Junior Handlers Survey

Pictured above (left to right): Hugh Garner, Alexis Kujawa,  Logan Yankowski. From the August 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.

  1.  What breed do you show in Juniors and why did you pick that breed?
  2. What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of handling your breed in Juniors?
  3. Who is your mentor(s) and what do you feel is the most important thing they have taught you?
  4. What have you learned from participating in Juniors that has helped in you both dog show activities and non-dog show activities?
  5. If you could pass along any advice to the next generation of Juniors what would it be?
  6. Will we be lucky enough to see you working as a professional handler down the line?
  7. What outside interests do you have?
  8. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show?


Hugh Garner

What breed I show in Juniors and why picked that breed? I am a “Terrier Man”. I mainly show Airedale Terriers. While they can be challenging to show, they are also smart and very loyal. I have also shown Russell Terriers, Lakelands, and the occasional Westie. I don’t know if I picked Airedales, or if the breed picked me! I am a 4th Generation Airedale owner. My great-grandfather owned an Airedale in Holland. When he came to America he bought one for his farm in upstate New York. My grandparents, Dr. Hugo and Joanne Nykamp breed and showed Airedales from the 1950s through the 1980s. And my mom, Nancy Nykamp shows Airedales. My current show dog, “Berry”, is an 18 month old Airedale who I met at a Puppy Party (Puppy Parties are when we all get together and assess a litter for show, and then have cake and ice cream). Berry’s name was “Pink” back then, and she stood out as the one who came running right up to me. She sat on my lap, nibbled on my ears and nose, and we played together. It was as if we were always supposed to be together, like Strawberries and Shortcake!

What I feel is the most difficult aspect of handling my breed in Juniors? Terriers in general can be challenging to handle. My mom says they are like teenagers (my older brother and sister are teenagers). As a handler, I have to convince them dog shows are their idea, and that showing is fun! I am glad though. It makes handling more challenging, rewarding, and exciting. In addition to the challenges associated with handling, there is a ton of grooming on an Airedale. I work with my mom, carding and conditioning Berry, but it takes a lot of time, and an Airedale’s hair grows much faster than a Russell or a Westie.

I am lucky because I have a lot of super mentors. My mom and sister, taught me the value of training my puppy at a young age and then continuing to train. My puppy’s breeder, Dr. Rickard emphasized the importance of always striving to present my dog to look her best. Lastly, my handler friends, Sarah and Ariel Cukier taught me that some days you win and some you lose, and that it’s important to do both in a respectful and dignified way. I should also mention I took mentoring tips on fashion from my teenage brother who approves of my bow ties.

What have I learned from participating in Juniors that has helped in both dog show activities and non-dog show activities? Junior Handling Competition, as well as Breed Judging, Owner-Handled activities, Match Shows, and handling classes, have taught me to never pass up the opportunity to get experience. This is true of life. I want to always open the door when opportunity knocks.

If I could pass along any advice to the next generation of Juniors what would it be? That’s simple. Have fun! Enjoy the time with your dog and the friends you meet in the ring. I have dog show friends from all over the country and of all ages.

Will we be lucky enough to see me working as a professional handler down the line? As a fifth grader, it’s hard to know exactly what I want to do when I grow up. But I do love showing, and think I will always be involved with dogs, maybe as an owner/breeder handler and then a judge. For now, I sometimes help out my professional handler friends when they need help getting a dog ready for the ring or taking a dog into the ring. I like doing this. I feel like it’s being part of the bigger dog show family. A lot of handlers (and judges) have been really, really kind to me in the ring, giving me tips, thanking me for exhibiting, and extending sincere congratulations when I win.

What outside interests do I have? Well besides handling, I like to help my family with raising puppies. Getting the whelping box, weening pen and puppy playground set up is truly exciting. I help with puppy training and headstart. It’s a ton of work, but so much fun! I am also very busy in Boy Scouts and have started to work towards my Eagle Scout Award. Other than that I sing in the Chorus and hang out with my friends. Oh, and I play Pokemon Go with my friends at Dog Shows.

The funniest thing I’ve experienced at a dog show? Wow! There are so many funny things at dog shows, I could write a book or make a movie. Wait they already made the movie “Best In Show” and the Terrier won! Yep I am a “Terrier Man”.


Alexis Kujawa

I chose an Afghan Hound as my juniors because I had always wanted one from the beginning.

The biggest struggle with Afghans is that they are very stubborn, independent, and you never know what you’re going to get with them.

My mom and Deb Ridley are and have always been my mentors because Deb introduced Afghans to my mom and then to me and together taught me everything I needed to know in order to show an Afghan to the full extent for example the hours of grooming and how to property present an Afghan.

What have I learned from participating in Juniors that has helped in both dog show activities and non dog show activities? How to give 100% win or lose every time in everything I do.

If I could pass along any advice to the next generation of Juniors what would it be? Practice makes perfect.

Will you be lucky enough to see me working as a professional handler down the line? I plan to go to college and then pursue my dream of becoming a professional handler.

What outside interests do I have? My school work and extra curricular activities as this is my senior year and my last time to 
experience everything.


Logan Yankowski

I started showing with a Labrador Retriever and Borzois. I still show Borzois and a Beagle from time to time, but most of the time I am showing my Great Dane, Rizzo. I have found it to be easier for me to show the taller breeds because I am almost 6’ tall. The larger breeds move out well and cover as much ground as I can. Not only that, we have had Great Danes since I was four. When I lost my boy Joey a few years ago, my mom and I started looking for a puppy. It was a natural step to buy one that I could show. I love how affectionate the breed is.

What is the most difficult aspect of handling my breed in juniors? Great Danes are fantastic dogs to show because of their size, but it can be a challenge. Sometimes the rings are too small to get them moving out. When they do not want to participate with you, they can be very stubborn or set in their ways.

Who is my mentor and what do I feel I have learned from them? Jean Durdin, who is my grandmother, she encouraged me to start showing her dogs. She has introduced me to a lot of different 
handlers who have all been very willing to share their time and help me learn different aspects of showing. Their expertise and secret tips help me when I am facing a difficult dog. I have also learned that if you have the right mentor, they can introduce you to more people with a variety of experience among a lot of different breeds. Now, my mother is involved and shows from time to time. It is great that we have three generations at the dog show!

What have I learned from participating in dog shows and other activities? It has helped in several ways. Time management is very important, especially dealing with ring conflicts. Showing dogs makes you disciplined. I have also learned how to talk to adults easily, take instructions and constructive criticism. I have also become a little more graceful and self-confident. Outside of the dog shows, I am definitely more confident and comfortable having conversation in various situations.

If I could pass on advice to the next generation of juniors, what would it be? Find the right dog for you! Not every breed or dog is the right fit for you and the junior’s ring. Once you find your partner, find a good mentor, enjoy showing, and take criticism with a light heart.

Will I become a professional handler? I have always had my heart set on being a neuropsychologist. I would like to continue to show once I am in college, especially over the summer. I will probably continue to show later in life as well.

What outside interests do I have? Typical teenage stuff. I like hanging out with my friends. I play on the volleyball team at school. I also like to travel, read and go to amusement parks. 



Upcoming Junior Clinics

Informal FREE clinics, conducted by AKC Registered Handlers Program members, and open to anyone under the age of 18 interested in learning more about handling. The exact times and ring locations are posted at the superintendent’s desk on the day of the event. No preregistration necessary. Show up with a dog on a lead ready for some hands-on instructions from professional handlers. Mixed breed dogs are welcome.

For more information, contact Susan Judge at smj@akc.org, (919) 816-3590.

For more information on the Juniors Program email juniors@akc.org.


Harrisburg, PA

Penn Ridge KC | Thursday, August 8, 2019


Enumclaw, WA

Olympic KC | Saturday, August 17, 2019


Raleigh, NC

Durham KC | Saturday, August 31, 2019


Lexington, NY

Northern KY KC | Sunday, September 1, 2019


Lebanon, TN

Tri-Star KC of Williamson County | Saturday, October 12, 2019


Fort Wayne, IN

Northeastern IN KC | Sunday, November 3, 2019


West Springfield, MA

Windham Count KC | Saturday, November 23, 2019

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