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The Junior Handlers | Dedication, Determination, Devotion

Dan Sayers

The Junior Handlers: Dedication, Determination, Devotion

Today’s Junior Handlers are a remarkable collective of young people with a passion for dogs and a strong desire to compete and win. In this regard, they’re just like other generations of kids who’ve participated in Junior Showmanship ever since the program was known as Children’s Handling. However, unlike the youngsters of yesteryear, today’s kids are growing up in a world that’s quite a bit different from that of their parents and grand-parents. The current crop of youthful competitors is just as comfortable finding online solutions for their in-ring challenges as they are seeking advice from a good friend or mentor.

In 2024, Juniors have access to both hi-tech training options and trusted tutors, and they’re receiving strong support from AKC as well. The AKC Junior Delegate Committee meets monthly to discuss ways to encourage participation and acknowledge successful outcomes. To date, the Junior Coordinator position has been officially established by 101 parent clubs, 65 all-breed clubs, 24 specialty clubs, and 12 other AKC clubs. And a few of the all-breeds are also supporting their younger members who’ve wanted to establish a club of their own. Juniors within these organizations have been busy drafting their own bylaws, putting on match shows, and even holding fundraisers to pay for everything themselves.

To expand participation, new Juniors are finding their way to AKC events through active engagement with the 4-H and Future Farmers of America organizations. Many of those kids are competing in Companion events in addition to Conformation, and they’re engaging in Junior Showcases and other social activities as well. Their participation has invigorated many clubs and inspired others to reach out within their own communities to encourage local kids to discover what Junior Showmanship is all about.

Perhaps due to the comfort level that today’s Juniors have with both online learning and in-ring handling, many younger handlers have shown they’re capable of leading as well as following. Many have demonstrated they can happily provide support for younger kids and newcomers to the show ring, and a few have even shown they can promote the sport and their dogs at Meet the Breeds events!

Through the articles and interviews assembled in this edition, SHOWSIGHT has endeavored to celebrate the dedication, determination, and devotion of today’s Junior Handlers. We hope you enjoy!