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Being a handler is a job I have always been curious about. What made them want to venture down the path of handling at dog shows? Why did they show a particular breed? I had opportunity to find out more about the dog show world and had the privilege to interview Sarah Drake, a dog show handler of many champions and with over 30 years of experience!
What interested you in the breed?
I’m an all-breed hander from Golden Retrievers to Chihuahuas and Mastiffs, but in particular, I have worked with many all size Poodles. They are a great breed that are extremely smart, loyal, and easy to train. Lina, one of the Poodles I show, never has a bad day and will give you a big hug with a tail wag and make your day that much better. Many people can't really look past the haircut of the poodle, but I really do love it, as styling their hair is a way of art for me.
Why did you become a handler?
I went to my first dog show when I was just 10 years old. We went to the Midland dog show, found a Labrador Retriever breeder, where we got our first show dog. I started going to shows with my mom and working with the handler as a junior handler. I would go away for the summer and work with the handler, which I really enjoyed.
What is special about Lina?
Lina is what a poodle should be, structure, movement, and temperament. Altogether, she sparkles!
How has competing with Lina affected your relationship her? What have you gotten out of the relationship?
Lina and I are so close, she is my girl! The hardest part is you get to handle these dogs and they become yours and it is heartbreaking to give them back. She loves to make me happy especially in the ring. She is always giving 110% and I love that I can be on the other end of the leash.
How many dogs have you handled?
Too many to count! It makes me happy because I can remember them as far back as when I was a kid. I was always able to train the dogs and was taught how to teach them, which is very important when you want to become a handler.
How has working with this breed been unique and what has been your journey?
It's a lot to learn with maintaining the Poodle coat, learning to do a good trim on them as well as training. It's been a long and fulfilling journey. If you don't love poodles you won't want to show Poodles, as it's a lot of work! This breed has to be bathed once a week, blown dry and kept in a spectacular condition.
How do you see nutrition being a factor in success in the dog show world?
It is one of the most important things. A healthy and happy dog is going to be a great show dog. Condition is half of the battle when you walk in ring. If you walk in the ring with an idea body condition, your dog is going to look his best and stand out in the judge’s eyes. If a dog is healthy, they are going to be happy and their personality will shine.
Why is it so important for the dog be fed a good quality food
? What success have you seen with food you feed?
I love Purina® Pro Plan®. It's the only food I feed all my dogs. I feed Purina® Pro Plan® FOCUS Puppy Chicken & Rice Formula, Purina® Pro Plan® FOCUS Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula and Purina® Pro Plan® SAVOR Adult Chicken & Rice Formula. All the dogs have beautiful coats, their stools are great, and they love to eat the food. Poodles can be picky eaters but I always see a clean bowl, wonderful weight and great muscle tone. Purina® Pro Plan® has also helped put weight on some of the dogs I've shown when they needed it.
Has this year made you a better handler? How so?
Every dog that you show, makes you a better handler, especially the ones that you campaign (dogs that are already a champion, but going for Top Dog). I had to learn tricks on how to teach certain dogs what you want them to do, as every dog is different. It is really not about the ribbons, it is the connection and the ability to train the dogs.
Why Pro Plan®?
stands for advanced nutrition. Everything we do has a singular focus - creating nutrition that helps bring out the very best in your dog. Our formulas are backed by science and research from a team of over 500 global pet experts including pet nutrition experts, veterinarians, behaviourists, and immunologists. Every high-quality ingredient is carefully chosen for a specific purpose.
Nutrition that Performs®
Year after year exceptional dogs are fueled by our food
11 of the last 12 Westminster Best in Show Champions were fed Pro Plan®†
In Canada in 2018, 7 of the top 10 conformation dogs were fed Pro Plan®
†Handlers or owners of these champions may have received PRO PLAN Food as Purina ambassadors.