Interview with a Junior Handler, Audrey Boyer
Where do you live? Where do you go to school?
My name is Audrey Boyer and I live in Cupertino, California. I go to school at Monta Vista High School. It’s a beautiful two-story brick school with some amazing teachers. It has a great art program as well.
Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do you have a job?
More than a hobby, art is my passion that I am going to be pursuing as a future career in character design and animation. As of right now, I do pet portrait and online digital art commissions to help build up my college funds. I guess my art is my self-employed job since it’s freelance. In my free-time, I enjoy playing classical and electric guitar, sewing, and archery with my dad.
Have you grown up in a doggy family? What is your breed(s )?
We have had dogs all our lives. Growing up, we had a Pitbull and a Pitbull-Pointer, a Bantam Bulldog, a Frenchie, and now we have three Whippets. “Disco” is the oldest of the three and our first Whippet. He is the father of our second oldest, “Yoshi.” I finished Disco’s Bronze Grand Championship (we had help to get his Championship), and I got Yoshi’s Championship and Grand Championship on my own.
Currently, we are training up my newest endeavor, “Juno,” who is nine months old and my new partner for Juniors as Disco is now older, happy, and retired. I also show “Diamond” (Disco’s daughter) in the Breed ring, so you can usually find me in the Whippet ring.
My other regular breeds are Borzoi, Doberman Pinchers, and most recently, Boston Terriers.
How were you introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did you start competing?
My mom and I were first introduced to showing when we bought Disco and were given the option of a show dog or a pet. It sounded like a great opportunity to us and a fun new hobby for the both of us to enjoy. It took me a couple years before I was able to compete in Junior Showmanship, but I was practicing in that time and really being able to learn how to connect with my dog and what it meant to show dogs.
What do you remember about the first time you showed as a Junior?
The first time I showed in Juniors was seven years ago in Napa under Bill Shelton (against five others) and I went second in Open Junior. I was so overjoyed when that happened, I might as well have been bouncing off the walls! That day, I was wearing a little white dress with English riding and horse decorations and patterns, which was one of my favorites at the time. Disco was my Juniors dog, and he was so good for me that day.
How do you prepare your dog and yourself for the ring? Any rituals? Any good luck charms?
Since I am now working with the puppy (who is now just nine months old), I try to get her happy and connected. We play a game where I ask, “Juju, what do bad girls say?”
In the sassiest bark you have ever heard, she responds with a BIG “RAFF” followed by a small pop up with her front legs. I’ve had other fun games with all of my dogs, and we make sure to have fun in the ring. They always show better because of it.
We really don’t have any lucky charms going into the ring; however, if we have some big wins, or memorable wins, the lead we used becomes the “lucky” lead. They have to “earn” their magic!
Do you have a mentor in the sport? Have you assisted any Professional Handlers?
I have had several mentors over the years, from Conformation class instructors to my best friend, but I would have to say that my mom is my biggest champion throughout my journey. I have done some assisting for handlers and it’s definitely a fun way to learn all about the breeds, how they are groomed, and the planning that goes into it as well. I will recommend for kids, if they want to help out, to be at least 14 years old, simply because it’s a lot of work and it can get stressful at times. It is lots of fun and I do like to help others out whenever I possibly can. I usually have my mom help me build the schedule to help friends. (We’ve made many new friends this way!)
What do you think about the Judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring?
I think this depends on the judge, for sure. I think most judges really do like Juniors. You can tell right away when you see them smiling when you walk into the ring. I have met so many nice judges; those are the ones I remember the most. They will smile at me when they see me at other shows because they remembered ME. That’s really cool. The judges who are very serious, I do watch myself around. I know they are concentrating on doing their job, so I do my best to do mine. One time, a judge told me not to smile in the ring because I looked fake. It did hurt my feelings a little. I will now smile at MY DOG, because I think they like it and it keeps my energy up. We should be happy in the ring with our dogs.
Are there any wins for which you are particularly proud? Any memorable losses?
I would have to say my most memorable win was last year in February 2022 when I went California Junior Handler of the Year under judge Pat Trotter. The event was on AKC.tv so I was really nervous, but I did my best to stay calm. It was an honor to have been chosen for such an amazing award!
The Sun Maid Kennel Club in Fresno did such an amazing job of making us Juniors feel really special at that show. They awarded me with a four-foot ribbon and a $2,000 academic scholarship, which I will most certainly use for college. I don’t think you could have wiped the smile off my face for a week!
How is your breed shown? How do you accentuate your dog’s breed type in the ring?
Whippets are a medium-sized dog with an elegant, smooth stride and a sleek outline. As handlers, we want to accentuate this by letting them walk into their free-stacks, as appropriate, and use our hands when necessary to truly show off the best parts about them.
In Whippets, we want to emphasize their smooth and flowing curves. I do this when hand-stacking by bringing their head up and then down to create this beautiful arch in the neck as well as letting them stand on their own to properly show the cleanest outline you can give. A well-balanced dog can do this easily, and that is something I always love to showcase. They should also glide when gaiting, using a “daisy clipping” movement with nice reach and drive, and showing an efficient stride. I stay in step with my dogs, so we can stay connected as a team and so they don’t go too fast or slow.
Is your breed generally well-suited for a Junior Showmanship career?
It can depend on who you ask, because their personalities vary deeply in the breed, but I find that Whippets are a great Juniors dog. They are not hard to control, not too small where you have to fidget, and most will go and show for just about anyone. They can be a sensitive and aloof breed, so you’ll have to be sure to always encourage your dog and use positive training with your Whippet. They do not like the cold, so some days they can be harder to work with (especially at 8 a.m. in October-March), but this just helps you learn how to work with your dog better.
Have you bred or co-bred a litter? If so, can you share what you’ve learned from the experience?
I have not; however, we own a stud dog. It’s been really cool to watch puppies being born, watch them grow up, and show and finish their AKC Championships. We got Yoshi from Disco’s first litter. It was so amazing to see them grow up, stack them (Jell-O on chopsticks), and be there for the grading. I learned how to compare puppies to the Breed Standard—as compared to the adults. Disco (Diamond’s sire) has produced eight, almost nine, bench champions in just a few litters. We hope he will get his ROM. At some point, if Juno proves herself in the ring, and with OFA testing, we may breed her, but that won’t be for a long time.
With so many “low entry” breeds, what are your thoughts on breed preservation?
With several breeds being found as rare nowadays, I feel that breed preservation is important and people in the dog world should want to teach others about said breed to invite more people in and keep the breed going. I have met some really good breed ambassadors (like my friends in Kuvasz and Shikoku). They use every opportunity to talk to people about their breeds and it’s so informative. We have to be careful to take care of our rare breeds. It’s like the endangered species on this planet. We have to be their protectors or we will lose them.
Are there any breeds that you would love to show but haven’t shown yet?
I have always wanted to show a Dogue de Bordeaux due to their super-unique look. They seem like they would be fun and goofy, but still a powerful breed. I would love to learn to handle more Working breeds.
If you could choose only one breed to live with forever, which breed would it be and why?
This is a really hard question for me! There are so many breeds that I love, and lots that I want to get to know. I think I can say that I do like living with medium-sized dogs. I can comfortably walk a couple at a time. And though I will probably (really) have multiple breeds, including Whippets, I am a little bit obsessed with the Shikoku. They are not an AKC breed (yet), but my understanding is that they have a hound-like temperament in a cute Shiba-like look. I really want to get one! (My mom only wants “naked” short-haired dogs in the house right now!)
Can you share a word or two about your relationship with your current dog? What does s/he mean to you?
I live with Disco, Yoshi, and my new puppy, Juno. Juno is my little shadow. I feed her, she sleeps with me, I play with her, hike, and do just about everything with her. It makes me really happy that I get to show her in Juniors and practice all the things we’ve worked on. I don’t think I could imagine life without her. She’s as “spicy” as can be and she brings a lot of life and energy into our home.
I have also been lucky to be part Diamond’s life. She is also a Disco daughter, so I feel an extra special connection with her. I’ve been showing her for the last year, but I’ve watched her grow up from a puppy. Diamond is such a sweet dog and she is such a happy girl. She wags her tail in the ring—it’s so cute! I also have been showing my other part-timers, which includes “Tyson” (the Bison!) the Red Doberman, “Gunner” the Borzoi, and “Banjo” the cute Boston Terrier. Banjo just about screams when she sees me walk up! I love that we all have a special connection in and out of the ring.
What are your goals for the future? Do you see yourself continuing in the sport once you’ve aged-out?
In the near future, I will be going to Westminster for my first time EVER! I’m so excited. I will be showing Diamond in Breed, and Juno in Juniors. I also want to see if I can help keep Diamond in the Top 20 for 2023. She’s been a very special dog for me to show, and I hope the judge will find us in such a beautiful lineup.
This upcoming year, I want to see how far I can go with my puppy, Juno, in Juniors. I have been the only person to train her, so it will feel extra special. In a couple of years, I want to be able to take her to back Westminster to compete in the Breed ring. I know we can do it!
When I age-out, I will have a lot more school ahead of me, but I will most definitely come out on the weekends and show dogs for my mom and friends. Dogs will always be close to my heart and part of my life.
Is there a funny story that you can share about experiences as a Junior Handler?
I would say my funniest story was about two years ago. I was showing Disco in the Owner-Handled Groups. We were inside a school gym with shiny wooden floors and there were NO mats. It was one of the days that was about 109 degrees outside, and everyone was using cool coats and spray bottles on their dogs. I’m sure you can guess what happened! I was doing my go-around and slipped on a wet patch and did the splits—but I didn’t go down! I caught myself with my front foot and DIDN’T SKIP A BEAT! I could hear my friends cheering for me for not “eating it!”