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The Language of the Juniors Ring

Getting together outside of the ring while watching other classes being judged can be a big advantage for junior handlers who are paying attention. Juniors can utilize what they’ve seen and heard in order to feel more relaxed when it’s their turn inside of the ring. Some handlers have their friends to chat with and some, if lucky – yes lucky – have their parents to watch with them.

The language that junior handlers use can be broken down simply into two categories: physical and verbal.

First, the language that is used inside of the ring leans toward the physical side of handling with more body language and less talking. Some kids depend on it, and others hardly use it at all. Things like the classic junior “stare down” come to mind, and we’ll get into this a little bit later here.

The second category of language is more or less an actual language. This is the social chatting that goes on while watching the classes and the learning that takes place with other handlers outside of the ring. This is a really big part of junior handling, but once again I think some handlers depend on it more than others.

A group of junior handlers gathers around the ring to chat before their class enters the ring.

In a recent article, Bo Bengtson provides examples of how the written word is important in the dog world. I’d like to suggest that the spoken – and unspoken – language of the sport can really make a difference to help our junior handlers succeed in their goals. Here are a few examples.

The Pep Talk: Sometimes all you need for a positive attitude inside the ring is to have a little pep talk with your showing partner. However, this is not a one-way street, folks. It takes two for the perfect junior handler-dog relationship to work, and, let’s face it, communication is the key to success in the ring. This is true whether the communication is physical or verbal. I see these little “convos” taking place over and over, more so in the junior rings than anywhere else. Believe me, it seems to really work, since there are smiles all around when this is going down!

Tell me they aren’t adorable.

The Helper: It’s always good to see other juniors helping out their friends who may be showing in different classes. It’s even better when you see that they are not only helping by way of bringing a water bottle or comb, but are also helpful by being supportive. Some sign of approval that they are doing well helps some handlers. This is an overall great way of helping, if you ask me. The helper can also provide feedback as to how the handler looked and performed in the ring.

A fellow handler lends a helping hand by bringing water ringside for another junior who’s showing in her class.

The Stare Down: I had to save the best for last. We all know about the classic junior stare down, but is it really exactly what its name implies? Sometimes the answer is yes. Some juniors wear a “pick me, pick me” face, but other times the stare down can just be a face that is attentively watching the judge. If you ask me, this is exactly what the handler is supposed to be doing. Either way, this has to be the number one form of communication for junior handlers. Now let’s just remember to use it wisely, OK?

A junior watches closely as the judge moves down the final lineup.

Some parents admit to having a so-called “secret language” that they use when their kids are in the ring. Different hand signals can communicate plenty, and a nod of approval can go a long way. Now I think this is a really cool thing, when it’s done right.

What do you think about the language of junior handlers? Leave a comment below to tell us more!

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!"
  • Bailee Rodgers June 6, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    I, as a junior handler, have learned you don’t pay any attention to what’s past that white fence while inside the ring. Such as, Don’t Ever double handle, take bait or grooming supplies from helpers, and don’t talk to anyone but your dog and the judge(asking another handler to move back is an exception). Have all your supplies with you. I study the catalog and figure where I’d be. then I would hang my water bottle or a towel there. I agree watching the judge is good so you know where they are at and what there doing. This is a great article and I love what you write about.

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