2019 National Owner-Handled Series finals, Orlando, Florida. Photo: © David Woo, AKC.
Fri, 11/10/2023 - 12:05am

Question of the Week

Do you think that the Owner-Handled competition should be limited to owners who have never won a variety Group 1st in regular show competition?


Diane Stille

Hudson, Colorado

I feel like lately instead of finding the best dog, many would like any true competition excluded, to enhance their chances of winning. We should not be dumbing down competition, enabling it to become a participation ribbon; we should be looking to rise to the level of competition to make a win meaningful.


Rebecca Haberbush 

Mendota, Illinois

I think you would see more owners skipping regular groups, especially at smaller shows, and that would be a loss for dog shows. 


Cynthia Case 

Washington, D.C.

Yes, I think dogs that have won a Group 1st should no longer be allowed in NOHS. Or better, should not be allowed the following year in NOHS.

My dog is a Platinum NOHS, and it's frustrating to compete with multiple group winners.


Karen Irazabal RN

Talladega, Alabama

No, I don’t think that would be fair. I don’t think judges should be allowed to show in NOHS, though.


Heidi Francke

Duxbury, Massachusetts

Limiting NOHS groups to owners who have never won a regular Group 1st is a TERRIBLE idea:

1. It further reinforces the concept that the NOHS competition is for "losers" who cannot compete against regular competition. It is not fun competing as an owner-handler when the judge is bored, dismissive or says, "I do not know anything about these breeds." Many judges obviously do not take the assignment seriously, and this would further erode the overall attitude.

2. It is the handler who would be disqualified from NOHS as opposed to the handler/dog duo. NOHS is a really fun place to bring new dogs and give them experience. I would be disappointed to be excluded from this additional opportunity to show a new dog.

3. There is a lot of camaraderie in many NOHS rings. I personally am always thrilled to see an owner-handler get a regular group! Most competitors do not begrudge the win. 

4.  NOHS is a place for non-professionals to pick up tips so we can compete with the pros! It would be terrible if skills in part learned in the NOHS ring led to exclusion from the NOHS competition. 

Full disclosure: I have not won a Group 1st in the regular group, though I have made it to Group 2nd. I fully intend to make it to Group 1st one of these days! I hope you do not consider this idea further.


Mark Jaeger

Mason, Michigan

This is a serious question? What next? You're no longer eligible once you win a BIS NOHS? Suck it up and breed better dogs, people.


Sheryl Roach

Broomfield, Colorado

I do not think you should eliminate NOHS exhibitors who have won a regular group! It doesn’t happen that often and that might force them to make a choice to not show in the regular groups for fear of being barred from showing in NOHS!


Barb Barnes

Tucson, Arizona

I think this is an excellent idea. Many handlers have years of experience and are owners. This would help the more inexperienced owners shine a bit more.


Lesli Smith

Fruitland, Idaho

Why do all these events need more rules? Competition should make everyone up their game. So, no, it should not be limited.


Wendy Smith

Cabot, Arkansas

NO, NO, NO. The only people who would agree to this are those who are not owner-handlers. Every single owner-handler has worked their backsides off to train themselves and their dogs to win that Group 1st and/or BIS.  Why should they be limited? Does that mean that you are going to limit the professional handlers to the same rules in the group rings? It is bad enough that as owner-handlers we have to fight for every win against the professionals when some judges are pro-handler. (Please don't try to deny it isn't so.) Owner-handlers should be celebrated if not held up and celebrated more than a professional handler simply because each and every owner-handler has taken the time to raise, train, enter, show and win with their puppy/dog/bitch. Some of us are working full-time jobs, all the while doing this just to be able to show dogs, and yet someone comes up with an idea of this nature?


Cyndi Stokvis

Hudson, Wisconsin

No is my short answer to limiting NOHS competitions. We need these dogs and owners competing in every way they can!

Some breeds are already too dominated by professional handlers.


Connie Bartlett 

Rohnert Park, California

This is the most absurd question! Why punish an owner-handler who may also be a breeder just because they have a good dog who may have won a group? If an owner-handler shows the dog to a group win, that’s perfectly fine.

If you’re asking a question more specific, like … What if an owner-handled dog is professionally handled for a Group 1st and then heads off to show in the NOHS group? …. That’s a valid question, and who would police that?

Heather Humphrey 

Naples, Florida 

No. But I am in NOHS and do less than one show per month with my show dog that is also a family pet.

I think it's really hard to compete with people who are breeders and have been in the dog fancy for a lifetime. I just can't commit to that level of experience. 


Dr. Michelle Wiberg

North Branch, Minnesota

I do NOT think NOHS should be limited to handlers who have never won a variety Group 1st. This discourages owner-handlers from being competitive in the group ring and discourages judges from placing owner-handlers first in a group for fear the owner-handler still wants to be eligible to compete in NOHS or the NOHS finals. Limit those with judges licenses and those who accept money for handling, not those who win. 


Kristi Marshall 

Acton, California

NOHS groups should not limit people who have won a variety Group 1st. That is the goal of NOHS, to help people get comfortable in competing in the regular group. 

If any changes to the NOHS rules are being considered, I don't think judges should be able to show in NOHS. They have as much clout ("person's influence, reputation or popularity") as the professional handlers. 


Laura Brown

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I think NOHS should NOT be open to handlers at all … People now just add handlers as owners to get around things like this. It should be just for non-professionals to have fun and get a win and feel like all your hard work is worth it, since most of the time you can’t compete and win points against handlers or politics. Just my humble two cents.


Elizabeth Denning

Somerset, Massachusetts

Yes, I think if you win a regular group you are in a different league than we owner-handlers. Perhaps not just ONE group win, however; say five or seven.

Also, perhaps the AKC could have regional NOHS finals for those who cannot attend Orlando. The winner of each regional would automatically be invited to Orlando.

In the horse world, at least when I was in it, to get into the big indoor shows (Garden, Harrisburg, Washington) a horse's TOP TEN shows were counted —ONLY TEN! HORRORS! Think about how that saved the horse a lot of wear and tear. 

How about a different DOG POINT SYSTEM — yeah, right, it took the AKC TWENTY YEARS to get an NOHS going, and I know, because I was whining and writing letters for those 20 years.

And, FYI, I am still writing letters about INCORRECT JUDGING for NOHS. It is amazing how many judges do not care enough to read the rules and get it right. I am not out that much at shows anymore, so I can only imagine how many I do NOT see in person, putting up the wrong dog!


Eric King

Greensboro, North Carolina

ABSOLUTELY NO. The competition is "Owner Handled." This competition is for an owner to improve his handling skills with a “specific” dog that the owner shows without professional handlers.  

The owner might have had a wonderful dog who was a wonderful example of the breed standard and won a variety Group 1st. Why should an owner's current and future dogs be penalized for this wonderful breed type? Each dog is different and requires a different bonding with the owner-handler. We are now going to penalize an owner-handler for a wonderful example of the breed standard instead of celebrating with the owner?

Do we penalize in society a son/daughter or relative for a crime committed by a family member? This proposed limitation of not allowing the owner of variety Group 1st winner is the same as family members being penalized for a relative’s crimes.  


Denise Nord

Rogers, Minnesota


Why dumb it down?

Why punish successful owner-handlers?


Lauren Docherty 

New Boston, New Hampshire

NO on limiting NOHS competition to those who have never won a variety Group 1st. That defeats the purpose of having the Best of the Best Owner-Handled in the ring. We owner-handlers are serious about presenting our dogs to the best of our abilities, and we should be increasing competition, not decreasing it. Decreasing it devalues it. We should be striving to select the best dog on that day with the knowledge that it could be a completely different outcome the next day. 


Robin Duke

Richards, Texas

My vote would be an emphatic NO to excluding people from competing who have been fortunate enough to have had their hard work pay off and have won a Group 1st.


Deb Lindsay

Shelton, Connecticut

Absolutely NOT. NOHS should not be only limited to those who have not obtained a variety Group 1st. A stunning owner-handled exhibit should always be awarded in both groups and above. 


Bobbie Wood

Cranford, New Jersey

No, absolutely not! Why should they eliminate owner-handlers who can also successfully compete in the regular groups? Are they trying to eliminate the good dogs? It is the DOGS being judged in both groups, after all, and if you disqualify a dog who has won a regular group, aren’t you saying that dog is too good to be an owner-handled dog so we don’t want to compete with him! As an owner-handler, I want to compete with the best I can and, remember, every day is a new dog show!


Linda Zaworski

Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico

You've hit a nerve with me. I would go further than limiting the competition to those who haven't won a group. I would like the criteria to mimic the Novice class.  

LeAnna Sternisha 

Flower Mound, Texas

Absolutely not! For one, owners can have more than one dog, and just because one dog won the group once does not mean every dog they ever own will have that success. It doesn't even mean that the dog that won will continue to have that success. Maybe the stars just aligned that day for that dog. Second, it does the sport no good to continue to exclude successful dogs from events. It's kind of the same as limiting puppy sweepstakes to non-champions. How much is the win really worth if you are eliminating all the top-quality dogs from the competition? While winning is great, doing it by eliminating those better than you isn't really winning.


Michelle Quesada

Corona, California


The pride in the NOHS for the those participating exhibitors is exactly that — participating — which includes all placements and accomplishments.

This is where owner-handlers can excel, especially as non-professionals. Which, quite candidly, I thought was the aspiration of the NOHS.


Dr. Gerry Meisels

Tampa, Florida

This would be a really arbitrary exclusion and not in the spirit of owner-handler competition. It would degrade the nature of the competition. I oppose this option strongly.


Gary L. Andersen

Scottsdale, Arizona

No, I do not think there should be a limitation to someone who has won a regular group. That to me is counter productive.


Charlotte McGowan

Newton, Massachusetts

As a senior judge who began in the sport as a fifth-grader a great many decades ago, I have seen lots of changes in the sport. I view the “owner handled" competition and "owner handled ratings” as a sad moment. I have always been a proud owner-handler but most proud of being a breeder-owner-handler. To me, the sport should be about picking breeding stock and preserving our pure breeds and learning what makes a good dog. The current sport doesn’t measure up on that account. When “owner-handlers” buy motor homes and drive around the country to compete, and many have no interest in breeding, the sport is no longer about picking breeding stock. 

And then we come to judging. A number of long-time master breeders who have decided they would like to give back to the sport and become judges have told me their interviews (many with AKC reps who were primarily professional handlers, not breeders) are all about procedure, especially NOHS competition. They have to attend procedure seminars and take online tests, which seem more important than breed knowledge these days. 

As a judge, I have made the decision that I will not judge NOHS groups. I just want to judge breeding stock. As a long-time exhibitor, I will not check the box as an owner-handler and I won’t compete in NOHS groups. It shouldn’t be “us and them.” We should promote selecting dogs as breeding stock. There are professional handlers who are good breeders, there are hobby breeders who are good breeders, and there are newcomers who need to learn how to become good breeders. But people with strong breed knowledge are the ones who should judge the dogs, and it needs to be about the dogs, not who handles them.  


Gloria Miller

Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

No. The NOHS group should not be limited to owners who have never won first in a group. It's apples and oranges — one has nothing to do with the other. It would be SO limiting as to who could show. I have been showing for decades. Yes, I've won regular groups. Probably many who participate in NOHS have won groups, especially if they are long-time participants in conformation. My input is not biased, as I do not participate in NOHS.


Leslie Jaseph 

Crownsville, Maryland

It seems like limiting the NOHS group participation is punishing successful owner-handlers because they have a dog worthy of success in the “regular” group. This would turn the current NOHS program into a truly second-level competition. 

I would rather see NOHS become NBOHS: National Breeder-Owner-Handler Series. Perhaps it would truly encourage breeders, and not just ribbon chasers. I see too many current participants getting their names added onto dogs they have no connection to, some even previously campaigned by pro handlers, and retired from the campaigning aspect. 


Terri Frenia

Homer, New York

No, I don't think it should be limited to owner-handlers who have never won a Group 1st, but I don't think judges should be eligible.


Sheila Allen

Forest City, North Carolina

The entire NOHS needs to be revamped. The current point system for rankings is skewed. There should not be any point given for just getting BOBOH (other BOBs get nothing), and then the group points should be based on numbers competing in those groups on the day. I have been in groups of four and groups of well over 20 — a placement should reflect that!  

There is no point in restricting anyone who has a regular Group 1st from participating, as the goal should be to better the quality of the dogs overall.

Personally, as a long-time exhibitor I would always take a win in regular group over NOHS any day, as I look at a placement there as a validation of my breeding program, as the depth of quality is generally higher overall.

I know some enter only shows with NOHS offered, and many whine about judges, ribbons and prizes.

I will always check the box as eligible to participate but use it as more time to show off my dog and have time together — it is, after all, a special attraction and should be treated as such!


Lisa Ben-Dror

Euclid, Ohio

No, NOHS should not be limited to those who have never won a Group 1st. I'm an owner-handler who has never won a Group 1st, and I would not want to be kicked out of NOHS when I finally win one.


Wendy Willhauck

Port St Lucie, Florida

Will the name of the program change from National Owner-Handled Series to something else, since the differentiation of the group would no longer be the amateur status of the handler?

Owner-handlers often get a bad rap for complaining about the system, but as an owner-handler who has enjoyed great success in the NOHS ring, I often shake my head when “we” as owner-handlers continue to complain about the system and try to further tilt it to exclude people or dogs who beat us regularly. 

At the end of the day, we have three things we can control in this sport: 1.) Am I the best handler in the ring? If not, I need to get better. 2.) Is my dog the best groomed and conditioned dog in the ring? If not, I need to work harder. 3.) Is my dog the best dog in the ring? If the answer to 1 and 2 is “yes,” then I need to buy or breed a better dog. Further restrictions on what dogs can be shown in the NOHS ring takes us further and further from the point of showing dogs in the first place: to evaluate breeding stock.


Christine Chapman

Primos, Pennsylvania

Absolutely NO to limiting the NOHS groups. That only penalizes owner-handlers who have achieved a high level of accomplishment.


Melissa Butt-Polier

Quakertown, Pennsylvania

As an avid owner-handler who has been in my breed’s top 10 NOHS multiple times — and, no, I have yet to win that coveted blue ribbon — I heartily do NOT want to see this rule imposed!


Dana Merritt

Anacortes, Washington

Simply answered: NO!  

Why should an owner-handler be limited that way? By the way, just because you win something in the regular group doesn't mean that you are going win anything in the NOHS group. 


Melissa Grueninger 

Swansea, Illinois

I think regular group winners should get to show in NOHS. The NOHS is not based on the dog’s wins ... it is the owner showing the dog.  


Karen Marie Duprat

Southwick, Massachusetts

Absolutely NOT. Some of us who campaign our dogs work very hard and compete regularly in both NOHS and regular groups. 

IF a limitation should be considered, maybe limit or exclude those dogs that an owner places a handler on for the regular groups and then the owner takes the dog and shows in the NOHS group. 

OR … IF a dog is shown by a professional handler in any capacity , the dog could be ineligible to compete in the NOHS program.

Personally, we work very hard to show our dogs as owner-handlers. When a dog is presented in the regular group by a professional and gets a placement, the judges are already aware the dog has been given placements in the regular group, and will defer to awarding an NOHS Group 1st or BIS. 


Kelly Lamont 

Center Barnstead, New Hampshire

No, I do not think there should be limitations to owner-handlers. It would ruin the incentive for owners to show their dogs.


Karen Hanson

Maidens, Virginia

I think that most people who compete in the OH groups enjoy quality competition. There are some people who don't. They want the easiest possible way to get a group placement. It’s sad. I stopped showing in the NOHS groups when there was grumbling that I was set up with professional handlers, or I helped a professional handler hold dogs (and sometimes took one back in the ring!). No one could say that I was paid in any way, but just being "associated" with a pro made me ineligible. AKC disagreed. There will always be people who are unhappy if someone else wins. Those people don't make dog shows better.    

The best way for judges and clubs to take NOHS groups seriously is to have the best NOHS groups we can. Period.  

I can still remember a show where my Brittany, who later went on to win our national specialty, was WALKED from an NOHS group and then went on to WIN the regular Sporting Group with me handling both times. Quality competition will make the NOHS groups shine. Let’s make sure we have it!


Nena Dee

Leesburg, Virginia

I do not like the idea that if an owner-handler has won a Group 1st in regular competition they would be eliminated from NOHS competition. It would eliminate many dedicated exhibitors and breeders who are striving to do well.


Judith Murdock

Riverside, California

Yes, as it would level the playing field for those owner-handlers who are just starting out and provide much needed encouragement to those brave enough to handle their own dogs, which is not an easy task for some. It would also encourage those who often take NOHS Group 2nd-4th while the same owner-handlers continue to take Group 1st on a regular basis in the regular competition as well as the NOHS competition.


Susan Norris-Jones

Duncan, British Columbia, Canada

My response is NO. Once there is a win in the regular group, where is the motivation to continue showing?


Linda Madden

Spotsylvania, Virginia

Why on earth should owners with good dogs who have been successful in the variety groups be prohibited from competing in the NOHS groups? That’s absurd.


Roz Allen

Meadow Vista, California

No, why penalize an owner-handler because they have a very nice dog?  

However, I think the definition of owner-handler and professional handler needs to be revisited. I know of many people showing in NOHS who also show multiple dogs that are not their own, but they claim they are not professional handlers because they do not get paid to take the dog in the ring and do not publish a rate sheet. However, they do get paid to house, transport and groom the dogs they are showing in addition to the dog they are showing in NOHS that is co-owned with other people.  

I show Bichon Frise. I got my bitch at 12 weeks. I took her to handling class and trained her. I learned to groom her, and I am very proud of our accomplishments in the NOHS ring. My bitch can hold her own in the ring against specials except for at the big campaign shows, where the judges only look at human faces in the ring.  

I was an international all-breed cat judge for 22 years, and I understand structure and balance, and I can interpret a written standard. I see many AKC judges robotically judge the dogs, and their choices are predictable. I don’t think the judges realize the responsibility that rests on their decisions and how they are affecting the breed for future generations.  

Mary Benedict

Honeoye Falls, New York

Absolutely not! Many dogs shown by owner-handlers are competitive in both the “regular” AKC groups and the NOHS groups. Why should the team be penalized for their success? 


Bo Bengtson

Ojai, California

No, you can easily happen to win a single group with your first not-very-good show dog. But I think AKC judges definitely ought to be excluded from the owner-handler competition!


Vicki DeGruy

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

As an owner-handler and occasional participant in that competition, I say no. Owner-handlers wanted their own event away from the professionals and they got it. Are we now complaining that owner-handlers with success in regular groups are too good for the NOHS event? There's always been a stigma to NOHS competition, that it's not as tough or as meaningful as the "real" groups, that owner-handlers aren't as good as the professionals. Eliminating NOHS exhibitors as soon as they've found a little success in the regular group validates that perception and dilutes the event even further. I think NOHS exhibitors should decide what they really want from this event. Do we truly want to be competitive at a high level, or do we just want participation ribbons?  


Nancy L. Hittepole

Sugarcreek Township, Ohio

No. The dog and handler are a team. Judgment is made by qualified individuals who respect the team, not just the dog. Getting a regular Group 1st does not equate to auto pick for breed and/or group placement in NOHS competition, and all are equal at the start. Sometimes your team wins, but most of the time you do not.


Shannon Johnson

Polk City, Florida

Why would you ever penalize an amateur owner doing well with their dog when we know that the predominant winners of groups are handlers? So as an owner-handler you have to show “down” your dog to not lose the ability to show as in the NOHS ring?

This is owner-handled, not novice handled. Allow people to win with a good dog that they show themselves in either ring.


Lisbeth C Manuel

Hopkinton, Rhode Island

Owner handled is owner handled: Why should it be limited?

However, I feel strongly about this: I would much rather see BBE competition! Showcasing good breeders is much more important than a handler who might have acquired the dog somewhere else.


Janice Leonard

Denver, Colorado

No! Are we not judging the dog? Why would you penalize an owner-handler for having a very good dog.? That idea seems to me to defeat the whole premise of dog shows and the reason the NOHS series was created. To win any Group 1st you have to have the best dog in that judge’s opinion. Why cheapen the concept by eliminating the competition?


Rebecca Baum

New York 

No, if you are the owner-handler of a dog, you should not be limited by other performance achievements. I see no benefits in adding additional caveats to the joy of showing your own dogs.


Nancy Winton 

Tucson, Arizona

Absolutely! The class is supposed to give amateur owner-handlers a class of their own. That is not the case anymore. 


Cynthia Sansone

Malvern, Pennsylvania

No, I do not think an owner-handler should be disqualified if they win a regular Group 1st. If they have a beautiful dog and present it well, they should be able to show in NOHS if they choose. 


Giselle Simonds

Petaluma, California

This question reminds me of a comment I overheard when Reserve Best in Show was first brought up at a delegate meeting: “That is for people who have never won a BIS.”

Count me as someone who has never won a BIS or a Group 1st at an AKC show. At a UKC or IABCA I have won Best in Show, Best Bred-By and Reserve Best in Show. I have “placed” in the Terrier Group in California multiple times. Often walked in the NOHS group at the same show.

That I should be excluded from NOHS competition because I have won a group is beyond the pale.

Reginal Jose

Birmingham, Michigan

Let me understand this:

I compete in NOHS to get to the top 10 in my breed so I can compete in the NOHS FINALS.

After competing for 10 months, I get a regular Group 1st and then can no longer compete in NOHS.

Quite frankly this is an ill-conceived idea which makes no sense at all.

Why would anyone even consider this other than someone who is angry because someone is doing better than them?

Why would any find any sense of accomplishment by changing the rules for their own benefit?


Brenda Weiss

Nashville, Tennessee

Why exclude any owner-handler from competition, especially based on winning a regular Group 1st? That would prevent owner-handlers from competing in NOHS competitions and limit the playing field. Is this for each separate dog that is shown or once the owner-handler wins a regular group, they can never show in NOHS competition again?  

Leave well enough alone. Things are getting too complicated as it is. 


Debbie Hollan

Marietta, Georgia

This actually poses a very interesting question. As an owner-handler who actively participates in groups, I can see where this is a double-edge sword. But having been beaten repeatedly by dogs that I know have not only taken multiple Group 1sts in regular groups, but Bests in Show as well, I think this might be a good thing. I think, however, it should be applicable only to that dog, not to the owner-handler.  As we all know, the NOHS competition has become just as “cut throat” as the regular groups and just as competitive. So in the spirit and intent of why this competition was created, I think that it would indeed be a good idea to amend the rules to state that once an owner-handled dog has taken a regular Group 1st, that dog, not the owner-handler, is no longer eligible to participate in NOHS on any level with that dog, including the breed level. It would make no sense to award an owner-handled dog Best of Breed NOHS if then that dog be unable to continue to the group, taking away points from dogs that are still eligible. I feel this would be a step forward in returning this competition to its original intent and level the playing field.


Nancy Junker

Berthoud, Colorado

No, NOHS groups should NOT be limited to people who have not won a regular variety Group 1st. NOHS groups are not meant to be a consolation gimme prize for losers. 


Tracey Fawkes 

Barrington Hills, Illinois 

I do not agree with NOHS being limited to those who have not won a regular Group 1st. 

I have recently joined the sport from horses, and NOHS drives me to continue when regular groups get political. 

Saying that, I have won a variety Group 1st. But it is extremely, extremely difficult when it comes to groups that are 90 to 95 percent professionally handled dogs. 


Lorene Wilson

Murrieta, California

NOHS was created to allow owner-handler exhibitors the experience of winning in group without competing against skilled experienced professional handlers who hold a distinct advantage with some AKC judges.

An owner-handler who has been awarded multiple Group 1st wins possesses competent knowledge of their breed with quality dogs and demonstrated handling skills and should no longer be eligible to compete in NOHS.  

It is my personal choice not to compete in NOHS group because my dogs have won multiple groups, BIS and BISS handled by their owner-breeder. I prefer to offer other novice owners the NOHS opportunity. NOHS competition that restricts and prohibits competition is not a worthwhile award to the strongly competent experienced owner-breeder-handler who considers the quality of their exhibition dogs to be equally as exceptional and worthy as those being presented by top professional handlers.


Donna Faraone

Fremont, California

Yes, but only with that dog.


Dick Korn

Malabar, Florida

This competition should be open to anyone who qualifies regardless of any previous results in AKC conformation competition. Just because someone has previously been successful should not mean he cannot compete against others who have not been winners.


Pat Tetrault

Hopewell Junction, New York

I do not think the limitation of having won a group should be placed on the NOHS; I do however believe that retired professional handlers should not be eligible. I'm on the fence about whether or not judges should be allowed to show in NOHS.


Pamela Pultz, JD

Sebec, Maine

I don't believe that limiting owner-handlers in any way is appropriate.

Using myself as an example, I have only shown one dog in breed competition, and he won a number of Group 1sts. He is a Parson Russell Terrier, so not a breed that typically wins a Group 1st. There are plenty of other people like me, and we are owner-handlers, first and foremost. I went from never handling a dog in breed to handling my dog to many Bests of Breed, purely by watching professional handlers, practicing and training, and attending classes. While I don't do it often, I take it seriously, and so do many other owner-handlers.

Limiting people who work hard and practice, regardless of how many dogs they show or have shown, unfairly takes away from the hard work they have done. 


Kate McMillan

Delisle, Saskatchewan, Canada

Absolutely not. The NOHS competition is already a limited competition group, with eligibility inexplicably based on the past financial activities of the humans in the ring.

AKC shows purportedly exist as a venue in which owners receive assessments of their breeding stock. Awarding ribbons to the "Best of the Losers" is a ridiculous concept.


Anne Coy 

Oxford, Connecticut

Absolutely not! I know several owner-handled dogs that have been awarded Group 1st and NOHS Group 1st … and then went on to get RBIS and BISOH.

There is absolutely no reason to limit who can participate in NOHS groups! If the dog is worthy of a regular group placement, it is equally worthy of an NOHS group placement!

Owner-handlers are showing dogs equally worthy of taking a group placement as those shown by professionals … ask the pros if they’d accept no longer showing a dog that was awarded a Group 1st!


Cindy Taylor

Newnan, Georgia

ABSOLUTELY NOT! It’s half the reason I pay money to enter conformation rather than performance sports that I enjoy doing as well. Limiting to owners without a Group 1st win is ridiculous!


Lisa Leady

Genoa, Illinois

NO. Why should it matter if a judge awarded a dog a regular Group 1st? If it were about the professional handler, this would never be asked. Why is it no one wants to salute the owner-handler? This is one of the most ridiculous questions.


Lesley Albin

Maryland Heights, Missouri

No. I am the epitome of a breeder-owner-handler who has some success with a very good dog, but it was over 15 years ago. I still show my own dogs occasionally, and I use handlers when it fits my goals and timeline. There are many of us in this same situation, and by using a Group 1st win as an exclusionary tactic is short-sighted and totally defeats the purpose of the NOHS competition. So what if people have success? Are we going to start saying that people who finish a dog from Bred-by can't enter that class anymore because they had success?


Bonnie Wagaman

Athens, Alabama

How ironic! I just had this conversation with a friend, as I got a Group 2nd with my lovely girl who hadn’t been shown since last year and had a handler obtain her championship. I was thrilled to bits (and she has the video to capture my shocked and excited expression) because when I entered the ring, I felt I was still at a disadvantage, although it was “owner-handled.” There were several “owner-handlers” in the ring who had just come out of the regular group ring (some of which placed or won earlier that weekend). Regular exhibitors ringside knew these people and could tout their records. 

I personally know a few who travel near and far to compete every weekend like handlers do. They are people who have won all-breed Bests in Show, and most judges know/recognize them. Other than not taking money for services, they are no different than a professional handler. I thought the purpose of the NOHS was to give the exhibitor who doesn’t compete competitively on a regular basis the opportunity to compete against their peers, rather than the accomplished handlers with top-winning dogs. 

The thoughts I expressed to my friend were basically the question posed. Once an owner has won a group or Best in Show they should either no longer be allowed to compete in NOHS, or at least no longer be able to compete with that same dog in NOHS. In most AKC events, once an exhibitor/dog has accomplished a certain level, they are required to move to another class/division. Novice Juniors move to another class when they have won three times. Scentwork, same thing. Why not NOHS? When a person is willing to travel all over the country, weekend after weekend, achieving the success handlers achieve, they definitely have an advantage over the owner-handler showing their dog at a local show or take a short road trip with friends.


Anita Brown

Hazel Green, Alabama

Absolutely not! We already take enough flak from people saying those groups are just people playing at showing. 


Kris Cofiell 

Manchester, Connecticut

No. If an owner-handler has a great dog and has gotten a regular Group 1st … they are an excellent handler with a great dog. Why should that render them unable to continue showing in NOHS? Isn’t the goal of a dog show to win in any competition? Rendering them ineligible from NOHS will continue to dilute that competition. For some judges, it is always an afterthought … some regard it as a waste of time for them to judge it. So to further eliminate good dogs and handlers from the competition only makes it less competitive.   


Carla M. Heath   

Billings, Montana

The main group winners should not be able to show in NOHS group, to give others a chance. It’s very hard to compete against those that judges pick group winners.


Kathleen J. Ferris

Holland, Pennsylvania

Emphatic no! I think this will demean the competition and head it into another classification altogether. When do we stop? Do we end up with a competition that is for “any owner who has never won an award, never placed in any class, did not breed the dog, has only shown for six months, was born on a Tuesday in an odd year, and drives a SUV” class? We should encourage the belief that if your exhibit is up to the competition, then strive to meet that competition at its highest level. Make sure judges doing NOHS groups are taking the assignment seriously. Or are we at the point where we now believe that everyone gets a ribbon just for showing up? Serious competition only improves the exhibitor, owner, breeder and the sport. When you continue to reduce the standards, you lower the prestige and eventually expectations of quality. We need to stop lowering the bar in our sport.


Sewanee Kracalik

Birmingham, Alabama

I think this is a ridiculous idea to add limits. We’ve worked hard and are just now coming into our own where we’re not laughed at by the regular groups. Thank you for listening to an NOHS handler with a top-10 NOHS dog.


Marlene Groves

Kiowa, Colorado

I think the NOHS program has been both helpful and hurtful to the sport overall. It has raised entries, but also raised the division and anti pro, politics thing. That said, there have been many suggestions on what to change. Here’s my 2 cents:

a) Point system – needs to be totally revamped.

b) Small entry fee – Yes, a fee (like $10) to help reduce club costs.

c) Mandate, not recommend, that all regular and NOHS ribbons be the same. (Everyone is sick of the NOHS ribbon complaining.)

d) If pros can’t enter, I don’t feel judges should be able to enter either. (Yes, both own dogs, but are at a different level in the sport.)

e) Assistants – that’s the tricky one. Assist a pro one weekend (many do), then next weekend in NOHS. Rinse and repeat through the year(s), jumping on both sides of this NOHS line, and at some point you truly gotta say this person is BOTH an owner-handler AND an ASSISTANT; and that marriage of the two tiles feel like then they probably should not be competing in NOHS. (Exempting Junior assistants, of course.)

Now to your specific question: Should regular Group 1st winners be banned from NOHS? ABSOLUTELY NOT — not if that person is a true owner-handler!


Julie Lux

Kansas City, Missouri

Absolutely not! The NOHS series should be judged on the quality of the dogs in the ring on that day. By limiting the entry, you are “dumbing down” the competition as well as potentially limiting entries. Our all-breed clubs, Heart of America and Leavenworth, have seen an improvement in entries, which we believe is partly because of the focus we place on the NOHS. It is possible that people who would normally enter because of the NOHS competition would not do so if they had won a group and were not allowed to compete in NOHS.


Bill Stebbins

Port St. Lucie, Florida

We all have seen the progression of entries and overall quality in the NOHS competition. There have been several times where an entry has come into my NOHS group ring just a few minutes after having won its regular group competition. Some have gone on to win BIS as well. Excluding that level of competition from the NOHS groups would seem to fly in the face of the primary goal of all breeders … to improve the overall quality of their respective breed. Not allowing the superior specimens to compete against the other breeds in the NOHS group is not what competition is all about. I know that many breeders/exhibitors sometimes have unrealistic expectations and appraisals of their own dogs. That’s simply part of dog shows. The fact that an NOHS entrant has not yet won a regular group doesn’t mean he or she won’t do so in the future. The judges should see the best dogs available. There are dogs that may have won a regular group that may never do so again, and the obverse is also true. There are dogs competing in the NOHS that may not have won a regular group but will win many in the future. How do we tell a successful breeder that they can no longer compete in a competition because their dog is too good? 


Renee Sisson

Austin, Arkansas

Absolutely not! I think the owner-handler should be able to complete in both groups and win in both groups regardless of placements. In the rings the same dog that wins one day may not win the second day. It is all subject to the judges and what they like that is the closest to the standard and that shows well on that day. 



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