We sat down with Colin Brownlee of UnicornHill Siberian Huskies & All Breed Professional Handler.
1) How long have you been showing dogs professionally?
I have been showing dogs professionally since 1992.
2) Before going out on your own, did you work for a well-known professional handler’s?
I worked for many different handlers which gave me a wide education on many different breeds. I worked for Bob & Elaine Whitney in their kennel for about 4 months when I was 16.
I then worked for the late Garrett Lambert, Jennifer McCauley and her sister Judy Taylor, in Western Canada I worked with Carol Graham and then Will Alexander and Allison Alexander on and off for a few years back in Ontario.
These successful dog people taught me so much about dogs, the care and conditioning of show dogs, it was a priceless education which unfortunately we are not seeing this kind of apprenticeship, in Canada today.
3) You are known as a “breed specialist” handler in the Siberian Husky breed, When, did you become involved with the breed?
My Father bought me my first Siberian in 1982 I was 13 years old. I found a lady in the yellow pages and I called her. She said she had one grey and white male available, but I had to show him.
So off I went to my first sanction match with him and won best in match. I came home and my father took a Polaroid picture of me holding the ribbon. All of a sudden, I heard a voice from over the fence from the elderly gentlemen that lived behind us. He said, I see you went to a dog show, I said yes and rolled my eyes at my father, who warned me with his eyes to not be dis-respectful to my elders. The man disappeared.
Five minutes later we heard a knock at the gate It was the elderly gentlemen from over the fence. We knew he had dogs, as he had these Wire Fox Terriers that where old and obnoxious and barked all the time. He had photo albums in his hands.
I had recently joined the Oakville Kennel Club, we had just recently watched a video tape of a gentlemen winning Best in Show with a Scottish Terrier at the Westminster Kennel Club. The dog was Ch. Braeburn’s Close Encounter.
The man from over the fence sat down at the picnic table, and opens up his albums. Right there in front of me was the man who had won Best in Show at Westminster, George Ward on the first page of this man’s’ album. I told my dad, this man in the photo is famous in the dog world, how did this man know George Ward?
Well it turns out, that man George Ward was his late wife’s cousin and he is originally from Oakville. My mouth opened wide and my eyes were as wide as saucers!!! He sat there with me for 2 hours showing me pictures of his Wire Fox Terriers that his wife co bred with the famous George Ward. You never know who you may encounter.
4) When did you actively begin breeding the Siberian Husky?
In the early years I owned and showed several Siberians, and co-bred a couple of litters with Donna Heartz of Sekene Siberians in Nova Scotia.
It wasn’t until 2006, that Bart and Pattie Miller offered me their Multi BIS AM/CAN CH BLUERIDGE SOMA’S GINGER ROGERS which started my breeding program. That was the beginning of Unicornhill Siberian Huskies.
5) How many Best in Shows to date have you been awarded on the Siberian Husky Breed?
I have probably won over 200 Best in Shows on Siberians in my years in dogs.
My biggest Best in Show winners to date are Multi BIS BISS AM & CAN Ch. Karnovanda’s Niklas Wolfe who was awarded 99 Best in Shows, Niklas is the male and the breed’s record holder in Canada.
In 2019, MBIS MBISS MRBIS AM CH & CAN GCH. Snowmist’s Desert Chill broke the long-standing Canadian female Best in Show award, Chilly is now Canada’s All Time Top Winning Siberian Husky female with 29 Best in Shows.
6) Being a Nordic breed, can you take our readers through the Colin Brownlee “routine” of keeping them fit and in top condition?
When working with a double coated breed keeping them in coat is not that difficult, it takes a routine which you strictly adhere to.
I bath them 2 times a week, and thoroughly blast the coat dry. I table them daily without fail, and blow out their coats everyday with Pinuad Hair Tonic in a spray bottle. Always remember clean hair grows and with this routine you will help roll the coat. As some hair blows, you have the new hair there. Line brushing is a must. Good quality food, and they require lots of free running in a big fenced in area which is so important for them both mentally and physically. They also thrive on routine.
7) Do your Specials travel better if they have a fellow Siberian or
another breed in the setup as a friend on the road?
Siberian are a pretty independent breed, they do fine on their own with you on the road, or are happy in a setup with other breeds, you haven’t seen anything until you hear feeding time at a show, at home, or at the US Nationals when hundreds of them are screaming for their people, to hurry up and make their meals. I can never feed my setup at any show until BIS judging is over!!!!
8) Do the Siberian campaign dogs, do better staying with you? Or can they go home in between shows? If they go home what must the owners do to keep them in peak condition hair wise, and condition wise?
Most of my Siberian specials have always stayed with me, but the last 2 dogs I have been campaigning belong to my friend Kim Leblanc who lives close to me, they do go home to her in between shows. She has mastered the art of keeping them in condition … ALA COLINS WAY!! LOL.
9) What is your favorite go to product for the Siberian breed?
I have used for just about 20 years Alexanders Own shampoo on most of the Siberians and actually any breed I am showing. Pinuad Hair Tonic the red one, I also will use the Pinaud Hair Tonic the green one at the shows too.
10) What one thing would you like judges to always do when judging the breed?
One thing, judges must remember about our breed is form and function. Faster is not better, you want effort less side gait. Also, well furred ears. It brings a smile to my face when judges take the time to run their finger’s up inside the ear.
Never judge a Siberian on free baiting. Move them, watch their foot timing. Down and backs are very important. Soundness is important to do the job they are bred to do!!
11) What advice would you give to a young professional just starting
out who wants handling to be their career?
My advice to young people starting out. Be a student of the sport, be a student of the breeds you want to breed or specialize in. You will be a better dog person. I worked on and off as an assistant for many years before I went out on my own. Go work for the best you can work for, and learn and listen. Be a sponge absorb all the knowledge you can, that education learned from our fancy’s best, is PRICELESS!!!!
12) You have always been one of the handlers who “sticks” to the breeds you know. Besides Siberian Huskies what other breeds do you love to present to the fancy?
I have shown a lot of breeds and have been very successful with many working breeds. I am listed as an all-breed handler, but I will only show those breeds in which I can present and compete with the best of handlers and breeder owners. Golden Retrievers are a breed that I became passionate about and have been very successful with them, all varieties of Schnauzers, the bull breeds which require certain care to carry. I have had Best in Show winners from all 7 groups. Through the years I have been awarded over 85 best in shows combined in all 3 varieties of Schnauzers. My career Bests to date is probably in the 350 range on the breeds I am known to present to the fancy.