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Ring Parents

As a former junior handler, I know all too well what it’s like to have your mom standing right outside the ring watching your every move and trying to give you pointers. The key word here is “trying.”

How in the world am I supposed to watch you and look like I’m not watching you? It’s impossible and, in the end, the advice is always something silly like, “Smile, sweetie!” or “Move your dog’s right rear foot half an inch back!”

Of course, we never really know what our parents are trying to say to us when they’re “mouthing” everything from across the ring. Meanwhile, other juniors’ parents are running around with little totes full of goodies in one hand and a video camera in the other.

The juniors ring can be quite the spectacle with all of that going on!

Now that I’m older, I can appreciate the love these parents have for their kids. The term “ring parents” is essentially a name I decided to create from the term “stage mom” – a parent of a performing child.

In a sense, showing dogs in juniors – along with kids who participate in events such as conformation, agility, earthdog, and obedience – is a form of performing. Ring parents are usually responsible for driving their kids to events, making sure their kids arrive on time, and managing all doggie-related needs and requirements, including making entries.

Ring parents can play a very important role, especially when their kids are young.

The term “stage mom,” on the other hand – thanks to shows like “Toddlers & Tiaras” and “Dance Moms” – sometimes has a negative connotation. Some people associate being an involved parent in their child’s sport with being obnoxious and annoying. I’d like to think that only a handful of people out there are like that, and very few at dog shows. In fact, I never see parents going full on “crazy” ringside with their kids. For the most part, doggie parents are kind. They’re proud, and they want to see their children do the best they can.

Sometimes though, I think juniors can get overwhelmed by the little things – including what can seem like endless videotaping. It can get pretty annoying sometimes. However, having parents or a friend record your ring time can be used to great advantage. No tool can better help you see exactly how to improve your performance.

If you read my blog last week, you know that I ventured out to judge my first juniors match. While I was judging, I had a few moms taping their kids. What better way is there to learn? All they had to do was go home, watch the video and keep working hard!

I think I speak for all young people out there when I say that no junior ever wants to say, “It’s just not fun anymore!” because of their parents’ involvement. So to all the ring parents out there videotaping their junior handlers, be supportive and keep on keeping on! Remember, children mostly need praise and approval from their parents. Everything else will follow!

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!"
  • Dorothea Romano April 10, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    Thanks for a great article. You hit it right on. I am the grandma of Ania Kelly who just won Best Junior at Westminster and Rachel, her Mom, and I were careful to try to not be those overbearing “ring parents”. Ania had to make her own entries, dog switches, ring times and especially grooming of an orange and white English Cocker Spaniel; not an easy task. We just came as the support system, and of course the drivers. Ania did all the work and she did a fabulous job of learning, improving, and finally reaching the pinnacle to culminate in the reward for all that hard work.

  • Sonya Henderson,Raynics Bassets April 10, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    As a mother of a junior myself,it took a lot of “mom control” to allow my daughter to use her skills that she had learned from pros and other owner handlers who excelled in the ring with their own breeds and helped her to be confident with whatever breed was at the end of her lead.She always wanted to do her very best with her ‘charge’ and I was always very proud of the job she did in the ring regardless of the end results. It was always imprtant to her ( and me) that she was always proud that her handling of her dog was the best she had done that day and always when she was in the ring. By the way, her charges were always Bassets and she was very good at her handling.

  • leahb
    Leah B April 14, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Kayla… you know I NEVER did any of those things (wink wink) 😉

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