This week we also had a conversation with All Breed Professional Handler Emily Burdon.
1) How long have you been showing dogs professionally?
Ever since I could walk, I’ve been involved with purebred dogs!! My dad Graeme Burdon introduced me to this world and I have been hooked ever since!!! I competed all my younger years as a junior handler (starting in the peewee class) up until I was 18. I had the honor to represent Canada at Crufts on one occasion and proudly brought home 2nd place in the World International Junior Handling Championships held at Crufts. Ever since I aged out of juniors, I have been showing professionally and have had the privilege to show many beautiful dogs early on in my career for some of Canada’s top breeders.
2) Before going out on your own, did you work for a well-known professional handler?
I was extremely lucky, my father mentored me and pushed me to learn much of what I know & admire in the dog world. I worked alongside him much of my career. I have never worked for any other handlers…but was always the one to help out with showing, and anything that anyone needed!
I learnt most of what I know by watching & asking questions about everything to those I recognize are at the top of their game in some breeds. I spent a lot of time watching and understanding balance and what I thought attracted my eye to a handler & their dog in the ring. Also, what helped me was my dad always gave me the hard dogs!! I learnt to master the difficult ones!!
3) Do you breed dogs currently, or intend to down the road?
No, I don’t currently. I have never owned a female! I love my boys!! However, I’m currently involved in helping some breeders choose their stud dogs and enjoy doing research in breeding programs. Especially in German Shepherds & Aussies.
I do co-breed litters by a Rottweiler male I own & my Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
In the future I could get into breeding Border Terriers. I have fallen in love with them!! When I was younger, I spent a lot of time helping my father helping deliver litters… It’s something I’m quite comfortable with, also I’m capable of collecting dogs very successfully & have had a lot of luck with AI’s and natural breeding’s of dogs in my care.
4) What dogs do you own?
I currently am proud to own “Harry” my German Shepherd AM/CAN SELECT MBIS MBISS GCH Signature’s Harry Nile V Kridler. I campaigned him for 2 years. In 2014 he was #1 GSD, #1 Herding dog & #5 of All Breeds!
In 2015 he was #1 GSD, #1 Herding & #6 All breeds!! He holds the record for Best in Show’s won by a German shepherd in Canada with 36 BIS’S!! He’s now 11 and living the retired life with my friend Ilene Smith! I see him occasionally and always enjoy his company!!
I own “Stan” the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Platinum GRAND CH AM/CAN/MEX/INTL/World Winner GCh Lackyle Bairille Dubailt . I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to own Stan with my partner/client Robert Gilbert (Bermuda) when he was in his prime!! I absolutely love this dog!! And we have won a lot of important awards in his career… Including BOB at Westminster 2 years in a row and also the AKC National in Orlando twice, and a huge group 2!!! Best of breed at the World show under Desmond Murphy!!
He’s currently enjoying living his life in Mexico at the moment and being the sire to many beautiful babies around the world!!
My newest dog & a breed I’ve fallen completely in love with is “Whiskey” CAN CH Roschel Foxrun Thistle Do (AKC major pointed). He’s still a young baby at 10 months. I thank Rosemary Shoreman & Jenn Holder for giving me the opportunity to make my dreams come true with this stunning pup! I’m very excited about him!!
5) How many Best in Shows to date have you been awarded?
Honestly, it’s not something I’ve ever kept track of!! I like to live in the moment… And my goal is not to dwell on what’s been done. But by what I can accomplish next!!
My first BIS came in November 2001… With a Bearded Collie bitch “Gabby” Bred by my family’s good friends and co-breeders Anne & Tom Dixon. Since then I’ve had over 200 BIS’s on many different breeds!
6) What is the biggest challenge facing professional handlers?
Covid-19!!!! But seriously, I’ve seen many changes over the years in our sport. It’s not been easy as the economy keeps changing and things are more and more hard to afford by many. It’s up to us to encourage new young people to get involved with breeding, handling, judging etc. As this will keep our sport strong… It’s also not a profession where you wake up one day and you’re a superstar! There is a lot of learning about care, mental and physical fitness of the dogs. How to keep the dogs interested in loving to show… Also, be nice to one another!! I know I’m at the shows every weekend because I love this. I love the dogs and the challenges that come. I love bringing out the best in each one… it’s not only about winning. But if you don’t give up in bringing everything in your capability to the table… then you’ll see the payoff!!
7) How many Specials do you usually carry in your set-up?
I’ve been very fortunate over many years to have the opportunity to bring many dogs to the fancy that I truly believe well represent their breeds. I’m also lucky that I have an extraordinary team to work with at the shows! My husband Eduardo is a key piece of my puzzle… Also our assistants Carrie Lucas, Laurence Giguere, Desera Jaynes.. and many others that come on occasionally. My clients & I know the dogs are in the best hands!
I have the opportunity to show many specials and be successful in many different groups. I try not to push TOO many at the same time (or same shows), especially multiple specials of the same breed… even if our team is strong. It’s not fair for the clients as ultimately there will be only one winner! But it also depends on the goals of our clients. This year I currently have a spectacular line up of specials. Focusing more on one strong dog per group.
8) Do your campaign dogs do better staying with you? Or can they go home in between shows?
This is a tough one! I personally like having the dogs with me full time as I can totally focus on them individually to have them in the condition I prefer! Usually I have the dogs I’m campaigning with me most of the time… They become my own!!! Also bonding with them is much easier when they are around you full time.
However, this year I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with my clients and have always been thrilled with how the dogs show up to the shows!! Our clients are always willing to listen and take advice for the benefit of their dog doing well, and looking their best!! The dogs can certainly handle going home in between shows and adapt in their normal environment!!
9) If they go home what must the owners do to keep them in peak mental, physical and coat condition during the week?
Daily exercise and (depending on the dog) perhaps certain conditioning… a lot of dogs certainly benefit from swimming, galloping and roadwork, treadmill or free running. Also figuring out which food & supplements benefit the dog the best. Keeping the dog in the correct weight is key!! For the coat conditioning it’s usually something I can do pre-show days but if the dog is double coated or easily loses coat… Weekly bathing and drying well goes a long way!! I’m the one that needs to work on the mental aspects of the dogs when they are with me… unless the dog has certain habits that need adjusting usually the normal home life is perfectly fine for each individual dog!!
10) What are, your favorite “must have” products that can always be found in your tack box?
I have a few go-to products in my tack box!! But, of course depending on the dog. I have 500 products that I MAY need but rarely use!! I personally love the Chris Christensen products, the chalk, shampoos (Spectrum 1 especially) & grooming tools. A lot of Plush Puppy products are my favorite for many breeds!! Especially Swishy Coat, OMG. I love DOVE conditioning mousse for many things! The red Pineaud hair tonic is one of my favs!! And Crown Royal Bodifier!!
11) What advice would you give to a young professional just starting out who wants handling to be their career?
You never stop learning. Or improving! I recommend sitting and watching at the shows… not only in the ring but at the set-ups and take all in that you can. Ask questions to handlers and breeders…. any question is a good one! Be a sponge!! Even the best handlers aren’t the masters of all breeds. Some definitely excel in some breeds better than others…
Try to ask people if they need help and mind sharing their knowledge. Care is the most important part at the dog shows! Making sure the dogs are exercised, peed and pooped, clean fresh water…. And eating well. This will make a happy dog and a dog that will show well for you in the ring! And each dog (not only breed) is unique… our job is to figure them out to the best of our abilities!
Also, very important for me is pay attention how the dogs are feeling. Watch their every move and reactions… If you can read the dogs it will take you very far in this business!!
Do this because you love it!! Our passion isn’t an easy one… you have to have a certain personality to deal with a lot of what goes on at the shows and dealing with clients and the dogs. There are always a lot of challenges we face… & how we deal with them will keep you around.
12) Do you have assistants that you are mentoring?
Yes! I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of up and coming assistants! I truly enjoy helping the young and eager of our sport… I also love to see the growth of those I am mentoring… I usually pick people as I see something in them that I believe can take them far… Our team at the shows are usually quite busy all day! I try to take the time (when I can) to explain things in detail and to let the assistants take a part in grooming etc… this is how you learn! This is also why I recommend really watching and taking notice. This I how I learnt, and how I believe if you’re truly interested in mastering a craft you will benefit. There is also always something to do. I know still… I rarely sit down at the shows! There’s ALWAYS something to be done! Take a dog out, check the waters, tidy the set up.
13) Campaigning dogs to the highest level in our sport, is not easy. What are some of the things you do, to keep your dog’s happy and showing well?
Take notice of each of their personalities…Figuring out what makes them click will help you. I’ve always paid a lot of attention to dog behaviour. I’m better figuring out dogs and what they need then people!! Hahaha. Playing with them, interacting. Sometimes they benefit from changing up their routine. Some dogs being jealous (let’s say you’re paying more attention to another dog or dogs) will perform better for you! But this can also work against you! Some dogs love doing tricks… while waiting in the ring most dogs benefit from staying busy and not getting bored… Keep them entertained any way that works!!
14) What breeds have you had the most success with?
I would have to say in general German shepherds & Australian Shepherds… GSD’s are not for everyone. The hardest breed to show and keeping them interested!! Also conditioning… It’s a full-time job!! Dog shows are quite boring for this breed. They are too smart! Also, being so attached to one person this can either work with you or against you for handling! I’ve had many successful campaigns of some beautiful dogs! Tor, Harry, Bella & Ka$h!! I have over 60 Best in shows with German Shepherds!! Australian Shepherds are a breed very close to my heart!! I love grooming and conditioning them! I love the challenge of grooming them to make a natural appearance even though I can go crazy grooming!! I’ve also had some amazing success with some less popular breeds including Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Wire-haired Vizslas and Wire Haired Pointing Griffons!
15) Is there any breed that you find is always a challenge to show?
Xoloitzcuintli!!! The stars must be aligned!! The weather cannot be cold, windy or rainy! Although I love showing this breed (and have shown many), they are never easy!!
Bulldogs… another breed I really love. I just feel uncomfortable in the ring as I haven’t mastered the art!! I respect the handlers & breeder handlers of this breed!!
16) Some handlers look after their campaign dogs solely, is this something you practice?
Not particularly! I like to involve my team (including husband, assistants & owners!) in every one of the dogs I show!! Of course, sometimes I would prefer to do things (such as grooming) from start to finish… but I let everyone on the team know what I’d like with each dog specifically!!
17) Do you take on a priority dog each year?
All of the dogs in my set-up are priorities (in my opinion)! I don’t like to foresee the future of each dog… I usually have a good feeling about some dogs… and usually I’m correct in my feelings! But I never promise anything… Sometimes you have to see as the shows progress who will ultimately end up being your “Priority” … This could happen early in the season or sometimes later. But each client and dog have different goals they would like to achieve… I love making this happen for my clients! But, of course, those specials/campaigning dogs would take priority over the dogs just coming to the odd show and/or just to finish etc… My goal as a handler is to have the dog showing the best it can within my team. Some dogs react better to some assistants or Eduardo then with me! I just try to do what I feel is best for each dog…
18) What are you doing to keep going and stay positive in the current state we find the world is in now?
Keeping very busy actually!! I have trouble stopping… hahaha! We’ve gotten a lot of house cleaning done. Organizing…. Spending a lot of quality time with the dogs!! Grooming is never ending!! We’ve been stripping dogs… coat conditioning and bathing!
After the Scarborough show (the last show before the shutdown) we’ve only been out 2 or 3 times for essential things like food, supplies etc… Eduardo has been cooking some delicious meals! Also watching Netflix is keeping us busy! I wish I knew when the shows would start again so I could start planning our future shows!!!
19) Name a breed you have not shown to date?
I have shown many breeds to date. However, there are a few breeds that interest me that I haven’t had the privilege of showing. Karelian Bear Dogs being one of the top on my list. Japanese Akitas… but it’s in the foreseeable future! Also I really love Lancashire heelers!!