Star Spotlight: Ellie Hatley

Junior Ellie Hatley discusses her love of showing dogs and how she first got into it.


Junior Ellie Hatley coos at her dog, Clyde, while waiting for her turn in showing practice, Oct 1. Banksy is a Nova Scotia Duck Toy Retriever, which is known to be a hyper-active breed. photo by Claire Smith

by Iris Roddy, Writer

When did you first get into dog showing?

When I was about 8 years old I first started learning how to show dogs. I was entered in my first show when I was nine.

How did you first get into dog showing?

We used to have two corgis that came from a breeder, a friend of ours who also shows dogs. We went to a dog show in Lawrence, and she introduced me to a mentor who teaches youth how to show dogs. I was able to enter competitions when I was nine in the Juniors.

How often do you participate in dog shows?

It depends. During the summer there aren’t many since it’s too hot and adds extra stress on the dogs. Fall and spring are the best for dog shows. We have a lot in the fall, probably at least one a month. I have two shows this month. I have Nationals for a breed I show in Colorado.

Why do you like dog showing so much?

It’s just so different. You walk into a dog show and it’s a whole new world. There’s some pretty crazy people. I mean, there’s always something different going on. It’s also a really good ice breaker and topic starter.

What are the benefits of dog showing?

It really helped me growing up with social skills and how to time manage. I worked with people three times my age, which helped my maturity level.

What is your favorite thing about dog shows?

Definitely the community. A breed I’m super involved with is the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and there are always lots of different communities within breeds. That’s definitely one interesting aspect of dog showing. We’re really blessed that our breed is super, super welcoming.

What does a typical dog show look like?

It varies quite a bit from what you see on TV. The ones on TV are way more prestigious than the ones I’m in. Some of the places have dirt floors here, which I hate because it dirties the dogs’ feet and ruins nice shoes.

What are dogs scored on?

The judges are looking for what dog has the best bone structure and features in general according to that breed’s standards.

If you could tell someone who knew nothing about dog showing a little bit about it, what would you say?

Dog showing started out as a way to improve lineage. You would enter your dogs to see what other dogs were winning and potentially breed your dog with that dog to improve your line. I’d say it’s less about that now, but then again I’m not involved in the breeding process.

What is one difficult aspect of dog showing?

It’s really competitive. People can be really mean.

How will you continue to show dogs in the future?

That’s something I wonder about a lot, to be honest. It is expensive. You don’t really make money showing dogs unless you’re out doing it every weekend. I hope to continue to do it through college if I have time. I love it. I mean, I’ve been doing it my whole life.

Could you tell me a little bit about the dogs you show?

I show a bunch of people’s dogs. I show Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers now, but I started out showing corgis. I show a Rottweiler often. I show a German shepherd on occasion. I’ve shown more different breeds than I can list.

What does training your dogs and preparing for shows look like?

Every Tuesday, I go out to a little community center where my mentor has a class. It’s kind of a mock dog show and social hour. We practice with the dogs, having a person go over them so they’re comfortable being touched. We make sure they don’t just hate it because if that’s the case we don’t show them. That’s where I first learned to show dogs. I also meet people outside of the class at parks and other places to make sure the dogs are comfortable with me.

What’s your favorite part of preparing the dogs for shows?

I really like grooming dogs. I think it’s kind of relaxing. We usually bathe them and blow dry them and do any trimming needed. It’s a process, so I like to plug in my music and just hang out. 

This might seem like a silly question, but are you a dog person or a cat person?

Definitely a dog person. I like cats and all, but it’s dogs I love. I like the interactions and being able to actually do stuff with them.