Top Notch Toys December 2018



I t used to be said that dog shows are the only sport where amateurs compete head-to-head with the pro- fessionals. Though this statement is still true, today’s amateur owner- handlers can also enter their dogs in contests that exclude participation by paid professionals. Since 2012, the AKC National Owner-Handled Se- ries (NOHS) has provided bonafide owner-handlers—a designation that’s strictly defined—the opportunity to compete for Group and Best in Show wins without going head-to-head with seasoned pros. The series has increased entries at most show-giving clubs where the competition has been offered and bolstered support for a sport that depends on individual en- tries to sustain itself. However, some critics have suggested the program’s success has created a two-tier system that rewards owner-handled dogs as second-class citizens. Time will tell whether the series proves to be a time-tested tradition or a short-term solution. In the meantime, owner- handled dogs have given their han- dlers every reason to feel optimistic. IT’S OWNER-HANDLED, NOT OWNER-HANDLER The NOHS is a competitive forum that allows dogs that are owner-han- dled to compete only against other dogs that are owner-handled. The series is intended to celebrate the caliber of the canine, not the merits of its owner-handler. Although the

competing in the program. Partici- pants must be mindful not to jeopar- dize their amateur status by receiving payment for services rendered in the ring. “Any type of remuneration as- sociated with the service of handling a dog in the conformation ring meets the definition of a professional han- dler in regards to eligibility for the AKC National Owner-Handled Se- ries,” according to the AKC. “Com- pensation for expenses outside of the conformation ring does not meet this definition.” Owner-handlers who show dogs for family and friends should be compensated for their ef- forts only through gifts of a lunch or dinner and a full tank of gas. ENTRY IS BY ELIGIBILITY Any exhibitor may compete in the NOHS provided he or she is not a professional handler or a member of a professional handler’s household. As characterized by the AKC, “Pro- fessional handlers are defined as any person who belongs or has belonged to a professional handlers’ organiza- tion, distributed rate cards, or oth- erwise advertised or represented themselves as handling dogs for pay within the last five years.” Assistants may compete with their dog in the NOHS provided they are a genuine Junior Handler as well. As recorded in the April 9-10, 2018 AKC Board Minutes, “Current assistants that are eligible to compete in Junior

distinction may seem obvious, some participants have gotten into the habit of referring to the series as an “owner- handler” competition. This is not the case. Unlike Junior Showmanship, the NOHS does not instruct judges to evaluate the competency of the handler. Instead, they are to consider how closely each dog conforms with its breed standard, just as they do in the regular classes and for Best of Breed. As stated on the AKC website, “The determination of the awards in the AKC National Owner-Handled Series is based solely on the quality of the entry. The owner-handler’s han- dling ability is not of consideration.” According to the AKC, more than 80 percent of American show dogs are taken into the ring by their owner- handlers. This figure represents a lot of competitive people. “The purpose of the AKCNational Owner-Handled Series is to recognize and showcase the quality dogs being exhibited by owner-handlers and to provide a ven- ue for the owner-handlers to compete against their peers,” instructs the AKC. Participation in the program has helped to maintain (or increase) entries at those shows where the se- ries has been offered. The offer of additional trophies and rosettes has proven irresistible to many owner- handlers around the country. Although it’s the dogs that are re- warded and not the exhibitors, it’s important for owner-handlers to maintain their amateur status while

60 • T op N otch T oys , D ecember 2018

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