Showing in Junior Showmanship can be difficult enough as it is, but today’s interviewee from Hereford, Ariz., knows all too well about the difficulties – and then some.

Jordan Confer seemed to emerge on the scene this year as quite the handler in the juniors ring, catching more than just my eye with his effortless handling skills. Oh, and he shows a rare breed, the Treeing Walker Coonhound. At 17 years old, Jordan and his junior dog ‘Lenny,’ which he also shows in the breed, aspire to do great things.

Jordan and his left-hand man ‘Lenny’ on the move after being awarded Best Junior Handler.

Let’s hear exactly what Jordan has to say. . .

Kayla Bertagnolli: How did you get involved in showing dogs?

Jordan Confer: I started out showing Jack Russells in the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America when I was 9 years old. My aunt needed help with one of the shows she was going to, and so she asked if I would like to go. I have been hooked ever since. We continued showing in the JRTCA for three years. From there, I started attending and showing at AKC shows. It was a huge change. For starters I went from showing in shorts and flip flops to showing in a suit. That took some getting used to. It also took me some time to get used to the different handling styles. I attended many handling classes and spent many hours practicing with my dog. Last year I met a lady that had Treeing Walkers, and she informed me that she was looking to place a Walker. A week later, I picked up Lenny, and there was an instant bond between us. I now show him in juniors and in the breed ring, and he is my only juniors dog.

KB: As a junior handler, what challenges have you faced along the way?

JC: As a junior handler, I have faced many challenges. As we all know, in Junior Showmanship the judge is supposed to be judging the handler, not the dog, but I have had multiple judges tell me the reason I did not get first in my class was because my dog toed out. It is very frustrating, but you just have to take what the judge gives to you. I didn’t give up. I just dealt with the judges that judge the dog and not the handler.

KB: Speaking of challenges, what ups and downs have you experienced showing a rare breed in Junior Showmanship?

JC: Showing a rare breed in juniors can be beneficial, but it can also hurt you. It’s beneficial because you can stand out in a way that most others wouldn’t and you are showing a breed that not many other juniors are showing. It hurts me because many of the junior judges I have shown to don’t know what breed I am showing. They call him “a Foxhound.” Kind of like what I was getting into above, Foxhounds and Walkers aren’t shown the same way so the judges think I am showing my “Foxhound” wrong. It can be very challenging, but I don’t give up!

Jordan and ‘Lenny’ stacking up – as a Walker should be stacked – right before being awarded Best Junior Handler.

KB: What advice would you have for young handlers who may be having a hard time in the sport?

JC: Don’t give up. If you get knocked down, you have to get back up and try again. Just go out there and have fun! Most importantly, practice a lot! You can’t expect to have a good time, let alone win, if you don’t practice.

KB: Where do you see yourself in five years time?

JC: In five years, I will be 22, and I see myself as a professional handler specializing in Hounds. I also plan to go to college to get a degree in animal medicine.

KB: What is your ultimate dog show wish?

JC: One day I want win the Group at the Garden. I also want to become a breeder judge and judge my breed at Westminster and AKC/Eukanuba.

KB: When you’re not showing dogs, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

JC: When I am not showing dogs, I am hanging out with friends. I like to go hiking, camping, horseback riding and airsofting. When I’m not showing, that is.

KB: Who is your support team?

JC: My support team would be my mom, grandma, grandpa and dad. They are always there to support me even when they don’t go to the shows. Along with that, there are many friends that are my support team. Oftentimes I travel to shows by myself because my family’s work and dog shows usually end up at the same time. So when I travel to a show alone, I will stay with various friends. They are all wonderful for letting me do so!

KB: If you could be the president of the AKC for one day, what would you do differently and why?

JC: I would change a couple of things if I was the AKC president. First, I would take away the Master class. It’s not fair to the younger kids to have to be in the same class as the older junior handlers. A lot of judges, in my opinion, just put the older kids up because they have more experience. I would also reward points to Reserve Best in Show. If you are going to go through the trouble of picking out a reserve best, then they should get something out of it. They would get the points for every dog defeated except for the Group the Best in Show dog came from,and if I could enforce that at every show, I would.

KB:Any last words?

JC: Make sure you just go out there and have fun! Make it fun for your dog too, and never, ever give up!

Just like Jordan said, “The most import thing is to never give up.” I think no matter how hard things get, that is one thing we must all remember.

Watch out for Jordan and Lenny on that blue carpet at AKC/Eukanuba and maybe even some green carpet (or purple) at Westminster 2014. He is currently qualified for each and hopes to make it to both! Good luck on your adventures, Jordan and Lenny!

P.S. Dogs Freakin’ Rule!