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How to Become a Show Dog Handler: 10 Tips You Need to Know

Melissa Gunter

By Melissa Gunter

weimaraner at dog show with handler

If you love dogs, most likely you’ve watched a dog show. Whether it’s one of the most prestigious dog shows or small ones in your local area, the dog handlers who introduce us to these beautiful animals are as well-trained as the dogs they work with. If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a show dog handler, these tips are for you. We’ll provide you with a few things you should know before throwing yourself into the wild world of dog shows.

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The 10 Tips to Become a Show Dog Handler

1. Are You the Right Fit?

Before you throw your hat into the ring, it’s important to determine whether you have the qualities needed to be a show dog handler. This type of profession requires hundreds of hours of dedication, training, and work. Not only must you be dedicated but a good handler must also be good with dogs, and people, be in good shape and love being outdoors. All of these traits come together to make a great show dog handler.

2. Do Your Research

Before diving in, take some time to do a little research about the profession. Visit dog shows and learn from professionals. It also helps to speak to show dog handlers to ask questions and learn any tips they may provide. It also helps to speak with judges. They can give you a clear idea of what is expected from the dogs you may eventually be showing.

3. Choose a Breed

Most dog show handlers have a breed they prefer working with. If a particular breed seems more appealing to you than others, learn what you can about them. You can watch these breeds at other shows or learn more online or through books written about the breed.

a Spanish Water Dog at a dog show
Image By: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock

4. Buy Yourself a Puppy

Owning your own purebred puppy and showing it isn’t a requirement for being a show dog handler, but it is a great way to get yourself through the door. As you build a relationship with your pet, you’ll learn more about handling the breed itself. Then people who want their dogs shown, but aren’t up to the task, may take notice of you and how well you do with your pet.

5. Be Part of a Local Kennel Club

Kennel Clubs are a great place to learn the tips and tricks associated with becoming a show dog handler. They are also great places to get practice as many hosts their own shows and matches where you and your dog can compete.

6. Take Classes

You can easily sign your pup up for basic obedience and agility classes to help you on your way to becoming a professional. You can witness firsthand what it takes to handle a dog. You may even find instructors who have shown dogs on the professional level who can offer tips as they train your pooch.

australian shepherd dog training for dog show
Image By: LRuss, Pixabay

7. Your Classes

Yes, there are classes out there that you can sign up for that will help you learn the tools needed to be a show dog handler. These classes can teach you the proper walking techniques, poses, and other important info you will need on the professional stage.

8. Work as an Assistant

Many professional dog show handlers have assistants. Once you have a few small shows under your belt, reach out to handlers to see if they are looking for assistance. Learning behind the scenes from a professional can be invaluable for reaching your goals.

9. Start Your Business

Once you feel ready, it’s time to set your handling fees and open your business. Let dog owners know what you offer, how much you charge, and what you can do for them. This is also the right time to start using promotional info like flyers or a website to draw in owners.

Dog Show Handler
Image By: monicore, Pixabay

10. Become More Known in the Field

After you’ve been showing dogs for 7 years professionally you can become a member of the AKC Registered Handlers Program. You’ll also find other programs that you can join after working shows for a few years. These associations are ideal for finding clients and becoming well-known in the field you love.

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Becoming a show dog handler is more difficult than most people realize. If you feel working with show dogs is your calling, these 10 tips can help you on your way to proving it. Working hard, learning all you can about your dogs, and having a willingness to learn are some of the most important qualities a show dog handler can have. If this sounds like you, apply these 10 tips and tricks to your life now so you can achieve your dreams.

Featured Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

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