The Dangers of Over-Handling

Working Dog Club Hawaii

Working Dog Club Hawaii

There were some beautiful dogs and skillful handlers in Hot Springs last weekend. I appreciated both of them. Seeing the flawless presentations got me thinking about the not-so-flawless ones and how it affected what I was seeing in the dogs. More specifically, they got me thinking about the line between over-handling and subtle attention to detail. What do I mean by that? I consider over-handling to be a state where the handler is evident in the picture/presentation or even overshadowing the dog.

I saw some 20+ year handlers, professionals, wildly waving arms and excessive gesturing in a way that took my attention away from the dog. I even wondered if that was the strategy: If I was distracted by the handler, I wouldn’t see all the dogs’ faults!

The handler should be a subtle backdrop for the dog, the scenery behind the subject of a painting. It’s so much easier for the judge to see the dogs when they are presented with subtle attention to detail. What would subtle attention to detail look like? Next time . . .

Exhibitors are often heard to say they want the judges to “judge the dogs.” To that I say, show me the dog, not yourself. Don’t know how? Go to

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