This past weekend I had the chance to attend my first Kennel Club of Thailand dog show. I was looking forward to exploring the Junior Showmanship world here, but little did I know that I wouldn’t find much of one. In fact, the club doesn’t currently have many junior competitions.

I have learned that the club is working to come up with ways to encourage participation in a juniors program. Not only are club members raising this topic at their meetings, but the few kids who are interested are becoming involved and are willing to help get things established here.

Two young handlers, Patcharika and Mind, pose for a photo at this past weekend’s show. Photo by Kayla Bergtagnolli.

I was also surprised to learn from two international judges – one from Indonesia and another from Malaysia – that Junior Showmanship competitions do exist in their countries, but they’re on the smaller side. All three countries, I am told, are hoping to grow their juniors programs.

As someone who grew up in the dog sport and showed in juniors for many years, I just don’t understand why Thailand is trailing its neighbors in establishing its Junior Showmanship program. Now that I’ve met a few young handlers in this country, I hope to work together with them and the club to address this issue and find more children interested in showing.

Thailand’s most famous young handler, and this year’s representative at the International Juniors Competition at Crufts, is the talented “Mind,” Supasin Khajornpraphasun. I was able to chat with Mind about not only his experiences in Birmingham, England, but also about his plans for the future. This young handler is following in the footsteps of his father, and Mind hopes to continue handling and breeding, as well as one day judging. At the age of 16, he’s already an all-breed handler in his country. From watching him in the ring, I can be the first to tell you that he knows what it takes to professionally handle a dog – and how to do it with a smile on his face!

Here are a few words from Mind himself:

Kayla Bertagnolli: What do you like about showing dogs?

Mind Supasin Khajornpraphasun: It’s always fun to meet my friends and other handlers at the show. I love to see the dogs showing and to see many breeds. Showing makes me happy.

KB: How old were you when you showed your first dog and who is your mentor?

MSK: I started getting interested when I was 4 years old. My dad helped me. I wanted to handle by myself when I was young, and I cried to my dad that I wanted to show. So my dad gave me a Whippet puppy for my birthday. She is a nice one and a wonderful teacher. My dad taught me all the basics and a natural way to control my dog. Sometimes I would get upset because it’s very hard to do well. I started showing when I was 6 years old, and I won Best Baby in Show with a Saint Bernard. This was the first big win for me, but now showing dogs is in the family. My little brother trains every day to learn handling.

The Khajornpraphasun family: Father Chaloemchai or “Tong,” Mind, brother Supachai or “Max,” and mother Pagaporn or “Kea.” Photo by Kayla Bertagnolli.

KB: How did it feel representing Thailand at the Crufts International Junior Competition?

MSK: I was really happy to make the short list Final 10 at Crufts. This was my first time showing in the U.K., and I went to show there by myself. I did it not only for me, but also for the Thailand Kennel Club and for my country. I want to help people from overseas to learn how it is here. We have good handlers and a lot of nice dogs, but we don’t have very much competition. Most entries are only 300 dogs for one show, but all of us here do it because we don’t want to give up, and we wish to learn to handle and breed better.

KB: What did you learn showing with the top junior handlers from all over the world?

MSK: I learned different handling techniques by watching all of the top junior handlers. And I learned the natural – must have – movement in order to move together with your dog. And I had a lot of fun!

Mind shows in the International Juniors Competition at Crufts 2013.

Photo by Svetlana Valoueva Photography.

KB: How are you currently involved in the dog sport?

MSK: I handle all breeds and do everything by myself, from taking care of my dogs to grooming.

KB: What do you want to do in the sport when you grow up?

MSK: I want to be a judge one day, and I want to breed nice dogs. I also want to help with the junior handlers.

Kayla here again. I was also able to meet another impressive young handler at the show. I first saw her in the Siberian Husky ring, and I thought to myself, “Wow, she really knows how to handle a dog!” Come to find out not only is she very smooth with her dogs, but this is also a family sport for her. She just loves – and I mean loves – to show.

At 9 years old, Patcharika Punsuek is well aware that when Mind turns 18 she will be one of only a very few handlers for kids to look up to in the future. She may even get the chance to attend big shows like Crufts.

Patcharika expressed to me that no matter what happens in the ring, win or lose, she doesn’t care. She’s just happy to show and knows that she can learn more and improve with the help of her family and her peers.

Patcharika Punsuek handles her Siberian Husky in the ring at a Kennel Club of Thailand show. Photo by Kayla Bertagnolli.

I look forward to hearing about the experiences these two have in the future. I hope that together (and with the help of this blog), the world of Junior Showmanship can continue to grow in this part of the world. Lots of love and support to these two young handlers.

Thank you, Mind and Patcharika, for sharing your passion with the Thailand Kennel Club and with DFR readers.

See, I told you: Dogs Freakin’ Rule!