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AKC Registered Handlers

Hiring a Handler

You’ve decided you’d like to show your dog — where do you start?

While there are different ways to proceed, some basic steps are important to your dog’s future success and your enjoyment of the sport.

First talk with the breeder of your dog. Is your dog show quality? Does the dog conform closely enough to the breed standard so that it could be competitive in the show ring? Your breeder can also advise you and help you decide whether you would like to show the dog yourself, or if you would prefer to hire a handler.

Your breeder may have some suggestions as to who might be a good handler for your particular breed. Make it a point to attend dog shows and observe your breed being shown. Information about dog shows in your area can be obtained from the AKC website by going to our Events Calendar. Introduce yourself to people standing ringside and ask them if they would be willing to answer questions you may have concerning the breed, then ask them to direct you to the professional handlers.

A professional handler is a person who shows dogs for a fee. These are individuals who have chosen to provide their services; however, their experience and knowledge may vary considerably. You should expect that a worthy handler has spent many years learning the care, conditioning, training, and proper breed presentation of the breeds they show. Before choosing a handler, ask about his or her experience with your breed. Some handlers are good at showing many breeds, while others only specialize in particular breeds or groups.

Before you hire a professional handler, talk to several, evaluate their rate schedules, visit their facilities and ask for references. Observe them both in and out of the ring. A professional handler is entrusted with your dog’s care, so make sure you are entirely comfortable with the arrangement. Make a point of meeting the people who work for the handler because they will be providing the daily care for your dog — under the guidance of the handler.

Handlers are expected to be hired for their knowledge and services they can provide. In turn the client is paying a fee for that handler’s service and expertise. You and your handler should have the terms of your agreement in writing. Make sure if you have any questions that they are answered before you commit yourself to a contract. Read the contract carefully — this will be a binding agreement between you and your handler.

Now that you have made the decision to hire a handler, go to the show and enjoy yourself — watch your dog being shown by a professional. Hopefully you will soon be bringing home your new champion!

For additional information, or to locate an AKC Registered Handler, please contact: 

The American Kennel Club
Handlers Dept.
8051 Arco Corporate Drive, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27617-3390
phone: 919-816-3884


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AKC Registered Handler Program Sponsored by Royal Canin