Today I have very special guest who has taken time out of his busy, busy schedule to answer a few questions about his experience judging the International Junior Handling Competition at Crufts this year.

Bill McFadden has been handling professionally, with his wife Taffe, for more than 25 years. He has shown several dogs to Number 1 among all breeds in the U.S. and, among other prestigious wins, has won eight Group Firsts and a Best in Show at Westminster. Always interested in what’s going on in the dog sport around the world, Bill travels each year to England for Crufts, and has imported dogs from various countries both for clients and to incorporate into his Random Wire Fox Terrier breeding program, which has produced all-breed and National Specialty Best in Show winners. Two dogs he imported for clients – Kerry Blue Terrier Eng. Am. Ch. Torum’s Scarf Michael and Dandie Dinmont Terrier Aust. NZ Am. Ch. Hobergays Fineus Fogg – became America’s top dogs of all breeds during their careers. Bill has judged sweepstakes at the American Fox Terrier Club and Cairn Terrier Club of America National Specialties, as well as specialty sweeps and futurities in many other breeds.

So here’s a little bit about the Crufts experience from the man himself…

Mr. Bill McFadden in the big arena while judging the International Junior Handling Competition at Crufts 2013. Photo by Dom Santoriello.

Kayla Bertagnolli: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your experience judging juniors at Crufts 2013. First off, for those of us who may not know, would you please tell us about your experiences in the Junior Showmanship world?

Bill McFadden: My history in juniors goes something like this: I never participated in Junior Showmanship myself. However Taffe was a very successful junior in Canada. Both of my sons showed in juniors, with Conor doing it the longest. We have also had many juniors help us at shows and have had several from around the world that we have hosted including the U.K.’s Tamara Dawson, who was Best Junior at Crufts under Anne Rogers Clark. So I have been on the periphery for a long time.

KB: How did you prepare yourself for the assignment to judge prior to making your journey to England?

BF: I went to five shows in Scottsdale, Ariz., and then flew home and trimmed dogs, packed and left. Oh! Do you mean prepare mentally? I have a very clear idea of what a good handler is. So I just thought through what I would reward and how I would handle the fact that each junior was handling a dog that they didn’t know until shortly before they showed it.

KB: In past years you have not only competed at Crufts. but have been quite successful in the ribbons. How did this year differ as you were there to judge instead of show a dog?

BF: I go to Crufts every year, and it is just one of my very favorite places to be. I prefer going as a spectator rather than as an exhibitor. Going as a judge was completely different, but exciting, and I felt more nervous because I knew there were 38 sets of dreams on display and I really wanted to honor that.

Naomi van Mourik of the Netherlands was awarded first in the International Junior Handling Competition at Crufts 2013. Photo by Karl Donvil.

KB: This year’s International Junior Handling Competition at Crufts seemed to be full of very talented handlers. How did you feel about the competitors over all?

BF: I loved the competitors. There was a real sense of passion and dedication that was a common factor regardless of handling skills. The night before the competition they hosted a very nice dinner where each junior spoke briefly about their background and their interests outside of dogs. I was so impressed by the plans that almost all of them

had for a future in dogs, either as a breeder, handler or judge. It did my heart good to see that we definitely have a future coming up in dogs. They also were so well-rounded with their outside-of-dog activities and studies. Now, more than ever, I’m super-optimistic about the future, based on this experience.

KB: After you shortlisted 10 handlers out of the 38, specifically what were you looking for from them before your final decision was made?

BF: Based on my preliminary judging, I had a good idea who the competition was between. I really was noticing how the handlers responded to the excitement and nerves, and also any difficulties presented by their dogs. I really noticed how they worked things out literally “on the fly.”

Second place was awarded to Emma Echols of Athens, Ga. Photo by Karl Donvil.

KB: Was there a clear-cut top three, or did you struggle choosing your placements?

BF: In my mind, going into the finals there were six handlers who stood out, and I didn’t know how they would place. I just knew they were really good earlier in the day. In the morning, they had the one dog that they had met for less than an hour, but then they had to switch to a second dog and, within about five minutes, come back in the ring and show it. Very difficult and very telling as to who had the most intuitive approach to dogs.

KB: Being that these handlers are the top of the top from their own countries, how difficult was it to make an even playing field for the handlers as a whole?

BF: Not hard at all. There was, of course, loud crowd support for some and less for others, but I was able to just focus on their talent and let the rest go.

Liz Cartledge stands alongside Bill McFadden and his final three handlers. Photo by Karl Donvil.

KB: Let’s talk about your final three handlers. How did they match up to the rest?

BF: All three were wonderful handlers, but my first place from the Netherlands was so right on every second. I kept noticing her, and kept telling myself she was really good. She handled how I was taught to handle. Second and third place were spot-on as well. Even though their dogs may have given them trouble, they didn’t let that affect their performances. Like I said before, it is important to me not to let any of these young handlers and their dreams down. I was surprised at how happy each and every one of them was – not just the top three, but the kids who made the final too. This was great to see.

KB: What advice would you give to those talented young handlers who may be able to compete at Crufts in the years to come?

BF: Breathe, make adjustments when things aren’t going great because that is what really shows up – how well you think on your feet! Also in preparing long-term, just keep your eyes and ears open. You can and will learn so much from watching other handlers with different breeds. You can even learn from mistakes you see others make that you can remember not to make yourself.

KB: What other events or breed rings were you able to attend while at Crufts?

BF: I watched a lot of Terriers (surprise), Cavaliers, which was a day on its own, and English Cockers. Then there are the endless booths to look through, and thankfully for my wallet, I forgot where that certain item was that I wanted to go back and get!

KB: Any last words?

BF: I really enjoyed myself, and I was honored to have the invitation. I thank Liz Cartledge, whose baby this competition is, for the opportunity, and also to her committee and my super stewards.

Thank you, Bill. You’ve proven once again that dogs, and junior handlers, freakin’ rule!

Congratulations to the following Top 10 finalists in this year’s International Junior Handling Competition:

  • • Naomi van Mourik, the Netherlands (First Place)
  • • Emma Grayson Echols, United States (Second Place)
  • • Victoria Gill, Norway (Third Place)
  • • Brynja Kristin Magnusdottir, Iceland
  • • Yael Davidovich, Israel
  • • Monica Bonifacio, Italy
  • • Hannah Sofie Schöninger, Puerto Rico
  • • Vilhelmiina Wallden, Sweden
  • • Supasin Khajornpraphasun, Thailand
  • • Abbie Stoutt, United Kingdom