By Rick Grant, President of the Owner Handler Association  of America, Providence Kennel Club. Co-authored by Sierra Gluchacki, Brigid White and Mia Speciale. From the March 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.   (pictured above:  from left: Sierra Gluchacki with Ch. CastleRock NightHawk at a 4H Show; Brigid White with Ch CastleRock Notorious at a 4H Show; Brigid White with Tori (Ch. CastleRock Notorious) After showing in AKC Junior Showmanship and Veteran’s Class)

About ten years ago, I was asked to work with the 4H group called “Wag N Tails.” At the time, suffice it to say, I was a little reluctant, having no training working with children. Someone was needed to teach dog handling and as I was already teaching a regular breed handling class, I seemed like a good choice. With some coaxing I agreed to give it a try for a few weeks. I quickly realized this group of young people was eager to learn anything they could about dogs and showing them. I decided this would be fun and it was a great group to work with. The first few classes were great, but I rapidly learned they would not focus if it wasn’t competitive. I initiated a weekly system. At the end of every class, I placed the kids as if they were at a show. Of course, not all the kids had the same skill so I told them it would be based on their improvement from week to week. To make it even more of a challenge I would tally the scores and award something at the end of the training season, April to November. The awards so far have been tickets to Westminster or a tack bag and grooming supplies. The winners really enjoy going to Westminster more than anything. A trip to New York City and the prestigious show is most enticing.

A 4H Show has three components: breed handling, obedience, and a written test. The scores are tallied and the winner is determined by the top overall score. The 4H employs a different learning style. The participants learn to work as a group and they compete as a group at some of the shows. I think this encourages a better bond. At the large Regional 4H Show, they compete as groups on two levels. The first is booths and posters about their breeds or dog information. They are buddied up and the best booth is determined by a vote of the spectators. The second is in a competition called “Doggie Bowl.” Doggie Bowl involves teams of four 4Hers who sit and answer questions related to dogs the group has been assigned to study that year. It’s a first ring in, and the answers have to be exact. It’s lots of fun to watch.

Working with the 4H group showed me a different approach to showing. I think the 4H encourages a supportive atmosphere of friendly competition, yet it is competitive. The 4Hers are a strong community of exhibitors who work together and encourage each other. It is very rewarding to see them carry this ideal into the AKC Juniors program.

I asked three of the students to write about their experiences, hoping to gain a better understanding of the way they feel about showing in both 4H and AKC.

Sierra has just started in 4H and AKC Junior Showmanship. She has done exceptionally well at those shows. She uses one of my older Cairns, “Flyer,” and it is great to watch how they work as a team. She has moved up from Novice to Open very quickly in Juniors and I think the group of friends she has made has helped her immensely. Sierra is the youngest at 11 years.


My AKC experience has gone very well this year. Here are some examples. Recently I’ve become a co-owner of my dog “Flyer.” We work together in the shows and at class.

Also, we have become second best junior Cairn Terrier handler in the country with 18 current points. We achieved the Open Class from the Novice Class in four shows. I also handle Flyer in the regular classes and he is one point away from his Grand Champion title! The judges have been very nice and encouraging to my dog and me. At my first show I was very nervous, but my judge was very helpful and he talked to my dog and me. I’ve made a few really great friends along the way, Brigid and Mia, who have been very helpful and nice especially when I feel nervous at a show. In short, the AKC has gone very well so far and I can definitely see myself doing this in the future.

Next, there is Brigid, who is 16 and has been in a great student in class and has shown her willingness to compete. She has a great attitude about showing and currently co-owns dogs with my wife and me. One of my proudest moments was when she beat me with one of my dogs in the Owner Handled Group ring.

(Below) Sierra Gluchacki with Flyer. (Ch. CastleRock NightHawk) after exhibiting in AKC Junior Showmanship and Veteran’s Class

Brigid—How 4H and AKC Have Impacted my Life

When I was ten years old, I joined 4H with a dog who was not easy to work with. Although he may not have been too big, at ten years old he was not easy for me to handle. 4H gave me a way to train him, even though he had trauma from his past home. The people I was working around were so generous and kind that they offered me the use of their dogs in class so I could bring home what I learned to repair the trust in my little boy.

One year, my 4H trainer, Rick Grant, asked me to steward at the Providence County Kennel Club Dog Show, and I was so excited but I really didn’t know much about stewarding. After one day of stewarding, I was determined to go back the next day. Again, the year after that, he asked me to help out again. I was so ready to go to another “official dog show” and see the breeds that I learned about throughout that year. Going to that show in 2016 changed my life. A lady who bred Japanese Chin asked me to show her dogs. This is when I truly started to learn how AKC works.

In 4H, you are asked to wear a white top and beige pants or a green skirt. There is a more laid back and natural feeling when you’re in the ring. The fact that you can show an All American or pure-bred dog makes it so much more unique than AKC. However, AKC shows are still some of the most exciting events I look forward to. I love the harder preparation that goes into it, always making it an exciting time. 4H has been there to teach me about myself instead of my dog. It still reminds me to smile in the ring and take my time.

Today I still own my little dog, Oscar, and he is my favorite old man. I also have my show dog, a Newfoundland named Napa, who is brand new to me, but already my closest companion. I have been showing in AKC for over a year and I’ve been in 4H for six years. I would have to say that these years have been the most valuable years to me as I’ve truly had amazing experiences with people, different types of animals, and especially dogs more than anything.

Like with every sport, there are always bumps in the road, but going to the next show and spending time with all of the different breeds can make anything better in a heartbeat.

Then, there’s Mia who is an exceptional handler. She always tries to improve and encourages the other younger members with reassuring words about how they performed. She is going to age out of Juniors this year, but will be able to continue in 4H until the end of the year.


My name is Mia and I am seventeen years old.

For all of my life, I have always loved dogs. I remember waking up before dawn on the weekends to turn on Animal Planet. On these mornings, they would play reruns of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show or the American Kennel Club National Dog Show. I would watch in amazement as the dogs pranced around the ring and the handlers beautifully presented the dogs to their best. I knew that, one day, I wanted to do that. I wanted to be in one of those shows.

(Below: Mia with Charm, her Ibizan Hound)

After constantly begging and pleading my mom to get me into dog training classes with my family’s Golden Retriever puppy, Indy, she finally caved. She signed me up for a dog 4H club called Wag N Tails. It was here, with 4H, that I began my endeavors with training dogs. I was seven years old when I started in my 4H club. I immediately started expanding my studies of dog knowledge and canine training skills. Right from the beginning, I wanted to go to classes daily. I just couldn’t seem to get enough.

In 4H, I learned so much about showing and training dogs. I have weekly training in both Showmanship and Obedience. I initially had to share our family dog with my sister who constantly reminded me that Indy was “her” dog. So, I always watched carefully and patiently waited my turn. Watching helped me learn, but I wanted more hands-on experience. I wanted my own dog to train. After much prodding, my parents allowed me to get my own Australian Shepherd, Wrangler, which I paid for with all my savings of $300.00. I was nine years old and this was the best moment of my life. Wrangler is the dog who helped me gain all my skills. Although Aussies are very intelligent dogs, they are very stubborn and need a firm handler. His difficult nature made it almost impossible for me to feel successful. I would often become frustrated and felt like I wanted to give up on him. However, my 4H club leaders and trainers pushed me forward. My parents and trainers encouraged me to stick in there. I studied my dog knowledge daily research improve my skills sets. I added agility to my list of weekly training which seemed to get him more engaged with trainings. Through these struggles, I have become a good handler with great canine knowledge. Most importantly, Wrangler helped me achieve all my dreams of becoming a successful dog handler. In both our state and regional fairs, he and I have won numerous placements in showmanship and obedience including multiple Grand Champion placements.

As time went on and my passion increased, I wanted to expand my skills. The next logical step would be to compete in the AKC as a Junior handler. We had trainers that volunteered hours of their time to help us prepare for the AKC show ring. Week after week, we would get an opportunity to train under experienced handlers who taught us everything from how to properly hold a lead, how to command our dog’s attention in the ring, how to do all the different patterns, dog breed knowledge, and so much more. At our weekly trainings, we would work on perfecting how we moved with our dog, how we stacked our dog, and how to present ourselves alongside of our dog with confidence. Our trainer also encouraged us to attend AKC dog shows and steward so we could watch how the experienced handlers handled their dogs. I looked forward to these weekly training sessions and still do.

In order to become more competitive, I felt that I should get another dog. My Aussie was PAL registered so he could not compare to the show quality dogs that many of the Juniors use. After working with and studying many breeds, I settled upon getting an Ibizan Hound. By proving my responsibility in caring for and training Wrangler, my parents agreed to let me get a new dog. In February of 2017, I welcomed Charm, CKC GCH DC UKC/AKC CH Icycold Third Time SC, into my life. Since getting Charm, I feel more confident competing in AKC shows with both my dogs. We have won multiple Best Junior Handler Awards and multiple AKC Owner Handler Hound Group placements. One of my greatest accomplishments is winning Best Junior Handler at the 2017 Ibizan Hound Club of the United States National Specialty Show. My trainer has helped me become more competitive in the AKC arena. I enjoy both 4H and AKC dog competitions because they are slightly different. In 4H showmanship, we receive a score based out of a 100. We are scored on the presentation of the dog for the exam, the gaiting of the dog in relationship to the handler, the grooming and cleanliness of the dog, the appearance of the handler, and the handler’s knowledge of the breed and general dog knowledge. It is helpful to receive the score sheet so I know what I need to improve for the next time. In 4H Senior classes, the handlers are expected to know how to perform many different ring patterns such as a triangle, reverse triangle, “L” patterns, and “T” patterns. I think this is a good practice since it allows for the handler to show their skill sets with hand changes and reversing directions. AKC is different because we don’t receive direct feedback from the judge. AKC is fun because it is more competitive. Most of the kids have show quality dogs. In AKC, we juniors have 
more opportunities to connect with breeders and experienced handlers. Because of my AKC experiences, I have gained firsthand knowledge and opportunities to help experienced handlers ringside with many different breeds.

These experiences through 4H and AKC have not only taught me about showing dogs. Through these adventures, I have become a determined and composed person. I know how to present myself with grace and confidence. I have also learned how to be a humble winner and how to lose with poise. Whether I win or lose, I grow from each experience and strive to only get better. I have made many friends in both 4H and AKC who share my same passion. It has been fun to meet up with them at shows. Without showing dogs, I would never be the person I am today. My involvement with 4H and AKC has given me a great foundation both personally and in my professional growth as a future handler.

I think the 4H has a unique way to train young people in the dog sport. By competing as individuals and as a group, they bring comradery to the sport. I will continue to work with them as it gives me a great sense of pride when I see them win and enjoy the sport. 

Below: Mia Speciale with Wrangler (mixed breed) at the 4H Regional Show


Three scholarships a year are offered by OHA. Two of the scholarships are offered in the names of two founding OHA members, Charlie Westfield and Harry Proctor.

The criteria for awarding scholarships is based on applicant’s academic achievements and potential, financial need and the applicant’s involvement in dog-related activities. The scholarships are available to anyone who either they, or a member of their family, are involved in the sport of dogs.

For more information please contact Victoria Glickstein at ohaavg@gmail.com. Deadline for submission is March 31st of each calendar year.

OHA Objectives

  • To encourage and promote sportsmanship among purebred dog fanciers
  • To communicate with and educate purebred dog fancier
  • To encourage and promote the sport of owner-handling and training of purebred dogs


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