Meet the Future of Dog Sports, Our Junior Handlers

The Junior Handlers interviews about purebred dogs and preparing purebred dog breeds for shows, school, hobbies, rituals, mentors and more.

  1. Where do you live? Where do you go to school?
  2. Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do you have a job?
  3. Have you grown up in a doggy family? What is your breed(s)?
  4. How were you introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did you start competing?
  5. What do you remember about the first time you showed as
    a Junior?
  6. How do you prepare your dog and yourself for the ring?
    Any rituals? Any good luck charms?
  7. How do you assess your competition? Is everyone usually a
    good sport?
  8. What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the
    Juniors ring?
  9. Do you have a mentor in the sport? Have you assisted any Professional Handlers?
  10. Are there any wins for which you are particularly proud?
    Any memorable losses?
  11. How do you accentuate your dog’s breed type in the ring?
    How is your breed shown?
  12. Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship
    than others?
  13. Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same?
  14. Have you bred or co-bred a litter? If so, can you share what you’ve learned from the experience?
  15. Is breeding something that you’d like to pursue? Is breed preservation important to you?
  16. What are your goals for the future? Do you see yourself continuing in the sport once you’ve aged-out?
  17. Can you share a word or two about your relationship with your current dog? What does s/he mean to you?
  18. Is there a funny story that you can share about yout experiences as a Junior Handler?

Abigail Anderson

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogAbigail Anderson has competed with her dogs in Junior Showmanship, Conformation, Obedience, Agility, Lure Coursing, and Rally. Abigail maintained an outstanding academic record throughout high school while managing extracurricular activities. She continues to do the same in college, completing her second year with a 4.0. She also enjoyed visiting regularly at a local nursing home with her therapy dogs. Abby and her English Setter, Austin, qualified to compete in Junior Showmanship at the AKC Invitational and at Westminster in 2019. No matter what Abigail’s future holds, it will be surrounded with her English Setters.

I reside in Bailey Colorado, and I attend school at Red Rocks
Community College.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? Purebred dogs are my whole life, and I would not trade this for the whole world. I enjoy the multiple jobs that I have been
blessed with. I have learned a colossal amount of knowledge during eight years of working at a local grooming shop! Over the past few years, I have been able to witness the impact that training can have on an owner and dog. The most enjoyable learning experience, thus far, would be the opportunity to assist professional handlers.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed? I was not fortunate enough to grow in up in a dog show family. Although my family loved purebred dogs, they were not aware of all the things dogs could do, or the importance of preservation breeding. My chosen breed is the English Setter!

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced to the world of AKC after attending a local show with my mother. As I watched Junior Showmanship, the evident bond between handler and dog intrigued me. I became actively involved in 4-H and UKC, as I did not have a purebred dog at that time. I attended my first AKC show in 2016.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? The first time I was able to show in Juniors, I remember feeling extremely excited and beyond grateful that somebody let me use their beautiful, retired show dog.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I always started the day by washing and blowing out my show companion, and ensuring he was thoroughly walked. Before going in the ring, I would always gait him and stack him a few times to make sure he was moving well that day.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? Assessing the the competition would add to my nerves. Instead, I tried to focus on showcasing my dog to the best of my abilities and focusing on the happiness of a willing companion. Because I was not born into the sport, I felt as if I were looked down upon. Over time, however, I was able to gain the respect of my fellow competitors. For the most part, fellow competitors possessed sportsmanship-like qualities. Like any sport, there are always those who do not win and lose with grace.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? The vast majority majority of judges I’ve encountered seemed to enjoy their assignment! I will always remember watching ringside, as a few judges in particular relished the opportunity to encourage the future competitors of our sport!

Do I have a mentor in the sport? I feel exceptionally blessed to have mentors who have taught me so much. Assisting professional handlers has been my favorite learning experience yet!

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? The most memorable wins during my Juniors career would be: The very first Best Junior that my buddy, Austin, and I were awarded; being awarded Best Junior at our National Specialty; and finally obtaining a CDX and RAE with my original mixed-breed dog, Jenny, who started my love of purebred dogs. The most memorable loss would be in the Junior Invitationals at Westminster. Although we did not make any cuts, the experience and journey of making it to Westminster will always be something to remember, and a life lesson to never give up on a short term goal or a lifelong dream.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? I accentuated my dog’s breed type in the ring by showing him in a traditional manner, with his lead off when the judge would go over him.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I personally think breeds that present more of challenge make the best Junior Showmanship dogs.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? It should never be about the dog. Not every Junior is lucky enough to show a decent example of the breed.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have never bred or co-bred a litter, but I look forward to the opportunity one day.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Preservation breeding holds significant importance to me. I look forward to the day when I will be able to participate in preservation breeding of purebred dogs.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I have already aged-out of the Junior program. I plan to make this a lifelong passion and a way of life. I aspire to one day become an all-breed judge.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My current dogs are my life. I cannot imagine life without them. Austin and Jenny, an English Setter and an All-American dog, taught me so much through Junior Showmanship and Companion events. I will be forever grateful for these dogs who gave me their all at every show and trial.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? I wish I had a really funny story. But the truth is, by the time I was able to acquire a beautiful purebred dog and incredible mentors, the qualification dates for Westminster and the AKC Nationals were swiftly approaching. So, instead of offering a funny story, I humbly petition all who read this to take notice of Juniors who might greatly benefit from encouragement and the opportunity to show a well-bred dog in Junior Showmanship and/or to be connected with a willing mentor.

Brianna Bedrosian

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogForrest, the Papillon, shown in the middle, is turning three and was my first Conformation, Agility, and Champion dog. Additionally, he’s my Junior Showmanship dog, and I’m currently working towards his Grand Championship. I recently started showing and training my second Papillon, named Tiara, and my Dalmatian, Fantasia. The Irish Wolfhound puppy, Seamus, is the newest dog to join the pack!

I live in Long Grove, Illinois, and I am a sophomore at Adlai E. Stevenson High School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Aside from dog showing, I take part in photography and Hunter Jumper horse showing.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? I was born into the dog business with a mom who is a longtime professional purebred dogs trainer, focusing mainly on Obedience and Agility. Growing up, we’ve had Dalmatians, Poodles, a Bulldog, and now, Papillons!

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? From a young age, I have always been very involved with dogs, whether it was training Agility or working on house manners with puppies. In 2018, my mom decided to get me my first Conformation and Agility prospect Papillon puppy when I was 13 years old. My dog’s breeder is extremely supportive of me and my Papillon. I feel she has played a big role in my confidence and success in Junior Showmanship.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? The first time I showed as a Junior I was completely lost; one moment you’re in the ring, the next you’re not. But, thanks to the help of some amazing people I have met along my way, I was able to quickly learn the ropes.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? My pre-game ritual starts with my Papillon’s beloved “squeaky,” then a couple of spins, kisses, and then we’re in the ring!

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? The competition between Junior Handlers is very tough, because everyone has worked hard and poured time into being the handler that stands out to the judge. Once you’ve been in the ring for more than a year or two, you start to recognize the Junior handlers who show dogs more frequently and even travel around the country. My experience with showmanship is that every Junior Handler I’ve met has been extremely kind, supportive, and positive—both in and out of the ring.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Many of the judges I have shown under have been really enthusiastic and encouraging to me as a Junior Handler. I always appreciate the judges who provide insightful tips and feedback that can help me better my handling skills.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? Yes. I feel so fortunate to have the most amazing mentor, Julia King, of Runway Papillons. Julia is a longtime breeder and exhibitor of Papillons who has helped me with grooming tricks and handling tips, encouraging me every step of the way. She also introduced me to one of her top handlers and a former successful Junior, Tegan Jarworski. Both have chaperoned me at shows around the county. Julia has even opened her home to me in Florida so that I could go to the AKC Nationals and show my dog! She has become a lifelong friend and mentor.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? My most memorable win, for me, was my Best Junior win at the Papillon Club of America Regional Specialty in Florida, in December of 2020. This win stood out to me particularly because I know that there were very good handlers in the ring, and I was confident in my handling when I went in the ring.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? I show my Papillon dog in Best of Breed. He has a really nice head, but he’s on the smaller side of the standard for his breed. When I go into the breed ring, I always stack him up towards the front end of the mat and leave plenty of space between him and the other dogs to make sure that he doesn’t get lost and overlooked next to the bigger dogs. The other thing I do when I show Forrest is, when I free stack him for the judge, I always showcase his head, since that is one of his best features.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? Any breed can be successful in the Juniors ring. However, if you get a judge who specializes in your breed, it can be helpful. Junior Showmanship is judged on the handler’s skills and techniques, so it is not really about the dog. On the other hand, having a dog that shows well and is responsive and well-trained will always make the handler look better. I am very proud of my accomplishment at training my own Papillon puppy over the last two years and being able to win Best Juniors with him!

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? Judges should always bear in mind that this class is not based on the flash of the dog, but it’s based on the handling and how the Junior handles complicated situations. So, for instance, if there is a dog presenting more of a challenge, but that dog’s handler is doing everything he or she can and displaying good skills, they should have every opportunity to place as high as the Junior whose dog is perfectly behaved and responsive. Additionally, it’s really nice when you have a Juniors judge who is willing to give their time and some extra feedback after the class. Not all judges are the same. Some judges take more time, thoroughly assessing each handler. There are also judges who seem to know who their top pick is before any handling really begins.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? No, not at this time—but I plan to.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Yes, definitely. Breed preservation is extremely important, and it should be to every breeder of purebred dogs. This is what keeps your dog’s breed authentic and true to the purpose, function, and structure of the breed. Without breed preservation, there will be more problems in health and temperament, and deviations from the traditional overall appearance of the breed. I am currently getting health clearances done on my champion Papillon. My experienced AKC breeder is going to help me select a champion bitch that will produce true to the breed standard.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? Yes. I have found a true passion for dog showing and dog performance competitions. I would really like to work for a Professional Handler, so that I can further my education. My goals are to hone my own dog handling skills in the ring and fully understanding everything I can about as manydog breeds as possible. I would like to achieve this by training and handling a vast variety of different purebred dogs. I definitely have plans to continue in this sport after I’ve aged-out. Dog showing is exhilarating, and addictive, and quickly becoming a way of life.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? Forrest, my Papillon, is so much more than just a dog to me. He tries so hard for me every time, and I can always rely on him. He’s very intelligent and is the reason for my career in dog sports. I don’t know what I would do without him.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? Nothing too funny has happened. But when I was flying to Orlando for the AKC National, I met another girl with her dog in a carrier while waiting in line to board the plane. I was seated in the row next to her, and it turned out that she was also a Junior Handler traveling from Illinois to the same dog show!

Lily Bennett

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogI live in Sacramento, California, and I’ve been homeschooled online at Peak Prep Academy for three years now.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I do charity work and am an ambassador with Angels On Wheels Toy Drive, Wagon Angels, Highschool Challenge, and Curvy Chic Fashion show. I normally take most of the month of March from dog shows just to attend these charity events. Aside from charity work, I enjoy going to Comic Cons, casually playing volleyball, and playing on my PS-4. I don’t have a job yet, but I’d love to have one.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? I did not grow up in a dog family, but I did start when I was nine in AKC and 4-H, and have been around animals ever since I was little. My main breeds are the Cirneco dell’Etna, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Belgian Tervuren, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and Boston Terrier.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced to Junior Showmanship in 2016 through 4-H, completely by accident. I started showing in AKC Junior Showmanship a few months later with my Miniature American Shepherd. A couple months later, I met my Cirneco, and started learning “bigger” dogs with German Shorthaired Pointers.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? The first time I showed in Juniors, I showed my MAS, Ginger. My first win made me feel so accomplished and proud that I wanted to do it again and again, because it was so much fun with a dog I’d trained myself.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? Most all of my dogs get a small pep talk before we go into the ring. Sometimes, I’ll sing to them, which puts them at ease. My one “good luck charm” has always been Sea Turtles; I have a small stuffed animal that goes to almost every show with me.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I don’t normally assess my competition because I don’t feel the need to. I just focus on my dog, the judge, and me when I’m in the ring as this keeps me more focused. Most everyone is a good sport, besides the few sour apples that I’ve seen throw their ribbons on the floor and stomp off.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Most judges I have had genuinely enjoy the Juniors ring because they like seeing the future of the sport grow. Most judges are gracious and patient with the Novice Juniors, but give the Open Seniors a challenge, which the Open Seniors enjoy. But I’ve also had judges mistake my dog for a different breed—more than once. This is very frustrating to me as I’ve had to politely educate them in the ring about my breed.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? I’ve assisted a few Professional Handlers, but I’ve stopped recently to focus on my studies and my plans for my kennel. I have a few mentors in the sport, and I love them dearly.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? I have a few memorable wins that are my favorites, such as my two back-to-back Best in Show wins with a Standard Manchester (2019), Best Junior Handler of California (2019), Best of Breed at Royal Canin with my Cirnceo dell‘Etna (2019), and two NOHS BIS with my Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (2021).

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? As I show many different breeds, it is very important to me that I memorize each breed standard so that I can show each dog to the best of my ability. Knowing how to show each breed’s standard has taught me how to correctly accentuate each part of the dog.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I believe every breed is good for Juniors, because Junior Showmanship is about showing your breed to its breed standard and showing how well you know the standard.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? Judges should know the breed of dog the Junior is showing. Every judge judges differently, and it is a matter of their own opinion. They each look for something different, no matter which breed the Junior is showing.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? Yes, I have co-bred Boston Terriers and Cirnechi. I am a Breeder of Merit with Boston Terriers. Breeding dogs has taught me how important health testing is and how genetics comes into play.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Yes, breeding is something I am starting to pursue, and preserving my breeds is very important to me. I love breeding dogs to keep their original purpose; as you see many dog breeds starting to disappear.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged out? I am starting college and AP classes, so I’ll graduate with my AA, a degree in business and animal sciences. Hopefully, a judging license somewhere along the way, as I’d still love to keep active in the sport.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? I have many personal dogs that I show, and I love them all dearly. They all have their specific quirks. To me, my dogs are my best friends and they all show me unconditional love and affection. They’re my world.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? I have quite a few, but my favorite ones are when I was at the Saluki National at Purina Farms. I was gaiting with my dog and, almost in slow motion, my shoe not-so-gracefully landed quite a few feet outside the ring. To my amazement, nobody handed it back to me. So, I ran the rest of the way barefoot. My other favorite is that whenever I am in the German Shorthair ring, I seem to always fall at least once that weekend in the ring, no matter which dog I am showing.

Audrey Boyer

 Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogMy name is Audrey Boyer, and I am 13 years old. Some of you may know me as “Whippet Girl.” I show my dogs in Conformation and Juniors. I also take my dogs to Dock Diving, Straight Track Racing, and limited Lure Coursing. We love to take them hiking too. My dogs, Disco, Yoshi, and Ella, are the best Whippets I could ever ask for! I also show Tyson in the Doberman ring. I am looking forward to the upcoming show season. If you would like to see some of my artwork and happenings, you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WhippetGirlAudreyBoyer and on Instagram @Whippet.Girl

I just moved to Cupertino, California, from San Jose this past month. Since school has been virtual, I will be finishing this year at my current school (Ida Price Middle School), but will be going to Monta Vista High School in the fall.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Besides purebred dogs, I enjoy drawing and doing digital artwork. I have always enjoyed drawing animals (and, of course, purebred dogs!) on paper. I typically do pencil sketches. However, I have been doing more digital art. Lately, I have been drawing commissions of pet portraits.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? I have had dogs all my life. The first dogs we had were Pitbulls, and then we got Bulldogs. As we learned more about breeds, we became a Whippet home. We really love their versatility and goofy personality! They are wonderful dogs because they can do Showmanship/Juniors as well as some fun dog sports.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? Our breeder, Erin Campbell, DVM, asked us if we were looking for a pet or a show dog. We had not thought about it, but showing sounded like fun! We got Disco when I was eight years old. I did a Pee Wee Class with him, but went right into Juniors at nine years old.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? My first was in Napa. Mr. Bill Shelton was our judge. He was a really nice judge. Disco and I placed second in our class of five or six kids. I was really proud of that. It was a great experience!

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? Before I go into the ring, I prepare by warming up my dog and doing focus exercises with him. Whippets can be funny about paying attention… or NOT! Some days, they have a hard time, especially when it’s really cold or windy. It’s important for me to re-connect with him before asking him to work for me. I do like to wear a necklace that my Uncle Robbie made for me out of black pearl and raw sapphire. I have had some really nice wins while wearing it, including a 5-point specialty major win with Yoshi!

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? You can typically see who is working their dog outside the ring before ring time. The handlers who do really well are focused with their dog, and have a good connection. In the Juniors ring, most everyone is really nice and a good sport. We sometimes chat ringside before and after the classes. I have made some of my best friends doing Juniors. In the breed ring, most people are really nice as well. Sometimes you can tell that the adults don’t always like getting placed behind a kid!

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? I think that most really enjoy judging Juniors, especially those with a smile on their face while they are judging the classes. These are my favorite judges. You can tell that they appreciate our hard work and our love for our dogs.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? I do have a few people who have helped me and mentored me in the sport. My mom is my first and biggest mentor. I also have a couple of great teachers, including my dog’s breeder, and conformation instructors Brad Briscoe, Jennifer Underwood, and Nitsa Traylor. They are always encouraging me and pushing me to be my best. Bill and Taffe McFadden have been mentoring me as well, and have allowed me to be part of their camp. They have been teaching me lots about grooming and handling. I especially appreciate the grooming needed for Poodles!

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? Any memorable losses? I would say that my most memorable wins would be the Whippet Specialty wins. I handled Ginger (the Whippet) to her Championship with a final 4-point major at our local specialty. Most recently, Yoshi got his first major at the SoCal specialties with a 5-point major over 31 class dogs! I was super proud! I would also say that the most memorable loss was a good one. Disco went Best of Breed at the Anderson shows, and Mr. Donavon Thompson pulled us for the final cut in the Group ring. There were some beautiful Hounds in the Group, and I honestly felt like they deserved the wins. I appreciate the fact that he didn’t place us, but he did acknowledge us.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Whippets are a running breed. They are bred to have efficient gaits, moving smoothly and low to the ground (not lifting up from the front feet). When I show my Whippets, I want to make sure that they are gaiting next to me, naturally (not pulling their head up). I do my best to run/gait with them, to help keep them at their best speed. For examination, I usually show them on a ramp, but sometimes on a table. I try to let them step into their stack before I start moving their feet, because a well-balanced dog can usually set themselves up correctly. And again, Hounds can be funny about “don’t touch me!” Having GREAT snacks is a must!

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I think it is going to depend on the Junior. Everyone has their level of experience and what is going to be best for them. I have seen some Juniors do an incredible job with Dobermans. However, my grandma’s Dobe is still learning. I have tried to use him for Juniors, but he and I still have some training to do before we’re ready. At some point, I would like to use Tyson for Juniors. He’s gorgeous and lots of fun!

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? I think it’s important for judges to understand that we’re kids! We do this because we enjoy it and it’s fun. When we get really tough criticism, it can feel harsh. We appreciate the feedback, but it’s nice getting it a little softer. I have, however, learned more from my loses (and the feedback from those loses) than from my wins.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have not bred/co-bred a litter. However, my dog, Disco, has been a stud to a couple of litters that I had the opportunity to be part of. We kept Yoshi out of his first litter, and we got to visit them as five-week-old puppies. We co-own Ella out of his second litter (but she lives mostly with us), and got to visit her litter even more because my breeder lives pretty close. It was amazing to watch them grow up and to see their personalities develop, even as tiny babies!

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? At this time, purebred dogs breeding is not something that I have interest in doing. However, preservation breeding is very important. We’ve taken lots of steps to health test our dogs as well as get them titled in Conformation AND Field events. My dogs were bred to be fast and agile. It’s important to preserve that piece of them, and to keep that going in their lines, as well as good health.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I know my future will involve animals. I would like to make sure that it also includes my artwork as well. I really enjoy dog sports and dog showing, and I don’t have any plans of stopping. I will continue to show my dogs and help to bring the best out in them—both in the ring and out.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My Juniors dog, Disco, was retired at the start of COVID. Since then, his son, Yoshi, has become my new Juniors dog. We are still a new Juniors team, and he can be QUITE SILLY. But, he does do his best. I do have to work extra hard to keep him engaged or I will lose his attention—fast. He will let me know if he’s having a “don’t touch me” day, and I have to adjust my technique to his mood. That being said, he’s a special boy with a lot of personality. He is my favorite “cuddler.” I know that we have lots to learn and grow, but I’m happy to do it with him.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? There are a couple of times, when I either fell or almost fell, that were pretty funny. At the Borzoi Specialty, there was a hole that I didn’t see and I went feet up (dress and everything)! I was embarrassed, but kept going and did pretty well. I guess I can say that I learned you just have to ignore the small stuff. No one will remember your fall, but you will remember it if you let it ruin your performance. We only have a few minutes in the ring, so make them count.

Laura Bussard

 Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogI live in Seattle, Washington, and go to Nathan Hale High School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? Outside of dog shows and purebred dogs, I compete on my school’s varsity tennis and soccer teams. I am also a part of my school’s mock trial, FCCLA, and environmental club. My other hobbies include horseback riding, reading, and hiking.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? My family didn’t have any dogs until I was 10, when we got our first Rhodesian Ridgeback, Jasper. From that point on we fell in love with Ridgebacks, and went on to add three more to our family. Along with Ridgebacks, we have one Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I started competing in Junior Showmanship when I was 10 years old. Jasper was still a puppy and a bit of a wild child, so I took my breeder’s Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lottie, into Juniors. My very first show was at the Seattle Kennel Club. Leading up to the show, I practiced with Lottie and took a few handling classes, so I was really excited. I was also really excited to show Lottie because we were both 10 years old, and I thought it was so cool that we were the same age. I remember having trouble stacking her back legs because my arms were a bit too short, but Lottie was super patient with me. That day, I won my Novice Junior class, which got me hooked onto dog shows.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I got into Juniors because my mom was starting to show Jasper, and I wanted to try showing too. Jasper was too headstrong and young for me to handle, so we decided that I should try Juniors with an older and more experienced Rhodesian Ridgeback.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? The way I prepare my dog before showing varies depending on which dog I’m showing—and the weather. Maintaining their condition is something that we take very seriously. No matter if I have a show or not, the dogs all get daily exercise. Before the show, the dogs get a “spa day” where I bathe them, do their nails, and curry comb them. On the day of the show, I like to get them really excited by talking and playing with them before we show. And right before the ring, I show them a special piece of bait and give them a kiss on their head. I normally don’t need to do much to prepare myself mentally, aside from listening to music. As long as my dogs are prepared, I’m prepared.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I tend to not assess or assume anything about my competition, we are all showing animals that won’t always be perfect. I try to go into the ring with the mentality that everyone will have an amazing performance, which pushes me to perform my best. In my experience, the majority of Juniors and their parents have always been very supportive and kind towards each other. I love how we help each other out, from giving rides to the shows and sharing bait and spray bottles ringside, to clapping and cheering each other on in Best Junior.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Overall, my experience with Juniors judges has been that they are really excited to see the future of the sport. Occasionally, a judge will come along and want a very particular style of handling, with a particular breed of dog, but the majority of time I feel that the judging is very fair and sincere.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? I have assisted multiple Professional Handlers, including Andy Linton, Christy Marley, and Darcy and Anthony Cantor. All four have been incredibly supportive of my dog show journey. One of my mentors is Isabela Mailman, my Rhodesian Ridgeback’s breeder at Sweet Creek Rhodesian Ridgebacks. She has taught me a lot about Ridgebacks, conditioning, breeding, and training.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? In 2018, I qualified to compete in Junior Showmanship at the 2019 Westminster Kennel Club for the first time. I showed Jasper and made it to the final cut in the preliminaries. I was super proud of Jasper and really thrilled with how we showed. Other memorable wins include when we were ranked #1 Hound Junior Handler for 2018 and 2019, and in 2019, we ended the year as #5 Junior Handler All-Breed.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Rhodesian Ridgebacks, like any breed, have their own challenges surrounding showing, the biggest of which is that they are super smart. Every Ridgeback is so unique that you have to spend time and bond with each dog to know what will and what won’t work. In Juniors, I tend to show as I would in the regular Breed ring. I want the dog (not me) to draw the judge’s eye. In order to do this, I zone in on my dog and try to pick up on any shift in his concentration. I accentuate my dog in the ring by framing my dog and creating a “pretty picture.”

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? Overall, I would say, yes, but it depends on the Junior. For example, a lot of Juniors seem to choose breeds that are a bit flashy and obedient, but some Juniors also pick less popular breeds.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? One thing that I feel Judges should know about judging Juniors is that it is very helpful when they explain what they were critiquing you on right
before placements.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I bred one litter of Rhodesian Ridgebacks last summer and I learned so much! We had a litter of 13 beautiful Ridgebacks, which was one of the most challenging (but rewarding) experiences of my life. I learned so much, from how to bottle feed puppies, doing “ninja turtles” (where you stimulate the puppies for a few seconds every day by putting them on cool surfaces, tickling their feet, etc.), to caring for newborn puppies, and learning how to properly evaluate the dogs at eight weeks of age.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Purebred dogs and breeding is definitely something that I can see in my future. However, it would have to be the right time and dog.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I have a couple of goals for my future in the dog showing world; the biggest is finishing my nine-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Coco, (who is from the litter of 13 that we bred). While I have fully trained and taught Coco, she has taught me a lot as well.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My current show dogs are Coco, Thistle, and occasionally, Jasper. All three of them, plus our other two dogs, Olive and Skylar, mean the world to me because they are a part of my family. Coco is incredibly special to me because she is the first dog that I have bred and fully trained. We’ve been a team since the moment she was born. Thistle is the sweetest dog, and I love being her partner in crime within the ring. Jasper is my heart dog and best friend. He can always make me smile and he makes my heart happy. He’s currently semi-retired, but he loves to occasionally come out to strut his stuff in the ring!

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? A funny story that I experienced showing in Juniors was at the very first show that I competed in. I was in Best Junior and the judge asked us to go around the ring one at a time. When it came to be my turn, Lottie saw a piece of bait on the ground and dived for it. Then I lost my shoe! Luckily, Lottie quickly regained composure, let me put my shoe back on, and we continued to run around the ring. It was intimidating for 10-year-old me in the moment, but looking back, it is pretty funny.

Izzy Eaton

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogI live in central Massachusetts, and I’m in the 8th grade at Tahanto Middle/High school.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Besides purebred dogs, I like to travel to new places, and spend time with my friends.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? My family has had Great Danes since before I was born.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced through my Aunt Rachel’s first show Dane. I would watch her show—and I saw kids in the ring. I wanted to give it a try, and started showing when I was nine.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I remember going in the ring and not really knowing what I was doing. But I had a blast, and couldn’t wait to do it again!

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I make sure to get my dog groomed with plenty of time to spare. I always head to the ring at least ten minutes early to give myself, and my dog, time to settle in before it’s time to go in the ring. My best dog show pal, Katie, and I always high-five each other for good luck before we go into Juniors.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? In my area, we all know each other, and everyone is usually a good sport. We always congratulate the class winners.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Most often, the judges seem to like spending time judging the Juniors. But I have encountered some judges who seemed to not be enjoying themselves. It is definitely a nice experience when you have a kind and positive judge.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? My mentor who has trained me is Debra Metcalf-Morris. I have been training with her for six years. She has taught me so many things about so many breeds. She is more than a mentor, she is family, and I don’t know where I would be without her!

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? My first all-breed Best Junior with my French Bulldog, Jaime, was an awesome memory. Also, helping to put championships on several dogs that I co-own has been amazing!

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? I have several breeds that I show regularly; Great Danes, French Bulldogs, Beagles, and Clumber Spaniels. Each breed has its unique characteristics, and different ways to make them shine in the ring.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? No, I think it’s all about what you put into it, and which breed your heart belongs to. I started with a young and stubborn Great Dane who really made me work. Although it wasn’t always easy, he taught me so much and gave me the confidence to handle anything in the ring. He will always hold a special place in my heart.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? No, all judges are not the same. I think it is important for Juniors judges to know how each breed they will be judging is shown, since each breed is shown differently.

Have you bred or co-bred a litter? No. I have not bred or co-bred, but I hope to in the future.

Is breed preservation important to me? Breed preservation is very important in order to preserve this sport, and for the preservation of purebred dogs in general.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? My goals for the future are to go to veterinary school and work part-time as a Professional Handler.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? I am blessed to share a special bond with all of the dogs I show, but I have an extra special connection with my Harlequin Great Dane, Riddick.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? Well, when I was younger, I was on the ground presenting my Frenchie. As I went to stand up, my foot was on the back of my skirt and, when I stood up, my skirt fell down. Luckily, I don’t think many people noticed!

Sofia Eaton

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogI live in central Massachusetts, and I am in the 6th grade at Tahanto Middle School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs?  Besides purebred dogs, my hobbies are playing softball and spending time with my friends.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? I grew up with Great Danes, an English Mastiff, and a Bulldog. We now have a Great Dane and a Beagle.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? My older sister was a Junior Handler, and I wanted to give it a try. My handling instructor, Debra Metcalf-Morris, introduced me to her Beagle, Journey, and we quickly became a team. I started showing when I was eight years old.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? The first time I showed in Juniors, I was very nervous. I placed second in my class, and felt more comfortable each time I went in the ring.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I make sure that my dogs are groomed to perfection. And, to get them warmed up, I always practice with my dogs right before I go in the ring.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? Everyone is usually a good sport; most of the Juniors get along well.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Most of the judges will engage with the Juniors, and make them feel comfortable.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? My mentor is Debra Metcalf-Morris. She got me into Beagles, and has taught me everything I know. I love her lots!

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? My most memorable wins are: All of the Best Veterans with Journey, my Beagle; Neil’s Best of Breed from the 6-9 Puppy Class, and getting Best Junior Handler at the Beagle National.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Every time I go in the ring, I make sure that my dogs look clean; I spend about a half hour grooming them.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? It really depends on the person. Anyone can show any breed they want to, if they feel confident in themselves and in their dog.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? I think some judges look for kids who really have to work harder with their dogs, which is good. It shows that they reward those who put in the effort.

Have you bred or co-bred a litter? I have not bred a litter yet, but I would like to.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? I may breed purebred dogs in the future; I would love to learn!

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I would love to keep showing in the future. One of my goals is to get a Westminster Group placement with my Beagle. I also plan to become a doctor in the future; I love learning about medicine.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My current dog, Neil, is my first Beagle who is all mine. He means so much to me because he is the first dog I fully trained myself. He is my best friend, and I am so grateful to Mary Cummings for trusting me with him!

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? My first time in the Juniors ring, my dog, Journey, stuck his head through the ring gate—I didn’t think I would be able to get it out!

Emma Gallaway

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogI fell in love with animals at a young age, and I’ve had them my whole life. I started with mostly Sporting dogs. However, a Maltese caught my eye and I’ve never looked back. I know it’s rare for a Maltese to be shown in Juniors, but I love a challenge. He’s my best friend and my teammate in the ring.

I am from Moses Lake, Washington, where I attended high school, and I now live in Plano, Texas, where I am employed.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Besides purebred dogs, I love dance, spending time with friends, and seeing new things when we travel. Do I have a job? Yes, I am a Professional
Handler’s Assistant.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? Yes and no… My family participated in Field Trial events, but I am the first to compete in Conformation.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced to Junior Showmanship through Performance Events.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? My mentor is Tara Martin Rowell, since I show a Maltese in Juniors. I felt that she would be able to help me the best! Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? Yes, and I am currently working for Tara and JD Rowell in Texas.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? A more recent win that I am proud of was making finals at Royal Canin this past year.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Things that are important to point out on a Maltese is their head and beautiful white coat. I accentuate these through my hand movements in the ring and by the care of my dogs hair.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I believe any breed is a good breed for Juniors, and it is up to each individual to show their breed to its best.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Patience is a virtue! Are all judges the same? No, thank goodness, because if they were it wouldn’t be a competition.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? Not yet.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Yes. Is breed preservation important to me? It is very important, and I am excited to be a part of the next generation.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I do see myself continuing in the sport. I would like to be a breeder and handler myself.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? He is my first ever show dog and will always be my
heart dog.

Cassidy Hayes

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogHi! My name is Cassidy Hayes, and I’m currently in my seventh year of showing in Juniors, but my family entered the show world way before I began my Juniors career. I show my dogs all over the country and in many different states, but I show primarily in the Midwest. My main Juniors dog is my Pug, Ozzie, but I also show and breed Basset Hounds. My goal is to encourage new Juniors to enter the sport and love purebred dogs the way I do!

I live in Greenwood, Indiana, which is a suburb of Indianapolis, and I’m a Junior at Whiteland High School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I don’t really have any big hobbies outside of the purebred dogs world; I do have a part-time job, and it’s actually at a dog kennel/doggy daycare called PetSuites. It’s hard to balance school, shows, and work, but I enjoy the challenge!

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? My family started showing dogs when I was a toddler, so I’ve definitely grown up in the sport. Our original breed was the Basset Hound, but we now breed and show Pugs as well.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? Like I said, my family started showing when I was super young, so it was always kind of assumed that I would start Juniors when I turned nine. I showed in the Juniors ring for the first time a week after my 9th birthday!

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? Well, I remember I got so nervous that I ended up stacking my Basset the wrong way on the exam, and totally blocked the judge’s view! Looking back now, it was super embarrassing, but thankfully, the judge was super nice about it and let me fix it.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I’ve always used my “lucky lead” on Ozzie, no matter how many repairs we’ve had to do on it! I also swear by wearing exactly three rubber bands, every time, and my dogs and I always have a pep talk and extra loving before we show.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I personally feel that the Midwest is a super competitive area of the country for Juniors. There are a lot of us who have grown up together and we definitely switch off wins around here! There will always be bad apples, but, for the most part, I think most Juniors that I compete with are good sports and are happy to see each
other win.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Most Juniors judges that I’ve encountered do their best to be pleasant and they seem to enjoy their assignment. With such big entries, often filled of talent, I’m sure it can be overwhelming to pick your winner. But most of them smile to everyone and give words of encouragement to all of the Juniors.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? My dad is definitely my biggest mentor; he critiques my handling and always points out what is great and what needs improvement—and he keeps me motivated. I wouldn’t know a thing about the show world if it weren’t for him! I would say that I have many other mentors in the show world, in different ways; mentors in each of my breeds, Juniors mentors, and those who simply give me tips or words of encouragement when needed.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? I’m definitely very proud of any win I’ve been awarded with my dogs. For one, the 2019 Louisville Cluster is probably my most memorable. On Saturday, I won Best Junior in the all-breed show (Louisville’s entries can get close to 100 Juniors!) as well as Best Junior with both my Pug and my Basset at their corresponding specialties. We always call that day, when we won three Best Juniors in one day, “The Louisville Trifecta!”

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? The breed-specific presentation is different for each dog I show. As for my main Juniors dog, my Pug, Ozzie, I definitely accentuate his beautiful headpiece the most. Pugs are a head breed, and showing off their flat, pigmented faces with lots of expression is something I always try to focus on. And for any Toy breed, I think a light and gentle hand, and a petite style of handling, are key to creating a beautiful picture.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I definitely think so! I don’t think it’s impossible to win with any breed, but I think some may just be “flashier” or a prettier picture to watch. Also, I think it depends a lot on the dog itself and on the Junior’s connection with it. Even the least flashy of breeds can do great in Juniors if there’s a strong connection with the handler, and these bonds show in the ring.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? Not all judges are the same, and some definitely have more knowledge on certain breeds and Groups than others! I think it’s just important to give each Junior his or her “time to shine” and to also give us a chance to show off the different things that we can do. I don’t personally feel that Juniors should be entirely a free-stacking competition, which I often notice it seems to be, because not all dogs will beautifully free-stack five or six times in a short timespan.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have been helping to whelp Basset litters with my parents for several years now, but I officially co-bred my first Pug litter this year! I’ve learned puppies are definitely a lot of work and sometimes frustration, but it’s all worth it because watching your puppies grow up into beautiful show dogs is very rewarding.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? I would love to continue breeding in the years to come. Breed preservation is extremely important because without it, we wouldn’t even have the dogs that we do, and dog shows wouldn’t be possible.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I plan to graduate high school this December, then go to college to study and become a nurse practitioner. I will be continuing in the dog world, especially in breeding and showing my own dogs, but I don’t really foresee myself becoming a Professional Handler.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My current Juniors dog is my four-year-old Pug, Ozzie. I think most people would say we definitely have a very strong bond, and I truly consider him to be my heart dog. I’ve grown substantially since I started showing him, and he’s taken me on an amazing journey. Not only is he my Juniors dog, he’s also my pet and bed buddy, first and foremost!

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? One time, when I was about 10, I was showing in Grayslake, Illinois, and my shoe laces kept coming untied in the ring. I couldn’t get them tied by myself! So, here’s me, a little girl in a sparkly dress with a slow, stubborn Basset trotting along next to me with some untied shoes. The judge eventually leaned down and tied my shoe laces for me before my down and back. My parents were dying laughing and now, looking back, it was pretty funny.

Gabriella Hernandez

Purebred Dogs Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her Purebred DogMy name is Gabriella Hernandez, and I go by Ella. I’m 17 years old. Since I was little, I have always been an animal person. But the one animal I begged for—from ages 3-13—was a Poodle! This is 100% my heart breed, and I wouldn’t trade a second with them for anything.

I live in Brooksville, Florida, and I am a senior at Hernando High School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I love to paint, more specifically, acrylic. I don’t have a job, but I do plan to work part-time over the summer.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? Yes, I have grown up around dogs. My breed is the Standard Poodle.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced to Junior Showmanship by my Obedience instructor, Linda Buffa. I started competing in December of 2020.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I remember how terrifying it was, and feeling like I had no idea where to go or what to do.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? My biggest thing is making sure that I relax and breathe. I know that if I get stressed, Lili will get stressed and neither one of us will be performing at our best.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? Everyone I’ve met so far has been very nice and everyone has good sportsmanship. If you don’t place in the top four, you say congratulations to those who did and do what you can to perform better next time.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? All the judges I’ve met have seemed to enjoy the Juniors ring.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? I have, perhaps, the best mentor I could have asked for, Kay Peiser. She has helped me to better understand the Poodle breed. Watching her handle her dogs has helped me become a better handler as well.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? I am very proud of placing second in Elkton in a large class. It was the largest class I’ve ever been in (I believe there were 13 of us) and placing that high boosted my confidence a lot.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Proper grooming is HUGE with Poodles, as everyone knows. One of the things that is also important while handling Poodles is to make sure the tail is always up.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I think the answer to this really depends on how much work the Junior is willing to put into the dog. I was told Poodles are a difficult breed to handle, and that’s why not many Juniors have them. I love Poodles, so I continuously put in the work to keep learning and growing. You can show whichever breed you want to show, just put forth the effort.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? After the class has been judged, I’ve come to enjoy it when the judge tells us, on our way out of the ring, what we need to improve. It gives us an idea of what we need to work on to do better at the next show.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have not co-bred a litter.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Yes, I will pursue breeding. Breed preservation is very important and I would love to join other breeders in helping to better this breed.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I am fully committed to continuing in this sport after I age-out this summer.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? Lili is my best friend. We do just about everything together—short of taking her to school with me because she won’t fit in my backpack. She is crazy at times, but overall, she’s the most lovable dog I’ve ever had.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? When Lili was a puppy, she got excited in the ring and started jumping around and spinning in circles. When it happened, I was a little embarrassed. But now, I look back at the video and laugh.

Ryley Kirkland

Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogI’m 15 years old. I live in South Carolina, and I’m homeschooled.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? Some other hobbies I have are being a singer/songwriter and, basically, my job is being a handler’s assistant!

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? Yes, both of my parents are handlers, and I’m third generation. So, I’ve always been in it! My breeds are Wire Fox Terriers and Treeing Walker Coonhounds.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I started competing as soon as I turned nine and was eligible for Juniors!

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I remember going in and acting like I knew exactly what I was doing with my little Australian Terrier, which was my original breed and what I was raised with. I won my class every day of the show, therefore, automatically moving up into Open after my first show
in Juniors!

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I just go in without even thinking because, if I do any prepping with my dog, he won’t want to show in the ring! I actually do have a necklace that I feel is my good luck charm—it has my dog’s name on it!

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? Everyone is definitely not always a good sport! I just try to be as nice and supportive of everyone as possible, because you don’t see this a lot, unfortunately.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Most judges seem to enjoy the Juniors ring because, if not, in my opinion, they shouldn’t be judging it! I wouldn’t want to see a judge not liking to judge the future of our sport.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Yes. I grew up having the mentor, Tracy Szaras, who is a very well-respected handler. Also, my mother and stepfather, June Beckwith, and Zack Helmer.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? Yes, for sure! Some of my best wins are last year of Royal Canin, which was my last year there in Open Intermediate. Me and my Treeing Walker Coonhound, Bullet, won a huge class all of the days except one. We went on to win Reserve Best Junior out of a lot of Juniors! We also made it to the finals, which is a huge deal!! Another win that I will always cherish is back-to-back Reserve Best Juniors at the Philly shows (which are huge shows) with my Wire Fox! My Walker and I also finished the year, last year, being the Number 1 Junior in the country! And we have stayed in the Top 4 this year as well as No. 1 Hound!

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? I have a very flashy boy, so there are many little tricks I have to make him more noticeable. One of my favorites is standing back and letting him stand there as a Hound should!

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? People would definitely say so, but they would only say that because some breeds are flashier than others, so you stand out more. But I can do different things to make each breed flashy, so no!

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? I think judges should really focus more on the relationship the Juniors have with their dogs. You can see how much they put into that dog and how hard they have to work for it, instead of putting easy dogs up; because Juniors who have to work for it, and succeed, could show any dog they go into the ring with, and Juniors with perfect, push-button dogs probably can’t truly handle a hard dog! All judges are definitely not the same, which isn’t the greatest because they should all be looking for the same thing… a good “professional” Junior.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have not been listed as a co-breeder or breeder, but have my first litter coming soon. I have, in fact, whelped a litter by myself though!

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Yes, it definitely is. I want to breed for the betterment of my breeds, meaning health and personality-wise, and the bonus… a pretty dog.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? My goals for the future are definitely, at some point, to be a Professional Handler. But also, on the sideline, to try to pursue entrepreneurship or my “influencer” dreams!

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My relationship with my current two main Juniors dogs is absolutely insane! My hound and I have the strongest connection. We are always so in sync and, together, you can just tell he’s my heart dog! He was also one of the hardest dogs I’ve ever trained, so he’s a huge accomplishment! Then there’s my English Setter who absolutely has a passion for me, so when we’re in the ring together we’re always as one.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? I don’t really have any of those except that my hound, Bullet, is an absolute goofball and crazy puppy. We’ve had plenty of times where he has jumped, literally, six feet in the air after a perfect free stack! You’ll never see him not being goofy!!!

Alexandra Lorenti

Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogAlexandra “Allie” Lorenti is a 17-year-old Junior handler from the Philadelphia area. She started in Conformation at the age of 13. She also has experience in Hunt Training and Testing, Rally, and Agility. Her breed is the Vizsla.

I live in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and I am a Junior at Methacton
High School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Outside of dog activities, I am an avid reader and writer.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed? I did not grow up in dog sports. However, I always had dogs growing up. When I was born, our family Vizsla, Sammy, was three years old. Sammy and I grew up together. Since his passing, my family and I have gotten three more Vizslas; Louie, Sparrow Jean, and Quimby. All of them participate in various dog sports with me.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced to Junior Showmanship when I was 12. My mom and I went to the Philadelphia Kennel Club show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, to meet our soon-to-be breeders, Susan and Berkeley Thompson, for the first time. I watched Berkeley, who was 16 at the time, show her dog, Crew, in the breed ring, and I instantly fell in love with the sport. I begged my mom for a show dog—and it all started there.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? The first time I showed as a Junior was at the Valley Forge Kennel Club show in 2017. I was 13 years old, and my dog’s breeders let me show their veteran, Paisley. I remember loving it and I could not wait to show again the next day. I am forever grateful to have had the chance to show Paisley as my first Juniors dog. She is full of personality and is so fun to show.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? Whenever I show, I wear a locket with some ashes of my first Vizsla, Sammy. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a good luck charm, but it reminds me that, win or lose, I am there because I love spending time with
my dogs.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? When I watch other Juniors show, I try not to worry too much about how “good” they are. I try to stay focused on the dog I am showing that day and what I have to do to make him/her show their best. Most of the Juniors I have shown with are good sports. Of course, everyone wants to win, but with a few exceptions, everyone is really supportive of each other.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? All judges seem to be different in their approach to Juniors. I have shown under many judges who love the Juniors and enjoy having them in their ring. On the other hand, I have seen judges treat Junior Showmanship as just another assignment.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? My dog’s breeder, Berkeley Thompson, is my mentor. She taught me everything I know about Juniors and so much about just showing dogs in general. I still ask her for advice all the time. I have also worked for a few different Professional Handlers. I also learn a lot by doing, and I am not afraid to take a new dog/breed into the ring. My family has many friends and acquaintances with show dogs, so I have had the opportunity to try many different breeds. They like to give me the wiggly puppies, or the shy dogs, or the dogs new to showing, which I actually really enjoy.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? One win I am particularly proud of is my first Best Junior. I was showing my Vizsla, Louie, at the time. Louie is my neutered house dog who never saw the inside of a show ring until he was two. There was a time that, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I found myself without a Juniors dog. So, I started training Louie to show. After a few months of going dead last in my class, I finally got him trained. We went Best Junior from the Intermediate Class over a Master. It was my very first Best Junior, and it was with a “non-show” dog that I trained myself with no help, which made it that much
more special.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? My breed is a Sporting breed, so I think movement is really important. They need to move swiftly and purposefully, with reach and drive. I show six different Vizslas, and they do not all move exactly the same. I am very careful about not dragging the slower one, and about moving the puppy at a pace that does not bring out her “puppy paddle,” etc. My male is a great mover, so I am working on getting him to move out in front of me.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I do think that some breeds are better suited for Junior Showmanship. If it is difficult to make a dog/breed look smooth and polished, it is probably not a great Juniors dog. I also think that people tend to fall for the flashier dogs. But it has been my experience that, no matter the breed, you will most likely be more successful with a dog that you have a relationship with. I showed a Siberian for a while, and even though he was an amazing dog, I have had more success with the Vizslas. They are my breed and they are the dogs I live with and love.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? All judges are not the same! I wish there was more consistency in Juniors judging. If I could ask Juniors judges to judge according to one guideline, it would be: Judge the Junior and not the dog!

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have bred a litter. My Vizsla, Sparrow, had a litter of six beautiful puppies last summer. I learned so much! I was there for the whelping, which was amazing. Afterward, I learned a ton about caring for newborn puppies; weighing them every day, tending to dew claw removal and tail docking, feeding and weaning, and exposing them to different types of stimulation (different surfaces, sounds, etc.) I also learned that it’s hard to let them go, but we picked a great group of families.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? I will continue to breed with my mom for now. After college, I will decide if I want to continue breeding on my own. I do think it’s very important to breed for the love and preservation of the breed.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I have certain goals that I want to reach this year. These include earning a bronze grand championship on my special, Quimby, having another litter, and finishing my bred-by puppy, Giggles. After these goals are reached, I would love to continue showing. Unfortunately, I will be going to college next year, so my time will be limited.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My current dog is my 22-month-old Vizsla named Quimby. He is a compassionate dog who is very in tune to human emotions. He can tell when I am sad or hurt, and he does everything in his power to try and comfort me. In the show ring, he is on the more difficult side to show. However, it is good to have a challenging dog because I am constantly learning and it makes every win that much more rewarding.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? My funniest Juniors story is about my first Juniors dog, Paisley. One day, Juniors was immediately following Poodles. On our down and back, Paisley was, apparently, lunging for a tuft of Poodle hair that was floating just ahead of us on the mat. Everyone saw it but me, because I was so focused on trying to get her to cooperate. (I just couldn’t imagine what was wrong with her, she was usually so focused.) I looked up from our free-stack to see the judge cracking up along with everyone in and outside the ring. Of course, we did not win that day. But we had a good laugh.

Alizabeth Lude

Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogMy name is Alizabeth Lude, and I show a Collie. I was the Number 1 Collie Junior in 2019 and 2020. On top of that, we ranked Number 6 in 2019 and number 5 in 2020 in the Herding Group. I have enjoyed my time as a Junior, especially showing at Westminster and at Royal Canin. It is bittersweet that I will age-out at the end of this year.

I live in Colerain, Ohio. I go to high school online, but I am a CCP student, so I take classes at Belmont College.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I ride horses and enjoy doing outdoor activities. I work as an STNA at a nursing home.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? I have grown up showing with my grandma. She has had Collies since she started. We also have Corgis and a Golden Retriever.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? My grandma got me into showing dogs, and other Juniors were also helpful.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I started Juniors in 2013. My first Novice Junior win was at IX Center on December 16, 2013. I remember being really nervous. I showed our old dog, Jazz. She was a great teacher.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? Rocky is usually excited because he enjoys showing. After I groom him, we usually play around to burn off some steam. After that, I usually touch him up and we show.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I have been doing this for a few years now, so I have competed against many of today’s Juniors. My assessment is really just seeing who is there. Many of us have become friends because we see each other a lot and are close in age.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? I feel that most judges enjoy the Juniors ring, because they get to see the future of the sport in action.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? I have multiple mentors: My Gran, Terry, who got me started; Robin Reed; her mother, Ginger Mehr; MaryLee Shingle; and Marcy Fine. All have been kind enough to help me and let me tag along with them. I have also worked with multiple Professional Handlers and traveled with them.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? My most memorable win was Best Junior in the Sunshine State Herding Specialty in Orlando.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Collies are a free-stacking breed. The biggest thing they are judged on in specialty shows is their heads. I usually free-stack my dog and stand at the end of the lead.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I feel like Sporting dogs are sometimes better. However, at the end of the day, it comes down to who can make their dog look the best. I feel that there are certain dogs out of every Group that are common and better suited.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? I think every judge is different, even if their procedures are the same.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have bred/co-bred multiple litters. I have learned many responsibilities, as well as how hard it can be. I have learned how to care for and condition puppies for showing or for their new homes.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? I’m not too sure if I will breed anytime soon because I will be leaving for school. I could, however, see myself getting back into it when I get on track.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I plan to go to school and get my Master’s Degree in Nursing. From there, I plan to continue my education to become a nurse practitioner or a nurse anesthetist. Of course, after that, I hope to start a family. I have always wanted a Doberman. So, hopefully, I can get a nice one to show in the future.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? Rocky is a dog I co-own with Robin, Ginger, and MaryLee. He has lived with me for about two years now. He is such a fun, happy dog. He is a really good boy, and always shows his best for me. He is such a momma’s boy to all of his “moms.”

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? In the ring, I will say that I am usually very focused and in competition mode. However, outside the ring, we are all friends and have a good time. My funniest moments have definitely been while I was traveling with my family as well as with Robin and Ginger. We have driven and flown lots of miles together, and none of our moments have been dull. We once ran out of gas on our way back home from the national in California!

Caleigh Novak

Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogHi, I’m Caleigh Novak. I just turned 15 and aged-into Open Senior. I am the third generation in my family to show dogs. I have been around dogs my whole life and I love learning about new breeds. I have trained my own dogs along with helping my mom train. I mainly show Working and Sporting dogs, but you will see me most of the time with a Tibetan Terrier!

I recently moved to Colorado, about a year ago, from a small town in Illinois. I attended Rock Canyon High School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I do love working and being around dogs. But when I’m not, I play volleyball. Other than working for a professional handler, I don’t have a job, since I am still too young.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? I am the third generation showing dogs, so I have always had a dog in my household. I grew up with Dobermans and Boxers. The breeds I have are the English Springer Spaniel and the Tibetan Terrier.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I started in the dog show world at a very young age, and I always wanted to be like the older kids showing in Juniors. So, as soon as I turned nine, I started and have not stopped since.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? The first time I showed in Juniors, I had a great time. I was so excited to be in the ring and just having fun!

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? My dog always gets groomed before the ring. Right before we go in, I touch up any misplaced hair and I always take a few deep breaths. My good luck charm has always been a kiss on the dog’s head right before the ring and before the go-around after the exam.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I usually try to get up to the ring so that I can watch the other Juniors and talk to friends. Juniors can be great sports; we always try to cheer each other on.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? The judges can be amazing. Some have great comments and love seeing the next generation of handlers in the ring.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? I currently don’t have a mentor, but I am always asking for suggestions on things to work on or do better. I have worked for a few professional handlers across the country. I have learned so much from my amazing breeders, Nikkie Kinziger (RiLee’s Tibetan Terriers) and Kim Bullard (Journey English Springer Spaniels). They are truly amazing people and are the best at what they do. My show mom is Lori King. She has taught me so much and has been a great support. Holley Eldred is amazing to work for and is a great person. I have known her for a long time. (She is practically my real Aunt.) I am currently working for Devon Kipp, and she is the best. I love learning from her, considering she is a former Junior, and she is just a great person!

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? Winning Best Junior at the 2019 English Springer Spaniel National, Best Junior at the Tibetan Terrier Regional, and Select Bitch at the Tibetan Terrier National have been some of the best experiences and I’m so proud of them!

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Breeds usually have a type/look that they are known for. By talking with others in the breed, you can learn to accentuate those features. For Springers, when the judge is going over the body, I always pull up the ears to accentuate the neck and give the judge a clean visual of the whole body.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? All breeds can be shown in Juniors, but having a well-trained and flashy dog is best. Making sure that you work and train your dog is a lot more helpful to you.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same?

One main thing that judges should know is how breeds are presented. Judges are supposed to judge the Juniors’ handling skills, so knowing how their breeds are presented can benefit both. Some judges can be similar by looking for specific things or
different things.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have not yet, but I will soon. I have helped with raising and taking care of puppies though.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? I would love to carry on the breeding of my breeds. I think it’s very important to preserve the breeds; to keep the true standard going.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? My future goals are to go and graduate college—and I would still love to handle dogs! I would love to keep the generations going in my family.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? All the dogs I have, I love with my whole heart. They are amazing, and I love working and doing things with them. They are the best!!

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? I always have fun in the ring, but there was one time when my typically very well-behaved dog got super excited about doing well, and started jumping all over me.

Lihi Ruvio

Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogI live in Williamston, Michigan. It’s a small town where everyone knows everyone. I go to Williamston High School and I’m currently in the 10th grade.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I have been swimming competitively since I was six years old. I have a lot of passion for the sport. I was also the captain of the swim team when I was in Junior high. I also love working with dogs on things other than showing them. Our dogs are therapy dogs, and my mom and I volunteer with them regularly. I love seeing how my dogs bring joy to other people.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? I have grown up with Cane Corsos my entire life. I don’t just show them, I am also training them for other sports like Schutzhund and Obedience. I enjoy training as well as showing my soul mate, Royal. He is our breeding (Black Pearl Cane Corso kennel) and was born at my home. I’ve loved him from the moment he was born.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? Our dogs have competed in the show ring for as long as I can remember. I started showing dogs at 10 years old. I showed Royal’s mother, Mar E Sol’s Allora. She was amazing!

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? My first time in the AKC ring was not as a Junior. We were at an AKC show where Phil Booth, our professional handler at the time, had a ring conflict. So, I went in with Royal and we won Best of Breed. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I was very nervous. But Phil, who watched me show Royal, encouraged me to continue showing him and that’s how I got started. I will always be grateful for him.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? Royal and I train a lot. Even when you have one dog, he changes, and you need to change your showing technique. We always play before we go into the ring. I want him to be happy. We play in the ring too. Royal has a lucky MSU blanket that one of my friends made for him. We take it with us everywhere.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I think that, like in every situation, some people are nice and some are not as nice. You learn to deal with different types of people when you show. I try to stay with the nice ones, and avoid those who are a bit more difficult.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Judges are normally very nice to Juniors; very patient too. Some are more strict than others, but this teaches you to do better. I like those judges who challenge us.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? I was very fortunate to be encouraged and inspired by Phil and Amy Booth. They were our Professional Handlers before they moved away from Michigan. They are great handlers and wonderful people. It was an honor to have the opportunity to learn
from them.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? Royal and I are ranked #1 NOHS for the past three years, and #1 all-time NOHS. We also ended 2020 ranked #… These are all achievements that I am very proud of. My dream is to win some placement at Westminster.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? The Cane Corso is a Working breed. I make sure that Royal is conditioned and fit when we show. When you look at a Corso, it needs to be clear that he is athletic and capable to perform his intended tasks.
Movement is very important when showing our breed. While the Corso is not a small breed, they need to move lightly, almost effortlessly. I also love it when the judges are impressed by Royal’s temperament. He is a very good ambassador for the breed.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I don’t think that it matters which breed you are showing. It’s the bond between the handler and the dog that matters. It shows in the ring.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I was always involved with whelping and raising litters. I love seeing the little newborns turn into playful puppies. Raising a litter of puppies teaches you a lot. You must be responsible and compassionate when taking care of them. You cannot slack or cut corners. My mom used to say that a puppy is as good as the care it received. I’ve learned that this is so true.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? I am not sure if I want to breed. Right now, my plan is to be a dog chiropractor, and even to have a rehabilitation facility and sport medicine. I love interacting with dogs of all breeds. And if I can help them feel better, I would love to do it.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I hope to continue showing. I enjoy showing my dogs, but I don’t think I want to be a Professional Handler; just to continue doing it for fun.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My Royal is a once-in-a-lifetime dog. He is my soul mate. We do everything together. There is nothing he cannot do, and this challenges me to do multiple things and to do them well. Royal is a true Corso, with the most stable temperament and endless capabilities. He is a dog that can show, do protection, compete in obedience, rally, fast CAT, and be a therapy dog. I’ve learned so much by working with him.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? One time, I forgot to change my shoes before entering the Owner-Handled Group ring. I was wearing bright pink Crocs with a blue suit. I ended up winning OH Group One that day. I guess those are my lucky Crocs.

Mikala Seymour

 Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogI live in Plainfield, Wisconsin, a small town of about 900 people. I go to Almond Bancroft High School.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I play Varsity Volleyball and Basketball, and play on a Travel League for Volleyball during our off-season. I love music and I sing in our school choir. I enjoy swimming and water sports. I work at a local supper club as a salad maker, busser, and dishwasher. I also help my mom with her cleaning business during the summer.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? Yes, my grandparents had St. Bernards and my mom started showing when she was three years old; she showed in 4-H and AKC and was a top Junior for St. Bernards back in her day. My aunts also showed dogs in 4-H.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? My mom is a judge, so I would go with her to judging assignments when I was little and I’d help her hand out ribbons. I started in Conformation, taking our St. Bernards in when my mom needed help. Then, when I was old enough, I started 4-H and really started focusing on Junior Showmanship, Obedience, and Rally work. I started competing in AKC Juniors when I was nine; my first few shows were St. Bernard Specialties and our National.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I showed our big St. Bernard, Korbel, at our National in Nebraska. Everyone commented on how good I did with such a big dog; he was very gentle and listened so well to me. I was lucky to have him as my first Juniors dog. (A good temperament is so important when first starting out.)

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I focus on my dogs, really love them up, and get them excited to show and focus on me. I work a couple of free stacks and I always kiss my dogs’ nose before gaiting them. I really don’t have any good luck charms, but I definitely have my favorite suits to show in and my favorite leads for each dog.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I am friends with most of the Juniors I compete with. I stay by the ring and watch how they handle; you can always pick up little tips from others. Yes, most of the competition are good sports. We all seem to have multiple dogs to show as we’ve gotten older, and we all help each other out when we can. Most of my best friends are at dog shows.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Most of the judges really enjoy judging Juniors. I’ve only had a few who really didn’t seem to enjoy it, and those I usually don’t show to again. The best Junior judges are patient and kind to the new Juniors, and they offer tips, advice, and encouragement. I like it when judges are pleasant in the ring, smiling, and clap for Juniors on the final go-around. It shows a lot of class.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? My mom is my Number One mentor. She got me started and is always there for me, offering tips and advice—even when I don’t want to hear it. She’s always encouraging me and helping me with new breeds and opportunities. I’ve worked with a few handlers and they are all great; very supportive of me in my Juniors career, offering grooming and handling tips. I’ve learned the most from Danielle Goodland-Rose, Monica Lamontage, and Danielle Frykman. They’ve given me opportunities with many dogs and taught me a lot about grooming. One handler whom I really look up to, inside and outside the ring, is Elizabeth Salewsky. She shows my breed, St. Bernards. She’s an amazing person and friend. We have a lot in common with being tall, playing sports, and showing dogs. She is a blast to be with at our Nationals.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? My most memorable win was making it to the final eight at Westminster last year with my St. Bernard, Ellington. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about, and to make it to Madison Square Garden was amazing, truly an honor. It was even more special because my mom and younger brother and sister were there to cheer me and Ellington on. Another truly memorable win came last year in Orlando, when my Field Spaniel, Riley, won Reserve Best in Show Owner-Handled. Just recently, my Field Spaniel won back-to-back Bests in Show at a UKC Show on Mother’s Day. (I’m still amazed at my Riley and how far he’s come.) No real memorable losses; I just tend to go with the flow and move on to the next show.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? Every Junior should know the breed standard for the dog they are showing. With my St. Bernard, Ellington, I really show off his beautiful head and movement. I stack him slightly angled to show off his head and front; as our breed standard mentions, proportionately tall, strong, imposing, and with an intelligent expression. He moves effortlessly, so I always make sure that I’m in the front of the line so that I can really move him best. I’ve also really worked Ellington, and he now has an amazing free stack for me, which is very difficult to do with a St. Bernard. People think St. Bernards are difficult to show, but they are not, really, compared to other dogs I’ve handled. With my Field Spaniel, Riley, I show off his topline and shoulder layback. He’s always happy, so getting him to stand still is a challenge at times. Riley was a Craigslist rescue, so I’ve really had to work with him; he never knew how to run or gait, and we’ve finally gotten consistent, fluid movement with his head up. The Field Spaniel is presented on a ramp. When I stack him, I’m kneeling, so it’s a lot different than with my St. Bernard. But I still hold both dogs’ heads, and run my hand down their toplines, showing off their best features.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? No, I believe that if you have a good bond with your dog and truly love it, this will shine through. You need to work with any breed that you are going show and you need to be comfortable with that breed. When I first started, I was told to get a Sporting breed to be more competitive. So, I did… and I learned quickly that judges appreciated the skills needed to show my St. Bernard. So, Ellington was my main show dog for Juniors. I still work my German Shorhaired Pointer in Juniors and in Breed, but since Ellington has gotten older, I’ve been focusing on my Field Spaniel. But honestly, there’s a special connection with Ellington and it’s noticed when I walk in the ring with him. So, the best advice is to find a dog that you are comfortable with, love, and can build a connection with. The breed doesn’t matter; anything is possible if you dream it and work for it.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? Judges should understand that all breeds are worked with and shown differently. Not all dogs are bred to free-stack or be shown that way. Judges should be looking at the handling. Can the Junior continue working with their dog even if the dog is being a little difficult, such as fidgety feet? Is the Junior staying calm with their dog, not jerking the leash a lot or being heavy-handed? They should be looking to see which Juniors are truly enjoying showing their dog. Judges are not all the same; we keep a notebook of the judges we show to, and note what they like and don’t like. (A few judges who don’t like drool, I show my Field Spaniel to instead.)

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? When I was seven years old, I helped to whelp my first litter. I’ve assisted my mom with some AI breedings and we are going to breed a litter this fall. I’ve learned about health testing in various breeds that I show. Through some of my breed mentors and educational seminars at nationals, I’ve learned about progesterone testing, genetic markers, gestation, and birthing difficulties. I’ve also helped to evaluate a few litters and attended seminars on canine structure and movement. Breeding is not easy and it’s not something that should be taken lightly. A lot of planning and preparation goes into good breeding.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Yes, definitely. I currently have two female St. Bernards, and we are planning to breed them this fall. We’ve been waiting for the right stud dog, as both my mom and I are very selective on type and temperament in our breed. My Field Spaniel will begin health testing and, hopefully, next year, he will produce a nice litter with our mentor’s bitch. Preservation is very important to me, as I’ve seen through my mom’s past dogs and those of my mentors the importance of quality
breedings for type, size, structure, movement, and temperament. Dogs need to be bred to their standard for form and function; they should be able to do what their ancestors were originally bred to do.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? My goals for the future will always include dogs. This year, my goals are to compete well at Westminster and the AKC National Championship show, and to finish out the year ranked in both the Sporting and Working Groups. I plan on attending college where I will, hopefully, be able to play volleyball. I’ve taken an interest in massage therapy and chiropractic, so my goal is to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree and pursue a Chiropractic Degree. I hope to be able to convert both massage therapy and chiropractic care over to animals, and be able to work with humans and dogs and other large animals. While attending college, I hope to still attend dog shows on weekends. My younger brother and sister started showing, so I’ll definitely be encouraging them.

You need to work with any breed that you are going show and you need to be comfortable with that breed.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? Ellington, my St. Bernard, is my “baby.” I’ve had him since he was 12 weeks old. I’ve done all the training with him and put all of his titles on him. He’s my dog. He’s in tune with me in the ring; he watches me for cues. Outside the ring, he’s my best friend. He knows how I’m feeling and when I need to be cheered up. He’s a very intuitive dog and has a great personality. He loves everyone. He’s truly special and is my heart dog.

Riley, my Field Spaniel, I own; meaning I am his person. He lights up when I come home from school and does this crazy happy dance. At shows, he likes to snuggle up on my lap or on the camper bed. Riley respects me and we have a special bond. He won’t show for anyone else… or at least show like he does for me. Both dogs are very special to me as are all the dogs I show. I try to have a special connection with them all. There’s just something so special about Ellington, and all the places we’ve been, and all the opportunities and success that we’ve had together. It’s hard to put this into words.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? Not really a handling story, but one time at a dog show, Ellington pulled me over to a lady in a wheelchair. (He thought it was my grandma, who’s also in a wheelchair.) It caught her by surprise when he nudged her arm. It turns out she had lost her own dog that past week, and Ellington’s love was just what she needed. After that, I began working Ellington as a Therapy Dog. Last year, right before the COVID shut down, he passed his Therapy Dog Test.

Brielle Villareal

Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogI live in Elk Grove, California. I just finished middle school and I’m off to attend Sheldon High School in the fall.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I do not have a job, but I also love to act/sing (do musical theater). I also enjoy painting!

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? I am actually the first person to show dogs in my family. I show Bulldogs, and have been for six years.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced to Junior Showmanship at around eight years old, after I started to compete in puppy matches and conformation shows. As soon as I turned nine years old, I started to get into Juniors, and have been loving it ever since.

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I used my old Juniors dog, Gemma, and I won Best Junior; really young. I didn’t know how big a deal it was because I was so new to it.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I bathe my current show dog, Olive, the day before the show. Once I get to the show site, I groom her and potty her… then we practice. I always have to make sure she’s cool (fan, water, cool coat) before going into the ring. This makes me feel as prepared as possible before performing in the ring.

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I always watch the classes before I go in, to see what the judge is looking for and to see how well the competition executes it. For the most part, everyone is very supportive and positive.

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? I really appreciate judges who not only take the time to judge and examine the handlers and dogs, but who also have fun while in
the ring.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Professional Handlers? Yes, I do have a mentor who has taught me almost everything I know and, with his support and guidance, has taken me so far. I have assisted Professional Handlers a few times when they’ve needed an extra hand, and have enjoyed the learning and growing experience.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? My most memorable and proud moment was making the finals for the Westminster Junior Showmanship competition in 2020. Also being the #1 Bulldog Junior Handler and #1 Non-Sporting Junior Handler in the nation, currently.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? I accentuate the Bulldog in the ring by showing off her best features and highlighting the important parts of the breed such as the head, front, and rear.

Bulldogs should be very vigorous, strong, equitable, courageous, and kind. They should be a medium-sized dog with a “heavy, thickset low-swung body.” They should also have wide shoulders and very sturdy limbs. In the Bulldog conformation ring, we face the dogs front and inward to the ring; so that way the judge can see the dog “head on.” This is important so that the judge can determine which dog would fulfill the job it was bred to do; bullbaiting.

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? I think that with any breed you grow up with or love to show—no matter how hard or easy it is to train—you should be able to be a team in the ring. I show a Bulldog, which isn’t the most flashy or common breed to show in Juniors, yet I still love the sport and also love working with my partner in crime, Olive.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? No judge is the same, no matter how many times you’ve gone into the ring. But I do think that every judge should know that Juniors is not about which dog looks the prettiest; it’s about how the handlers show their breed according to the breed standard.

I really appreciate judges who not only take the time to judge and examine the handlers and dogs, but who also have fun while in the ring.

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? Though we’ve assisted our breeder in breeding some of our females, we’ve never done it solely ourselves. It is something we might consider doing in the future.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? Breeding isn’t my focus right now, but I understand its importance. Breeding dogs that fit the standard is crucial to continue improving the breed.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? My goal is to win the Westminster Junior Showmanship competition and/or to win my first Best in Show. I do see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out, because I would enjoy learning about other breeds.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My dog, Olive, means everything to me. All the hours of hard work and practice together have made us a strong and connected team. We have accomplished so much together and have continued to grow. She is stubborn, smart, and sometimes, crazy. But all of those traits are what I love about her. She enjoys showing and being in the ring, and she has a passion for it as I do.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? When I was grooming her, getting ready for the finals at Westminster, she drew quite a crowd of spectators. People loved her flashy purple-sequined cool coat, and were enamored with her. So many people asked to take pictures of her, and she loved every minute of it! I guess she was born to be on camera; a
natural superstar.

Alison Yoho

Junior Handlers Picture Of A Girl With Her DogMy name is Alison Yoho, and I compete in Junior Showmanship with Golden Retrievers. I am currently 18 years old, and enjoying my last year as a Junior Handler. Competing in Junior Showmanship has taught me about dedication and confidence as well as connecting me with people I consider lifelong friends.

I live in Stillwater, Minnesota, and attend St. Croix
Preparatory Academy.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Besides purebred dogs, I play soccer for my school’s varsity team. I also have a horse, and ride for fun. In the summer, I work at a local strawberry patch for about two weeks during the picking season.

Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed? My family has always had purebred dogs and participated in Field Work and Obedience with them, but never Conformation. I was the first one in my family to dabble in Conformation, but now my entire family is involved! My breed is the Golden Retriever.

How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I became involved in Junior Showmanship through the Animal Inn Junior Showmanship program in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. While taking Obedience classes at Animal Inn with our family’s Golden Retriever, my family found out that the training center offered classes specifically for Junior Showmanship. Once I turned nine, I started taking classes and attended my first show as a Novice Junior in January 2012. I have stuck with it ever since!

What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I remember attending my first show and placing third in my Novice Junior class of about five. I was so excited! I was showing my pet quality Golden Retriever who had a lot of sass, so I was ecstatic that we’d won a ribbon.

How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I always start with a good show outfit, and make sure my dog is nicely groomed and in good condition. I always use the same show lead—and I don’t like to change it up—which could be considered my “good luck charm.”

How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? Instead of assessing my competition, I like to focus on myself and my dog. I tune out those around me and focus on doing the best I can. Everyone is usually good sports, which is something I appreciate about Juniors. I am always sure to congratulate the winners as well!

What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? For the most part, I would say the majority of judges seem to enjoy the Juniors ring. I appreciate it when judges spend their time on Juniors by having us do a different pattern, face front, or do extra free baits. Occasionally, there are judges who seem to rush through and not care, which can be disappointing.

Ultimately, what should matter in the Juniors ring is the bond that you exhibit with your dog, and how you can present it to the best of your ability.

Do I have a mentor in the sport? I have had many great mentors over the years, but two who stand out to me are Sandy and Dave Slattum, AKC RHP. Sandy was my first instructor at the Animal Inn program. She has not only taught me the basics, but continually helps me refine my skills. Assisting Dave Slattum has allowed me to expand my knowledge of different breeds. They are both supporters of Junior Showmanship and I am grateful for their mentorship over the years.

Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? Making it to the finals at the 2020 AKC National Championships in Orlando, Florida, is one of my most memorable wins. I also recently won the “Midwest Top Junior Handler” award at the Land O’Lakes Kennel Club show. The Land O’Lakes Kennel Club show was my first show that I attended in 2012, so to win this Best Junior in 2021 was a cool “full circle” moment for me.

How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? I always show my Goldens on a loose lead, just like the standard says. I will also, occasionally, fluff the tail. Goldens like to have fun in the ring, so I always keep it fun as well!

Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than others? Ultimately, what should matter in the Juniors ring is the bond that you exhibit with your dog, and how you can present it to the best of your ability. That being said, there are certain breeds, such as a hands-on Sporting dog, that lend the opportunity to show the judge what you can do when compared to a mainly hands-off breed. There are many successful Juniors with all different types of dogs, so if you are willing to put in the extra work to fine tune your skills, any breed can make a great Juniors breed.

Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? I like it when judges have us do something extra challenging. For this reason, my favorite types of judges to show to are younger judges, fresh out of Juniors themselves, or judges who are current Professional Handlers. Judges should know that Juniors like to be challenged and that we appreciate any feedback!

Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have not co-bred a litter.

Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? In the future, I want to be a breeder/owner-handler of my own Golden Retrievers. My goal is to have fabulous, smart dogs that do well in the Conformation ring and also in the Field. Purebred dogs preservation is something that is important to me.

What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I definitely see myself being involved in dog shows and purebred dogs for the rest of my life. In college, I want to continue to spend my time learning and working for Professional Handlers.

Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my current dog? My current Juniors dog, Sully, is incredibly goofy, and I love him so much! He has lots of energy, and I can see him trying so hard in the ring to be good for me. He always wants to please and he is a great companion.

Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? I don’t have any specific moments, but I enjoy spending time with and laughing with my show friends. I always have such a great time with them, and we have had many memorable moments together!

Photos by :

© Ringside Shots

© Amber Jade

© MLE Photo Art

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