Four years ago, when I aged out of Junior Showmanship, I was determined to become a Juniors judge so I could always stay connected to this aspect of the sport. Unfortunately, life got in the way of my plans about as quickly as I imagined them. Now, nearly four years later, I’m finally able to pursue my goal.

An aspiring junior judge needs to accomplish a list of requirements before applying for a license. You must pass an open-book exam and meet two of the following criteria:

  • • Be a former Junior Handler
  • • Judge Junior Showmanship at least three times at an AKC all-breed sanctioned match
  • • Be the parent of a Junior
  • • Be a professional handler
  • • Attend an AKC-sponsored seminar on judging of Junior Showmanship in the last 24 months
  • • Teach all-breed handling classes

I decided that, if possible, I would try to judge three sanctioned matches. After talking to my mom about it, she mentioned that being in the ring and gaining that experience had really helped her along her journey.

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to judge my first match, held by the Beehive Toy Group of Utah. This event has allowed me to move one step closer to my goal!

The event went very well overall. This was my first time ever going into the ring as a judge and, surprisingly to me, I felt more than comfortable.

Honestly, I was nervous that only one or two kids would show up. (The event was held in Utah, where we only have three all-breed shows each year.) To my surprise, quite a few kids showed up! There were 10 kids in total, divided into two classes: Novice and Open Senior. To my advantage, a point show was also being held for the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and I had a few great Juniors who came over from that.

Me judging my first match at the Beehive Toy Group of Utah.

I thought the Juniors did very well, with only a few who were new to the ring. At the end, I even had a few come and ask me what they could do better and if I had any tips to share with them.

The winner for the day was 16-year-old Ashley Shock from the Open Senior class. Ashley not only was in sync with her dog, but her performance was polished and she worked hard the whole time! I know it was just a match, but Ashley helped make the event worthwhile, and I can see great potential in her future! I got to chat with her afterwards and take a quick snap shot! Great job, Ashley!!!!!

Me with the match’s Best Junior Handler, Ashley Shock.

Although I wish I had done this sooner, I feel as if my time spent these last few years learning more about dogs and dog shows is why I felt so comfortable in the ring. The idea of being able to be on the other side of Juniors is exciting. I can’t count with just my fingers how many times I was showing in Juniors, wishing the judges would be clear about what they wanted. I hope that one day I can enter the ring to judge and help kids bring out their best!

If anyone out there is like me, having put off something like this longer than initially planned, just make the time to go after it. I’m now one step closer to what I want, and you can be too!

After all, Dogs Freakin’ Rule!