Once at the competition, the handlers fine tune their dogs so the judges can see their pooches in the best possible light.
"It is a livestock show. It is the evaluation of breeding stock within a breed and that’s what it’s about,” said judge Edd Bivins of Fort Worth, Texas, who has judged dog shows for 48 years. "If they (dog handlers) keep that in mind, then they operate from a far better perspective than if they don’t.”
Carlson is set to show between 15 and 20 dogs each day of the OKC Summer Classic Dog Show, but that doesn’t begin to describe how busy he is day in and day out. Being involved in dog shows is more of a lifestyle than a hobby, Carlson said, as he competes in close to 100 competitions a year.
"We go just about every weekend except about Christmas and New Year’s. ... Our second home is our motor home, which cost just about as much as our home, so every weekend it’s just how hard do you want to push,” he said.
But no matter how many shows handlers and their dogs compete in, it all boils down to one thing: Making sure the dog is having fun.
"The dogs really know it’s all about them. They’re being judged; everything we do is about them,” Carlson said. "It’s like them going to the spa and then going out to be judged like Miss America.”