not enjoy the show ring, and my health stop spiraling, so she was retired from her "career" with a few points and some Best Puppy wins. She will be 7 years old this December; and when she was reunited with her handler this past month, she was joyously happy to see him.
    For me, its not about the money....showing is exorbitantly expensive in EITHER case..its how my dog is treated when at the handlers home; and how her handler treated her was obviously evident as Arwen attempted to climb into his arms. It was as if he were a long lost love.