In the sport of dogs today, the majority of junior handlers come from families who are also involved in the sport. Usually someone closely related, like a mother, father or friend of the family, has already been showing dogs for a couple of years.

I wanted to reach out to some of these young handlers to find out how they got involved with dogs and, through Facebook, I heard from more than 20 different juniors. I was not surprised to learn that more than half of them have their family to thank for where they are in the sport today. Some junior handlers have parents who have been involved for 20-plus years. How great is that?

A group of conformation junior handlers pose for a photo with their dogs at a recent show. From Left to right: Alyson Layser, Jonathan Pennella, Brooke Moyer and Amanda Layser. Photo courtesy of Alyson Layser.

The juniors I spoke with are involved in conformation and agility, as well as other events, and they all share one thing in common: a love of dogs. They have a positive energy and a passion for dogs that are sure to keep our sport alive. Doesn’t that make us all feel a little better?

What I was surprised to discover is that more than half of these handlers are not only showing in conformation, but are also involved in performance events, and they’re interested in other aspects of the sport too, like breeding.

Even more surprising is that a big chunk of the junior handlers I reached out to said that they are the ones who actually ended up getting their families involved in dogs. Now how is that for a little role reversal?

A few of the juniors I heard from mentioned that they are a “solo” kind of gig. They say they got into the sport on their own and continue on their own with help from their mentors and from other juniors. Some even mentioned that they are now involved in dogs because of the shows they’ve seen on TV. These first-generation dog fanciers say that they plan on passing along their love of dogs and the dog sport in hopes that it will spark an interest in others.

Today’s young handlers are thinking of every possible way to make our sport better. They want to learn more about showing and breeding and, overall, they just want to be happy with the sport.

If you’re a junior and want to share your experiences in the dog sport, I urge you to join the AKC Junior’s Group Facebook page. It’s a great place to talk to other handlers just like you. You can voice your own opinion and create topical conversations of your own!

So what about your introduction to the sport? Leave a comment below to let everyone know how you got involved. Join the conversation, and let’s keep things going!

And don’t forget this one thing… Dogs Freakin’ Rule!