I was never that great a handler, between lack of coordination and stage fright. My hat's off to anyone who sticks with it.
MB-F once published statistics for 2008 and 2009 that show the percentages of wins that go to dogs with and without agents named at entry, and you can see that the majority of Winners and BOBs are awarded to dogs with no agent listed. The majorities change for Group Firsts and BIS, though. Although the class and breed win ratios look good for the agent-less dogs and the thesis is proved that judges don't always put up handlers, the stats don't distinguish between dogs who just don't have their handlers named in the show catalog, and those being handled by their owners or other non-professionals.
You have to give AKC credit for trying, though. Between offering the 4-6 Month Puppy class and the Open Show to attract more AOH entries, AKC is hoping to get more owner-handlers out there with their puppies and class dogs. The idea is kind of nice: a lower-pressure environment where owner-handlers can just show their class dogs and compete only with other owner-handlers and their class dogs. Of course, the honors you can win at Open shows don't count toward a real CH or GCH, so amateurs still have to get out there and compete with the professionals in order to finish their dogs. The Amateur Owner-Handler (AOH) class at AKC shows is still relatively new (it replaced Novice, which hardly anyone entered anyway), but in my time stewarding since it started, I have yet to see the AOH entry get the win where any other competition is involved.
AKC hasn't given up on its hopes of getting more buckage from the non-professionals. Here is a blurb from the October AKC Board minutes describing the Best Owner/Handler. See Page 22, Attachment C. AKCommunicates! describes the Owner/Handler Series thusly:
AKC Owner/Handler Series
The AKC Owner/Handler Series will showcase owner handled dogs at well attended dog shows geographically distributed across the country. The AKC Owner/Handler competition will be conducted following Best of Breed judging in each breed ring. All dogs in the BOB competition (including WD & WB) will stay in the ring after the judge makes their placements in BOB competition. The ring steward will ask all professional handlers to leave the ring and then judge will then select the Best Owner Handler (BOH).
It sounds like a good enough idea, though as a ring steward I'm not thrilled about having one more thing to juggle at shows where we already have Puppy, Veteran, and BBE extravaganzas and their separate groups to judge. On the other hand, we adapted to awarding the Selects after only a couple of hiccups, so this is just one more thing we'll have to keep track of (not to mention the entirely new sets of ribbons we'll need for the 4-6 Puppies). As an owner-handler, you have to at least get Winners for consideration. There's also that mention of "well attended dog shows." I'm reasonably willing to bet that none of the shows north of Massachusetts will be deemed sufficiently "well attended" so that BOH can be offered. If you want encouragement, folks, be prepared to owner-handle at the Big E.
It's nice to see that AKC still cares enough about revenues form owner-handlers that they'll keep trying to get more of them back into the ring. I honestly hope that the experiment works. What do you think?