Anja Cikara-Gocke – A Junior’s Journal

Anja Gocke with her Australian Shepherd dog

 

Interview with a Junior – Anja Cikara-Gocke

 

Where do you live? Where do you go to school?

Anja: I live in a small town in Northern Colorado called Buckeye. I go to an IB (International Baccalaureate) high school near me.

 

Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do you have a job?

Anja: I love playing volleyball and being outside. This year, I was part of the Unified Flag Football team at my high school. It was an amazing experience to be part of such a supportive community.

Yes, I work with an Obedience trainer to help teach Beginner Puppy classes. I have also been training younger dogs for the Conformation ring.

 

Have you grown up in a doggy family? What is your breed(s)?

Anja: No, I did not grow up in a doggy family. I got my first purebred dog, an Australian Shepherd, after a few rescues. As a family, we decided to venture into the world of breeding and dog shows following guidance from a longtime Aussie breeder in Colorado. I was the first one in my family to get really involved in dog competitions and showing.

My breeds are mainly Australian Shepherds and Bloodhounds. I have shown other breeds in competition as well, including Goldens, Schipperkes, Australian Cattle Dogs, Corgis, Bouvier des Flanders, Border Collies, Bedlington Terriers, Miniature American Shepherds, and more. I’m excited to learn how to work with more breeds in the coming years.

Anja Cikara-Gocke with her dog
Anja Cikara-Gocke

 

How were you introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did you start competing?

Anja: I was introduced to Junior Showmanship through a Colorado Aussie breeder and friend, Leslie Sorensen. She sold me my first purebred dog and brought me into the world of dog shows. She showed me the basics, and I was able to grow from there. I started competing when I was eight years old.

 

What do you remember about the first time you showed as a Junior?

Anja: The first time I showed as a Junior it was at a small ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America) show in Kiowa, Colorado, and everyone was so supportive. I remember an older Junior, Bailey Crader, watched me, and during the breaks we would go outside to practice and she would help me. I have always looked up to her. It’s amazing how a positive first experience at a dog show can pave the way toward years in the sport.

 

How do you prepare your dog and yourself for the ring? Any rituals? Any good luck charms?

Anja: I usually try to calm my nerves to get my dog and I prepared for the show ring. I study the classes that go before me and see what the judge is looking for in the Juniors. I have a lucky necklace I wear most of the time too; it has an Aussie charm on it.

 

Do you have a mentor in the sport? Have you assisted any Professional Handlers?

Anja: I have had many mentors over the course of my time showing dogs. They have each helped me in different ways. I compete in Junior Showmanship, Obedience, Rally, and other dog sports. So, it’s amazing the team of mentors needed to help me navigate all of these events.

I have also assisted many Professional Handlers from Colorado, and currently plan to assist two Professional Handlers in 2023.

 

What do you think about the Judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring?

Anja: I feel like most Junior judges enjoy their job and being in the Juniors ring. There are some who come off more “rough around the edges.” This helps us Juniors develop thicker skin, but it can be challenging for new kids. I’m a big advocate of asking for feedback and have found some helpful tips when asking the judge for pointers to improve my handling.

 

Are there any wins for which you are particularly proud? Any memorable losses?

Anja: A win that I am very proud of is my Best in Show Owner-Handled with my co-owned Bloodhound, “Evie.” That was a very exciting day, with many friends cheering me on. I will always remember that.

As for memorable losses, every time we don’t go home with a ribbon is a learning experience.

 

How is your breed shown? How do you accentuate your dog’s breed type in the ring?

Anja: Both Aussies and Bloodhounds are shown in a way that accentuates their best features. Aussies are moved quickly and are a free-stacking breed, making it easier to show them from a long lead. Bloodhounds are more hands-on, and you can do many things to make them stand out such as manipulating their furnishings and presenting the tail.

 

Is your breed generally well-suited for a Junior Showmanship career?

Anja: Yes, Australian Shepherds are the perfect Juniors dog. They can be shown in many different ways and are medium-sized, so they work well in a large or small ring. They have stamina to be able to withstand the long ring times that can be associated with the Juniors competitions. I would be remiss to leave out that there are typically many Juniors showing Aussies, so they are not the most unique dog to use in Juniors.

 

Have you bred or co-bred a litter? If so, can you share what you’ve learned from the experience?

Anja: My family breeds Australian Shepherds and I have helped with every litter so far. I learned the difficulties and effort that is put into every single puppy. It takes a lot of time and is a lot of hard work; not a path for the faint of heart.

 

With so many “low entry” breeds, what are your thoughts on breed preservation?

Anja: There are some very unique breeds I don’t see at a lot of shows. I do have some issues with my Bloodhound and finding needed points for her. We sometimes need to travel long distances to find competition to get important wins. It would be great to encourage more new owners of purebred dogs to try showing in order to gain numbers for breeds that are having similar challenges. I feel a lot of owners of purebred dogs don’t know about options available for showing their dogs, but would enjoy it if they knew about the opportunity.

 

Are there any breeds that you would love to show but haven’t shown yet?

Anja: I would love to show more Sporting and Herding breeds! I love dogs that move out in the ring and really want to go.

 

If you could choose only one breed to live with forever, which breed would it be and why?

Anja: Aussies, 100 percent. They are the perfect dog for me. Aussies need a certain amount of exercise, which helps me to get outside every day. They have high energy, which makes them good in the show ring, but they also have an off-switch for when you want them to chill out.

 

Can you share a word or two about your relationship with your current dog? What does s/he mean to you?

Anja: My dog is my best friend and is always there for any adventure. We have created a bond that will last a lifetime. It is so strong, and we are always by each other’s side. He always gives 100 percent, whether in the show ring or by my side at the ranch.

 

What are your goals for the future? Do you see yourself continuing in the sport once you’ve aged-out?

Anja: My goals are to continue being versatile and competing in many different rings at dog shows. I will always love competing and will strive to get to the next level.

  • In Conformation, my goals are to learn more about grooming and handling different breeds.
  • In Obedience, I am training for, and hope to achieve, my first Utility title on a dog this year.
  • In Rally, I am striving to earn my first Master Rally title.

I also will be working with my new puppy, trying to finish his championship, training him for the Juniors ring, and earning many titles after his name as well.

 

Is there a funny story that you can share about experiences as a Junior Handler?

Anja: One funny story that I remember took place in the Rally ring at a local dog show. I had just run over from Juniors and had to go straight into the ring to do my Excellent Rally run.

I did not have time to warm up or do a walk-through. It was going well until we got to the jumps. There were two jumps very close to each other and my dog got way too excited. He started jumping up and down and licking me in the face. As this was going on I started to laugh, which only made things worse. He jumped even higher and I could not get him to stop. Eventually, he calmed down and we were able to finish the course with no further complications.

Although it may have been embarrassing for me, I remember everyone telling me how much they loved my dog’s energy. So many people came up to me and said how we made a great team and would do amazing things together in the future.

Both Aussies and Bloodhounds are shown in a way that accentuates their best features. Aussies are moved quickly and are a free-stacking breed, making it easier to show them from a long lead. Bloodhounds are more hands-on, and you can do many things to make them stand out such as manipulating their furnishings and presenting the tail.

  • I live in a small town in Northern Colorado called Buckeye. I was introduced to Junior Showmanship through a Colorado Aussie breeder and friend, Leslie Sorensen.

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