With the New Year, a new cycle of competition begins. For all you juniors out there, a single thought is likely to be on your collective mind: Will 2012 be an epic dog show year for me?

For any year to become memorable considerable planning is required. Savvy juniors consider everything from the most sought-after shows to win to the value of their current canine partners. Preparations must be made for the all-breed shows as well as the specialties and, as if scheduling a whole year around work and school isn’t difficult enough, there’s a whole new set of rules, regulations and even a new class to consider!

So, as you create your list of the shows you want to attend this year, here are a few things to keep in mind as your journey begins.

Lets start with the biggest show of the year: Westminster. Officially, you have just 43 days to get your dog in tip-top shape, find the perfect outfit (you ladies know what I’m talking about), and sweep the competition off their feet! If, however, you’re not heading to the Garden, there are plenty of other great shows to look forward to.

For all you west coasters, the first shows of the year, Palm Springs, held in Indio, CA will see a big turnout, as will the entries in Portland, OR. Throughout the year, shows such as Del-Valle are “must attend” shows if you want to win those big points. Midwesterners will want to be sure to attend the Houston shows for the nice weather as well as the big wins, and the Idaho-Montana circuit, although tiring, has the points that make the extra effort well worth it. Terrier fanciers from everywhere will not want to miss “Montgomery”, held back east during the first the first weekend of October, and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship that closes out the year down in Florida. (You have until mid-October to gather your five first place wins to qualify.)

So, what are you waiting for? Pick your favorite shows and get out there!

Now, if you are an Open Senior and you’re looking for scholarships, here is a list of shows and organizations you should consider: AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, Westminster Kennel Club’ Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Show, Dog Writers Association of America, Junior Achievement Challenge Scholarship Program, and the AKC Junior Showmanship Scholarship Program. You can complete all of the requirements here (due by February 17, 2012) and don’t forget to check with your local kennel club to find out about regional scholarships too.

There are several new (and I must say exciting) rules for 2012. If you are looking to qualify for the 2013 Westminster Kennel Club, you’ll need to win Best Junior Handler SEVEN times, with competition, between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012. (Click here for more information.) If you’re fortunate enough to win ten or more first place wins, you will now be required to enter the (new) Master Class, open to anyone at least 9 years old and under 18 years of age. The new class is a great concept and one that should be lots of fun and a boon to juniors everywhere.

One last thing you won’t want to miss out on is the new Junior Showmanship Report. Click here to find out just how easy it is to track your wins!

So, whether you’re gearing up for the Garden, your breed’s National, or your local kennel club’s show, make sure you remember to have lots of fun, learn something new and, most importantly, love your dogs. If you’re attending the Palm Springs shows this month, keep your eye out for the Best In Show Daily team. We’d love to say “Hello” and learn of your epic plans for the year to come.

Oh, don’t forget… Dogs Freakin’ Rule!!!!!!