Interview with Luke Waters – 2023 WKC Dog Show Best Junior Handler
Congratulations, Luke, on your Best Junior Handler win at the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show! Is it a dream come true?
Luke Waters: Thank you so much! It was a dream come true just to have the honor of making it to the Finals, and to be given Best Junior was beyond what words can say. I feel so blessed and I’m so thankful to God—an experience I’ll never forget!
How was the overall experience of being in New York for you? How were the Preliminaries?
Luke Waters: I truly enjoyed the new location. I would love it if the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was there every year.
The Preliminaries were a very special part. I couldn’t believe that I was chosen to go to the Finals—there were so many kids deserving of the win. I am very thankful to my Preliminary Judge, Lydia Frey, for giving me such an honor!
Who was the first person you called or texted after you’d won?
Luke Waters: The first person I called was my mentor and friend, Joan Krumm. I give a lot of credit to her. She started me off when I was just four years old in a training class with her Min Pins, and she has always been involved with my Junior handling whether that be giving advice or just encouragement. A big “thank you” to her!
How have you celebrated your victory? Did you and your dog enjoy a special meal that night?
Luke Waters: It was quite a whirlwind Westminster night with all the excitement of the win, but the next morning we all celebrated at one of our favorite restaurants. My dog “Kera” celebrated with her choice of dog toys and many yummy treats, which she was so deserving of!
It was a dream come true just to have the honor of making it to the Finals, and to be given Best Junior was beyond what words can say.
You’ve shown several different dogs in Juniors. How did you choose which dog to show at this year’s show?
Luke Waters: My breed is the Miniature Pinscher which is a breed that I share with my brother, Jacob, who actually competed with a Min Pin at Westminster Junior Showmanship this year. I have probably shown Min Pins for the majority of my time in Juniors and have enjoyed the wonderful personalities of each one I’ve shown. The reason why I chose to show my Wire Fox Terrier this year in Juniors was to learn the art of hand stripping. It is such an involved process and takes time to perfect, but I wanted the challenge. I am also very passionate about terriers. Having been raised with Wires, it gave me the perfect opportunity to show one. Kera is a great show dog, and I consider it a great honor to have competed with her at this year’s Westminster’s Junior Showmanship.
What does your dog mean to you now that you share this win together?
Luke Waters: I’m always happy with Kera, who never ceases to amaze me and brings me joy at every show. But when she entered the big stadium and heard all the cheers, it was as if she knew something was different. She hit that green carpet and gave me her all. Winning Westminster makes me even more proud of her. Standing on the oval podium with the Westminster logo under us is the top dream of every Junior, and that day she helped to make that dream become a reality for me.
How has Junior Handling made a difference in your life? In your family’s life?
Luke Waters: Junior handling has given me the ambition to keep learning. I’ve really enjoyed competing against other talented Juniors who have challenged me to do better. My family has been very supportive of me and has helped me tremendously in the show ring with all the handy tips I get from them. I am especially thankful to my parents who have done so much for me to get me to where I am in dog shows. I consider myself very blessed!
Would you like to say a few words about this year’s judging panel?
Luke Waters: This year’s Junior Showmanship judges, who are so accomplished in their own right, have made Westminster truly special for me. I’m very grateful to my judges, Lydia Frey (Prelims) and Vicki Seiler-Cushman (Finals), for awarding me this prestigious win. I cannot overstate my gratitude to both of them. They have given me an experience of a lifetime.
Can you offer any advice to Juniors looking to compete at next year’s Westminster?
Luke Waters: Keep striving to improve! Consider losses as an asset that will help you get better for your next show. There were times in Juniors when I would get discouraged, but I’d ask God to help me and I’d keep trying to work to improve on my handling. You might want to critique videos of yourself handling or ask someone to watch you and tell you how you can do better. I think it’s important to take advice from other people. The advice that I personally have received has helped me tremendously to improve my handling. Critique is crucial to winning.
What’s next for Luke Waters?
Luke Waters: I would like to continue showing dogs as a professional handler and strive to learn more about all the aspects of grooming. I think dogs will continue to play a big role in my life and I’m eager to see what the future holds!