If you’ve ever attended a local all-breed dog show in your area, or watched the Westminister Kennel Club Dog Show on television, then you’ve seen professional dog show handlers at work. These professional handlers are the people inside the ring who are experts at exhibiting purebred dogs, and getting the best scores from the judges.
Typically professional dog show handlers are self-employed individuals who work for a number of different dog owner clients. Most work at this job part-time, but there are some handlers who work at the profession full-time traveling to dog shows all around the country.
The handler’s job is to get the most out of a client’s show dog, and leave a favorable impression with the judge, and hopefully take home top honors for that particular breed at the show. While it’s true that many dog owner choose to show their own dogs, many others decide that hiring a professional dog show handler give them their best chance of winning.
There are many challenges to working as a professional handler, and many rewards as well. This is one of the most glamorous jobs in the dog world, for one. The fact that you’ll be spending most of your work day in the company of dogs is another. You’ll also have the opportunity of traveling around to various parts of the country, and meeting lots of new and interesting people. And if you do manage to become a full-time professional handler, there’s the chance of earning a very good salary as well.
About the job
Professional dog show handlers work at dog shows of various sizes in all parts of the country. Local all-breed dog shows, specialty breed events, and even large televised shows are all venues for professional handlers. And the larger the venue, the more pressure there is on the handler to perform well and try to win for the client dog’s owner.
But professional handlers do a lot more than just show dogs in the ring at events. Many dog owners turn their dogs over to the handler for extended periods of time, and so the handler is entrusted with keeping the dog safe and healthy while in his care.
The typical duties of the dog show handler include:
What the job is really like
Since most dog shows are held outdoors, professional dog show handlers spend the majority of their time outside. For many this is one of the attractions to this career field, but only part of a handlers work day is spent performing at events. Some of the other, less glamorous tasks include training dogs, feeding and grooming dogs, and cleaning out kennels, especially for handlers who don’t have assistants.
As mentioned earlier, professional handlers also spend a lot of time on the road as they travel from show to show. This sort of life can be lonely at times, and is best suited for single people without children to care for.
There is also a considerable amount of pressure that comes with the job of a dog show handler. Clients pay handlers to perform, and get results, and every time a handler enters a dog show ring, he or she is expected to win (regardless of the quality of the dog being shown). And since competition at modern dog shows is stiff, especially with the more popular dog breeds, the idea of winning every show is almost impossible no matter how good the dog or the handler.
Training and certification
You don’t need a formal education to become a professional handler, although a high school diploma or GED is recommended, along with a class or two on running a small business. It helps to be well read and knowledgeable on a variety of issues since a majority of clientele you will be dealing with are often well educated.
No special schools or programs exist to train professional dog show handlers, although some successful pros give seminars to people who want to learn how to become better handlers.
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