How much do Westminster Dog handlers make? Essential Tips

Spending money

Once on the grass, some owners show their own dogs. But more often, they hire professional handlers to lead the dogs as judges grade how closely they meet their breed’s standards.

Trumpet’s handler and owner, Heather Helmer, also bred the 4-year-old. On the side, she’s a handler for hire, charging anywhere from $100 to $400 for ringside handling, depending on the type of show, according to her website. For Westminster, her ringside fees start at $1,000, with an extra $800 bonus if the dog wins best in show.

But those fees could be considered chump change compared to the small fortune many spend leading up to the competition. During this so-called campaign period, owners fly their dogs around the country and advertise them in magazines to generate buzz in the year before Westminster.

Campaigns could spend $250,000 in total or $100,000 just on advertising, owners reported to CNBC. And a full-page commercial ad in the glossy pages of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’s own catalog costs $350, according to the event’s premium list.

“Advertising in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Catalog is an excellent opportunity to promote your dogs to the public,” the Westminster Kennel Club wrote.

The Westminster Kennel Club did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

How much does the Best in Show winner make?

Looking to make some money by entering your dog in the Westminster Dog Show? Best look at some other options.

The winner will not be taking home any cash from being named Best in Show. Neither will their owner. The American Kennel Club National Championship rewards $50,000 to the dogs that take home Best in Show there.

Who won the Westminster Dog Show in 2020?

Siba the Standard Poodle won the Westminster Dog Show last year. Siba is owned by Connie S. Unger and in winning last year became the first standard poodle to win Best in Show since 1991.

How much do Westminster Dog handlers make?

Each year, one special dog walks away as the Best in Show winner of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The dog and handler receive a silver bowl and fame. There is no prize money, but monetary gain is still possible.

For a dog show champion, there are opportunities to be featured on television shows and in print and digital publications. The winning dog has earning potential through celebrity and other opportunities. Dog show champions are highly regarded and often earn fame along with high-dollar breeding fees. Here are some ways to start on the path toward show-dog success.

Begin by joining a local kennel club. The American Kennel Club suggests this as the best way to learn how to train, groom and show your own dog. Its also a good way to learn about breeding and showing dogs or handling dogs for other owners.

Next, enter your dogs in shows or handle dogs for other owners. The more shows you win, the greater the likelihood you will develop a reputation that can be parlayed into a professional dog-handling business. Developing such a reputation, however, requires not only that you have excellent dog-handling skills, but also that you get promising dogs to handle.

Join the Professional Handlers Association if you plan to make a profession of showing dogs. To enhance your credibility as a professional, take part in the organizations apprentice program, which requires that you are employed by a PHA member and attend seminars as part of the four-year apprenticeship. But there are some handlers who achieve success by getting a chance and just winning consistently.

Major dog show winners draw sponsorship opportunities from dog food and accessory companies. Some major dog shows offer prize money, but the expense of raising, training and grooming a dog, plus the expense of entering many shows, makes profits from showing dogs unreliable.

Securing a brand sponsorship, however, can quickly turn the tables and fund the overhead while potentially delivering a profit. Dogs with a popular name, media presence and regular attention are great candidates for sponsorship.

Keep a website, build a social media following and create a public-facing for the dog to really ramp up sponsor potential. High numbers of followers and people engaged with the dog and surrounding media creates an opportunity to pitch brands while providing a viable media return on the investment.

Some handlers are not owners, but they get paid to provide their services to show dog owners, and if they produce winners, they can achieve six-figure annual earnings. Training can pay well, especially when a trainer consistently produces winners.

An experienced trainer can also consult with breeders, buyers, owners and other trainers on their training regimen, health and general handling philosophy.

If you like to work with dogs, there are other ways to make money as well. Animal care and service workers, such as trainers and groomers can earn wages. Top skilled trainers and groomers are also seen at dog shows as part of the support staff, and they can generate business through referrals.

Working with service animals, guard dogs, drug-sniffing dogs and cadaver or rescue dogs is also possible for experienced trainers.

The final method of monetizing a winning show dog is through breeding. Stud fees and puppy sales typically go into the thousands of dollars for winning dogs. The blood lines are highly desired and breeding programs are advanced.

After winning a major show, the dog and owners are likely to receive offers for stud fees and breeding. A stud can breed multiple other dogs, and a female will produce a litter with a high price on each individual puppy.

Zach Lazzari is a freelance writer with extensive experience in startups and digital advertising. He has a diverse background with a strong presence in the digital marketing world. Zach has developed and sold multiple successful web properties and manages marketing for multiple clients in the outdoor industry. He has published business content in Angling Trade Magazine and writes white papers and case studies for multiple corporate partners.