What makes one an "experienced handler"?

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Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 8:44pm PST 
I hear this term used a lot, "breed X is for an experienced handler" but what does it mean?

What makes one "experienced"? Number of dogs owned? Number of dogs worked? Number titled?

Is the 30-year Papillon shower/breeder 'experienced'?
Is the 1-year kennel worker handling human-aggressive 100lb dogs and breaking up dogfights for a living 'experienced'?
Is the rehabber who brings a dog from a fear-reactive dangerous mess to a wagging social housedog 'experienced'?
Is the 30-year trainer who has titled dogs in agi, rally, sch, what have you, 'experienced'?

I have my own idea of what 'experienced handler' means, but what is the general consensus? What do you 'experienced' dogsters think makes an 'experienced' handler? [:

Edited by author Mon Nov 26, '12 9:03pm PST


Spooky Mulder
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 9:21pm PST 
I think "experience" is wholly dependent on what you're looking to achieve wink

The 30-years Pap breeder probably isn't the person I would go to if I wanted advise on how to improve my dog's grips in bitework.

Just as the local Sch helper probably isn't who I would ask to critique a Sheltie's topline and movement.

In terms of "experienced handler required"... I'll assume you mean dogs like Mals or BCs, who this line is often recited for. To most I'd guess that means you've worked with other high drive dogs, but who perhaps are a bit more even-keel in terms of energy and intensity.

Work with a few GSDs, then try a Mal, that sort of thing.

Though personally I've never really been of that mindset. To me, for these things, I say there has to be an investment. You want this "hard" dog? Ok, fine... but you best well be getting it because you WANT that dog, that breed... not because "oh I want a dog, oh I want to do X sport, I think I'l get an XYZ".

Nope, doesn't work that way... if its your passion to own a Mal, then get a Mal... and educate yourself as much as possible, surround yourself with other knowledgeable people and trainers, preferably ones with experience in the breed, and be prepared for the ride.

But DON'T get the dog if the dog itself isn't the end goal. If your main goal is to try Sch, don't get a Mal, get a GSD. If you want to do some casual OB or agility, don't get a BC, get a Sheltie.

If you want to shoot quail, get a 20 gauge, not an AK-47 wink

Member Since
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 9:53pm PST 
..lol, to me, an 'experienced handler' is a person who either has, or more likely, has learned through experience, infinite patience and willingness and be malleable in approach, expectations and methods...

Edited by author Mon Nov 26, '12 9:55pm PST



Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 9:33am PST 
All hypothetical of course, right Mulder? wink
I've seen 'experienced handler required' replies in regards to every one of my current breeds and just about every breed I've ever looked into, certainly not just mals and BCs. Any dog that isn't a lay-around and/or loves-everyone breed seems to be 'experienced handler required', and it struck me that I'm not sure anyone even knows what that phrase means in a standardized sense.

Re: "not because "oh I want a dog, oh I want to do X sport, I think I'l get an XYZ"."
That comes off rather personal. For me at least it was more, 'I want a dog that typically acts like X, what breed acts like X, what sports keep X dogs happy'.
In my opinion, that's responsible planning ahead.

I do get the gist of your reply, though, and agree that going from 0 to MAX is asking for issues. (I try to convince my partner of this at every turn! We probably don't NEED the $3k juicer when we've never even had homemade juice before!) In that case, I can see how 'experienced handler' would mean someone who has experience with other breeds that share characteristics with the breed in question.

Member- I can see that, yeah. (:

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 10:04am PST 
That was not meant to be personal Nikolai, rather, a response to something that I see brought up here very frequently in regards to dogsports and what breeds to get. I've lost count of the number of people who show an interest in something like schutzhund and follow up by saying they want to start with a Mal, or a Beauceron, or an ACD or some other similar such breed that really isn't what they need. Likewise, I see many people who come here saying things like "I want a Lab, I think I'd like to Schutzhund with him", which is equally puzzling for me.

If the goal is sport, get the "training wheels" dog who has the highest likelihood of success with a minimal amount of "hitch". Its silly to START on the hardest dog you can find, who's going to give the most challenge, and potentially turn you off from what was otherwise a very enjoyable sport.

But again, if the sport is secondary, something you don't really have a vestment in but would like to try, UNDERSTANDING that the dog has to come first absolutely... then as I said, go for it.

For what its worth... people say GSDs are not good beginner dogs, or are for "experienced" handlers. Personally I believe that's a load of crock. I went from growing up with a soft rescue female GSD, to a DDR/Czech male. Most people would not have considered me "experienced" either, but here's the catch. I was prepared to do what it took, I wanted that DOG, and was willing to do whatever it took. The sports and the higher level training all just fell into place later, after I'd had time to really experience my DOG and realize there was more I could do with him.

Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 10:18am PST 
I wonder if 'prepared handler' or 'dedicated handler' is better wording than 'experienced handler'.

I'm still not convinced 'experienced' is anything more than a buzz word, in this sense. silenced

Edited by author Tue Nov 27, '12 10:21am PST


Woo-woo- whineybutt
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 10:42am PST 
I think dedicated would probably be a better word, as you said.

My friend's dad has had labradors for the past 40 years.. Usually 2 at a time.
But I wouldn't say he was experienced at all, he doesn't train or work them. They know nothing beyond 'sit' and are contained with an electric fence. Yes they're loved, but they've gotten away with a lot of stuff and are kinda unruly.. Never been to a class before and he relied on the dog park dogs to train / socialize them.

Understandably he is from an older generation and learned differently.. Where I would feel it would be a disservice to Nare to not do herding / obedience / schutzhund / agility.. He thinks its all silly and a waste of time and money.

Nare is GSD/Husky, and both breeds tend to be for 'experienced handlers' or people with breed experience only.. Which, I do agree with for the most part. I know plenty of stupid people with huskies and GSDs that my heart aches for. But I also know a lot of people who are perfectly fitting for them, that are intimidated by these requirements (how do you have breed experience if no one will adopt / sell to you?). I know a very very nice man that got turned away from a rescue for a Husky, and he got frustrated with the whole process and denies to ever trying to rescue again.

Which, if he got that frustrated.. maybe he wasn't a good match for a husky lol! but he was willing to put a lot of heart into a dog and was planning to attend classes with me and I was going to teach him clicker training.

Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 11:12am PST 
Nare- I'm glad you brought up the frustration some rescues can cause over ideals like this.
I've talked to so many people who have been turned away from rescues due to a lack of 'experience' when they were willing to put in all the time and effort needed to gain that 'experience'. In these cases, it's really not coming off as anything other than 'I don't think you're good enough', and it's turning people off to rescue, which isn't helping anyone.

Really, what breed of dog doesn't require experience of one kind or another?

If you've never cared for an animal, even the most docile little dog might be too much. I have a friend with a very calm and soft lab who talks like she's the highest maintenance thing in the world! I'm over here with my pack of dogs who would literally EAT my house if I were to ignore them for a day, and I feel like they're low maintenance. laugh out loud
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 11:58am PST 
This is a good question. Thank you!

I think it depends the way you look at it. I lusted over Giants for about 15 years before I got one. I made my inquiries and did my research and realized I was not ready. Grew up with a majorly hard and aggressive dog, had Dobermans at the time I was getting bored of. Was FAR from "inexperienced" but also was FAR from stupid....I was not ready. Got on GSDs, import lines, the real deal. Then eventually felt I was ready.

I cannot tell you how GLAD I am that I did that. If you fancy a breed where there is that "experienced" requirement, you need to find out WHY. Do not dismiss just because you like the dog. For despite all of my now VERY experienced ways, my first round put me in tears and retrospectively I dare even think how much I would have screwed my dogs up if I had moved sooner than I did.

The question here is fallout, and heck knows Giants have that. I think another very classic example is the Chessie. He's a retriever, but the last thing you want is a Golden guy to leap on that breed. At least have had experience with a harder Lab. A Chessie can be a major time badarse....sort of the off the jag retriever. I know a couple who have been trained as PPDs. I know TONS who are seriously territorial. They can get aggressive towards strange dogs. They can be tough. I mean like German-import-people-love-them sort of TOUGH.

Now with both these breeds, the potential for fallout is major. One thing I love about GSDs is they tolerate mistakes. If you do everything wrong and are in a bad situation, realize it and go back to square one....they are there for you. Part of that is the character balance, part of it is the adaptability, which is in the WOWZERS range. But whatever the case, you can screw it up, they will respond to that, but you can say "do over! and they say "oh, ok, cool beans!" laugh out loud Giants, on the other hand, capitalize on mistakes. It is not simply that you made one, but as a gateway for them to amp into this whole new county, and they are not too kind about heading back. They also are a tricky breed that is too smart for a lot of training out there. They also are a ton more independent than GSDs are. They really want to do this on their own, and when "this" is cause mayhem, be a 90 lbs of walking mischief and overall rather disturbingly comfortable with aggression....you want to step wrong with THAT? Good luck to you.

So you really need, with breeds like this, some experience. You need to get some basic principles down right, or you are just in a losing battle. In terms of their respective working types, they are loads more hardheaded, vigorous, are intense. If you goof up, you are in over your head very fast.

To me personally, I am a lot more comfortable with these phrases as I have been very involved with horses, and as you start riding....let's say you've ridden five years...there are horses you are not yet qualified to ride. You are not up to that level. You perfect your skill, your hands, your seat, the whole bit, then eventually you can ride them. But not yet. I am very ambitious as a person, and I know the minute I heard "stay away from that stallion!" I made it my goal to become a stallion manager laugh out loud And became one. But had the sense that I was waaaay off from where I needed to be. I worked very hard to get there.

I am a breed matcher. It is what I do. You are not ninety. You have your life ahead of you. Work towards your goals. Read what the potentials of the breed are. Don't swell your head or have offended pride. That's my advice. I know in researching Giants early, back in the 80's, I read a real behavioral case where a Giant had set a curfew in his home. A CURFEW! This was written by the actual behaviorist who took that case on. At 10:00, he would not let anyone leave, nor would he let anyone in. The kids would have to climb up the trellis simply to get in. And that was it for me. I had a lot of training experience, but if THAT could happen, and if the very behaviorist wasn't considering that NOVEL? He wasn't! He said that was a Giant. So I had to do more before I ran with that.

But I will tell you the cool thing....I will never do it justice, but it is frozen in my memory. I waited 15 years. I went through two GDSs of substantial pedigree. Found great working dog mentors. And of course Giant mentors, endless research. All this work. This journey. Found the breeder I wanted....who for literally ten years had been talking to me. And so I walk into the airport. I wait. And then there, down the aisle, I see a crate. And in it, a little black puppy with his silly white tapped antenna ears, looking at me. See....I just got a chill saying that. It was him. It was my Giant. I swear it felt like he had been my pen pal for fifteen years and now we finally were meeting. It was just romantic, it felt so right, and I felt so ready. I will never, ever regret taking that journey.

Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 1:12pm PST 
Tiller- I thought you would like the topic! big grin
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