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Inside a Junior Seminar

As promised, today I’m writing about the Junior Showmanship seminar I attended in Waukesha, Wis., held in conjunction with the Waukesha Kennel Club shows in late July. In my previous blog, I referred to this seminar as a little bonus requirement in order to apply for my Junior Showmanship judging license. That’s exactly what it was too. I wasn’t aware that it was being offered until a few days before the show, when I found myself browsing through the AKC Juniors Facebook page and saw a handy dandy list of upcoming seminars.

Mr. Tim Thomas led the seminar, and he really captivated the audience with a perfect mixture of the basics, humor and the key points crucial to becoming a Juniors judge. Not only that, but he went the extra mile by adding a personal touch, sharing some of his own, potentially embarrassing, experiences with us. Because he went above and beyond the necessary information, the seminar proved to be a double bonus for me. It helped enable me to apply for my license, and I learned how to be a better Juniors judge.

I wasn’t the only one in the room who would rate the seminar this way. He had everyone laughing, and questions were limited because he covered everything thoroughly. The majority of the attendees had been to another of Mr. Thomas’ seminars the previous day, and I could see relationships already developing between the teacher and his students.

Perhaps the most important people in the room, though, were the younger ones. I wasn’t too far ahead of them in years. As we often hear in the dog show world, “Young people are the future of our sport.” To see so many young adults, myself included, interested and willing to attend this seminar, was a fresh reminder that we really are the sport’s future.

Going into the seminar, I’d had the opportunity to judge two matches, studied up on the Junior rules, and talked quite a bit with my mom, who has been a Junior judge for a little over three years. I felt pretty comfortable with the information that I had gathered in preparing to apply for my license.

Of course, there is always more to learn. Surprisingly, the things that I learned not to do during the seminar were things that I remember judges having us do in the Juniors ring.

For example, a judge is never, ever supposed to take a class around the ring unless it’s organized by the dogs’ sizes and speeds, simply for safety reasons. Well, I can’t count on my hand how many times as a Junior I went around the ring in a class that wasn’t organized that way.

Another key point that Mr. Thomas made is the importance of keeping the same structure within a class. That means sending the handlers in the same patterns and using the same table procedure with each entry. But it also means you can change those elements from class to class. I think this is really important, especially if you have a class of itty-bitty kids or first timers, then a master class of kids who really know what they’re doing!

Ironically, the very next weekend while judging my third, and final, match, I had all of this information flowing back into my brain. It suddenly became very useful and made my job a bit clearer to me. And that made me feel even more comfortable in my role as a judge!

I urge anyone who is able to apply or wants to even know more about the world of judging Juniors to attend one of these seminars. I hope that your experience will be as great as mine was.

Let me know if any of you have attended a seminar and what it was like. I would love to hear about it, so just leave a comment below!

Just one more reason that Dogs Freakin’ Rule!

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"
  • Sylvie August 21, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Thanks for posting this, Kayla! I’m attending the Basic Judges’ Institute in Pleasanton in October, and it’s followed by the Juniors Seminar, so it’s nice to hear it’s informative and fun! I’ll look forward to it even more now.

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