John Mayhall has been a dog owner and professional handler for 28 years.
"I get paid to do what I do -- groom, train and present the animal in the ring," Mayhall said. Eighty-five percent of the people at a dog show are professional handlers he added.
The sport feeds Mayhall's competitive side.
"I am very competitive," he admitted.
Mayhall had a Doberman pincher and wanted her professionally handled, but the handler was too busy, so he had to do it himself.
"I walked in the ring and found out I enjoyed it."
Having been in the business for so long, Mayhall still finds the general public misunderstands the show ring.
"The treatment of the animals is the most misunderstood," he said.
Seeing the dogs in cages, spectators at the shows and television audiences leap to beliefs that are just not true.
"Those are temporary holding facilities that are a must for shows," Mayhall said. That is the only way several dogs can be carried and shown safely.
"It is their home away from home and it is not inhumane. Every dog that I have runs to their crate when it is feeding time because that is their house they know they are safe in there."
Mayhall carries three crates for each dog to make the transition easier and has developed wet coats for the dogs during hot shows.
The dogs' health and happiness are the top priority and a key to winning.
"They get excellent care and excellent food, they are watched 24-7 and they are still allowed to be dogs," Mayhall said. "(Dogs) are played with.
"You have handlers who have 20 to 25 dogs they have as many handlers to keep the human contact and dogs need that to be happy."
When a happy dog is enjoying what it is doing, then you have a champion in the making, Mayhall said.
"It is 95-percent attitude," Mayhall said. "Doodle is winning on 99 percent of his attitude," he said of Champion J Luv's Schoolhouse Doodle Bug, a wire-haired dachshund he affectionately calls Doodle. Doodle is currently taking home titles with trophies bigger than he is.
"Doodle is shown almost every weekend. His very first show of this year we won a hound group best of show, Doodle was best of the 723 entries," Mayhall said with pride.
"After that weekend, he walked away as the number one hound in the U.S., and number one wire-haired dachshund."
"He is a pleaser, he wants to go and his attitude wins," Mayhall said. "Attitude is more important for a dog than being structurally correct. It is a big spectator sport and when you get the spectators behind you because a dog is having a great time, the judges listen to the crowds, the cheers, and it helps sway their decisions."
At home with six of the dogs he shows or has shown, Mayhall stresses that these dogs lead champions' lives, getting lots of normal doggie play time.
"The dogs lounge on the deck I built just for them," he said. "They chew on bones, dig holes, sleep on the couch and play tug with each other."
Along with Doodle, Mayhall has two other wire-haired dachshunds, a smooth dachshund and two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, the breed that got him started as a professional handler back in 1985.
"I was the first handler to win a national Rhodesian Ridgeback specialty from the veteran class," he said. "That was the first dog in the history of the breed to win it and he was the dog to bring my name to the fore front with the judges, that was a wonderful, wonderful animal," he said of one of his first champions, aptly named Champions Rob Norms Sharas G Dagga, or just Dagga.
Working toward excellence, Mayhall expects the best from himself and his dogs.
A professional handler, Mayhall has shown dozens of dogs, some were his own and some belonged to clients.
Expecting the best from the animal, and giving his best, has enabled him to set a goal of retiring with one of his best dogs at one of the most prestigious shows in the country.
He is talking about going to Madison Square Garden and the Westminster Kennel Club -- "It is the Super Bowl of dog shows," he said.
Mayhall has been there four times and plans on one last trip, with Doodle, in 2004.