It is true that even unfortunate events can be transformed into learning experiences — such was the case with the recent Missoula show.
Since I missed the closing date none of my dogs were entered.
Therefore, I spent four days as a Ring Steward for different judges.
I decided to spend the time — in addition to the usual stewarding duties — focused on the handling of dogs. Specifically, I studied good and bad handlers, and tried to discern whether I thought there was evidence of bias against owner-handlers.
I concluded there was no evidence to suspect bias against owner-handlers. However, bad handling was most definitely associated with “losing” and yes, most of the bad handlers were NOT the professionals.
I have thought about how to say this kindly and what I have decided is to use the Juniors Handlers as a way to explain.
Almost every Junior Handler was poised, well-dressed, and quiet in their ring demeanor. They typically moved dogs with grace, followed instructions, and reflected a respectful countenance in the ring.
I watched the Juniors and my response was WOW.
I watched a lot of Owner-Handlers and my response was more along the lines of …
I have heard many of my owner-handler community suggest that judges should be able to find the good dog in spite of less-than-optimal handling.
Bad handling is like putting flashing neon arrows over all the dog’s faults, while also making it hard to see the positive traits.
I tried to mentally send messages to my fellow owner-handlers but to no avail — rear toes stayed pointing like east-west directionals on a compass, dogs did the entire down and back while pacing, toplines looked like ski slopes, and most everyone needs to review how to show the bite.
I could seriously go on and on. It was quite educational.
I think many of us in the owner-handler community lack critical self-awareness — about our limitations as handlers, and about the limitations of our dogs. Hubris is the real enemy of success.
One is certainly free to rail against my conclusions and rant that it is all political and yada yada yada — personally, I will just keep trying to be better.