As if joining a new sport isn’t rough enough, entering the world of dog shows, and Junior Showmanship specifically, takes that feeling of “rough” one step further.

I think most of you would agree that in the past and today most junior handlers grow up with an immediate family member or someone close to them involved in the sport. That’s how they come about wanting to be involved in Junior Showmanship. Sometimes though, we have outsiders come in who may have heard about the sport through a friend, perhaps watched a competition on television, or maybe even came across juniors on the Internet.

Some teens find out about Junior Showmanship through the Internet. Photo © Akeeris/

All ways of developing a desire to become a junior handler are great ways.

On rare occasions, some young handlers may be involved in dogs but decide that they don’t actually want to compete as a junior until years after the 9-year-old qualifying age.

This past weekend, I encountered just this sort of rare occurrence. As I sat and watched the Junior Showmanship competition at the Kennel Club of Palm Springs unfold, I noticed a familiar dog show face enjoying all sorts of firsts. This junior was enjoying a first time competing as a junior, during the first show weekend of the year, and winning a first first-place ribbon!

In my opinion though, it does take more than just desire to brave the competitive, yet fulfilling, world of Junior Showmanship.

Parental Support: There’s nothing much more important than receiving the “go ahead” from your parents. In Junior Showmanship this is one of the biggest parts of the sport. With every junior, there is a parent or mentor right around the corner, and that person’s support is very high on the list of must-haves to succeed and be happy!

A Little Help from Friends: Friends are also a big part of the support system that keeps the ball rolling. With a new year, I think that’s something we should all keep in mind – especially when it comes to helping out new, eager handlers. Heck, you never know what you can learn from each other. This weekend I was so happy to see lots of juniors in support of the winners, cheering each other on!

Self-Confidence: Lastly, we aren’t all born with a world of self-confidence, and for some it just takes longer to become comfortable showing in front of a large crowd, or even the important people in our lives. Starting juniors at a later age may be just what some young handlers need in order to feel more confident! There’s not one thing wrong with that.

I am so pleased to be kicking off this show year, and more importantly the Junior Showmanship year, on this sort of new and fresh note! If you or someone you know needs more than desire to take that first step into the ring, stay positive and work through the challenges for an even more wonderful 2013!

Dogs Freakin’ Rule, but you already knew that.