Campbell hones canine tactics


While dog shows don’t usually feature in everyone’s list of favorite childhood memories, RHS junior Catherine Campbell can thank dog shows for lighting the way to her future career. Campbell has always had her love for animals to guide her, but it didn’t grow into a passion, or an option for a career, until she was 10 and she witnessed a dog show that sparked her interest.

Since then, dreams of becoming a dog handler have dominated Campbell’s time and she has been training for various events.

“I would always watch them on TV because I really liked dogs as a kid,” Campbell said. “I had no idea on earth, what they were doing at the time.”

With the company and encouragement of her grandmother and mother, Campbell attended a dog-show at Cal-Expo. There, she had a fateful meeting with a dog handler, who would soon double as her coach.

As a junior handler working under a coach, Campbell has been gaining experience while learning the necessary skills to become professional dog handler.

“Basically, I’m just an assistant, or more of a paid intern,” Campbell said. “A couple times handlers will pick up kids who are junior handlers like me, and have us work with different breeds of dogs so we can get used to it, and then eventually become professional.”

Junior Catherine Campbell is as comfortable standing primly in front of judges as she is running around in a grass field with wild abandon – both activities done with her dog. As a junior handler in dog shows, Campbell must look after the canines she presents with care and aplomb.

While doing what makes her happy, Campbell also believes that her confident attitude and lack of stage-fright gives her the necessary confidence to stand up and perform in front of the judges like a seasoned pro.

“I really enjoy it. I know a lot of people, for them, [it] makes them really nervous, but I’ve never been nervous… You’re being judged so you should be but it doesn’t make me nervous,” Campbell said. “I have fun. I like spending time with my dogs, and training new dogs. It’s really fun for me.”

Campbell’s long time best friend, Abby Weston, believes that her personality, whether she’s in front of the judges or when no one is looking, is a perfect fit with the natural compassion and talent a dog handler should have.

“She’s really caring and compassionate, always makes sure that I’m okay and that other people around her are okay. She’s really selfless, and a really hard worker, “ Weston said. “It really portrays how hard she works with the dogs, because she wants to make sure she’s displaying the dogs’ best abilities.”

As part of her experience, Campbell measures her ability as a professional dog handler by traveling far for several prestigious dog shows like Eukanaba and Westminster – held in Florida and New York, respectively. She believes the added difficulty of these competitions will really allow her to stretch her wings and test her skills.

“They’re really big shows. You go and it’s a full week, it takes a lot to qualify for it and for a junior handler you have to get a number of wins,” Campbell said. “Every year I qualify for the one in Florida, but I haven’t qualified for the one in New York, so that’s my goal.”