“AT WHAT AGE CAN YOU START JUNIOR HANDLING?”
You can compete in Junior Handling classes from the age of 6. However you can actually start practicing before this age, with and without a dog. The family dog may not always be the best dog to start with. A young handler needs a dog that is calm and obedient to work with.
“HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO COMPETE IN JUNIOR HANDLING?”
Entry fees at dog shows differ, an Open show costs generally from £2.50 – £7, and a Championship show, on average from £5 – £8.
It is advisable to join both Junior organisations; The Young Kennel Club (YKC) which has over 2,500 members (which includes entry to all disciplines like agility, obedience, flyball etc) and the Junior Handling Association (JHA) which has about 1,000 members. It costs around £10 a year to be a member of the YKC, for that, you receive a quarterly newsletter, badge and the chance to collect special awards. It’s almost customary to be a JHA member (cost £5 annually), if you’re not you won’t be able to compete in the JHA semi – finals which are held each year in September.
“CAN ANY DOG BE USED TO COMPETE IN JUNIOR HANDLING?”
Only Kennel Club (KC) registered dogs who are entered in another class at the same show can be shown in a Junior Handling class.
“IF I DON’T OWN A DOG, CAN I STILL TAKE PART IN JUNIOR HANDLING?”
Firstly get the handling enthusiast joined up to the YKC as a member. See above. You don’t have to own a dog to join up. There’s loads more info on the YKC on their website http://www.ykc.org.uk/.
Secondly, attend a ringcraft class (they are training classes for people who show dogs.) Go to your local class and have a chat with the people who run the club and some of the owners. They will know what dogs are mature enough and trained already that they could have a go with to start learning the basics.
Thirdly to help her learn the basics of dog handling (and I’m not deliberately saying this so I can get a sale!) buy a book on Junior Handling which will teach her what to do in the show ring and how to compete etc. My book, Junior Handling The White Way is the most current and up-to-date handling book available. or buy the DVD version – Marina Scott’s Complete Guide to Junior handling.
There are successful junior handlers at dogshows who don’t own any dogs and show other people’s and it’s a great way for a youngster to develop as a person, it’s a very sociable and enjoyable environment.
“CAN I USE ANY BREED OF DOG?”
Yes, but some breeds are more versatile and suitable for junior handling than others. Whatever breed you choose, it must match your size, temperament and experience. A very bad example is a 6 year old inexperienced handler who uses the family dog, an Irish Wolfhound to show in the ring.
“I HAVE AN OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG WHICH HAS A SHORT COAT RATHER THAN A TYPICAL LONG COAT, CAN I STILL TAKE PART IN HANDLING CLASSES WITH HER?”
It shouldn’t matter whether it’s long or short, as long as the dog is KC registered and has been entered in another class at the show. This makes the dog eligible for use in the handling class. The judge should be judging the skills of the handler and not the dogs breed credentials.
“CAN I HANDLE A PUPPY?”
Do not use a puppy if you are just starting out in Junior Handling. They are unpredictable and are liable to throw you off balance, plus they are learning too!
“SHOULD OLDER DOGS BE GIVEN LESS MARKS? I HAVE BEEN IN COMPETITIONS AND THE JUDGE HAS ALWAYS NOTED OR DISCOURAGED ME FROM HAVING AN OLDER DOG.”
The judge should not be judging the dog in handling competitions, no matter what they have been telling you. Whether you are handling a puppy, a champion or a veteran, the judge should be judging whether or not you are showing the dog off to it’s best potential whilst minimising any faults it may have.
“DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO USE THE SAME DOG IN A JH CLASS?”
No, as long as the dog you choose to handle in a Junior Handling class is entered in another class at the same show.
“WHERE CAN I PRACTICE?”
You can practice with or without your dog at home in your garden, at the park, and at your local ringcraft class.
“IS IT NECESSARY FOR JUNIOR HANDLING JUDGES TO ASK HANDLERS ABOUT DOG CONFORMATION AND BREED HISTORY?”
It’s probably unnecessary for the younger age group (6-11) but if you have a quality and experienced line-up of handlers in the older class and are finding it hard to split them, this is a good way of finding out the great handlers from the good. I know some handlers and judges think asking breed and conformation questions are not relevant but what’s the harm for youngsters to know the basic anatomy of their dog and their breed history? When I judge at open shows I do not always ask the breed and anatomy questions because it depends whether I can find my winners on their handling ability alone. However, I use them more at Championship shows and definitely for the Richmond semi-finals.
“WHAT DO I WEAR?”
When competing in a Junior Handling class, what you wear could cost you a place in the line – up. Therefore it is essential to dress smart but still feel comfortable (no jeans). For example for girls: a trouser-suit is a good idea with comfortable lace-up shoes (no trainers). For boys, a shirt and tie and smart trousers will look the part.
“DO I NEED A SPECIAL LEAD FOR MY DOG?”
If you are completely new to showing, you will need a suitable ‘show lead’. If your dog is shown with his normal collar and lead on, the dog will think it is going for a walk and behave accordingly! There are many types of show leads: the slip chain with a nylon attachment, the all-in -one nylon lead and the leather leads. Its best to buy your show lead at a dog show as there is loads of choice and then you can see if its suitable for your dog.
“I TIE MY HAIR UP IN A PONY TAIL BUT FIND MANY WINNERS TIE THEIRS UP IN A BUN. COULD THIS GO AGAINST ME IN A CLASS OR DOES IT NOT MATTER?”
Tieing your hair up in a pony tail is perfectly acceptable. However if it was tied up in a bun, the judge cannot penalise you for your presentation, they would have to find something else to penalise you for! Some judges may not take the pony tail into account, others will. Personally I’m looking for the overall performance and it’s very unlikely that if I couldn’t decided between one handler or the other, it wouldn’t come down to picking the one with the bun.
SPORTSMANSHIP AND ETIQUETTE
“CAN I ASK THE JUDGE AFTER MY HANDLING CLASS HAS FINISHED WHY I DIDN’T WIN?”
You can but only if the judge has time. Be polite and accept his/her answers. Whatever you do – do not argue, not only is this bad sportsmanship but the judge can’t change his/her decision. And instead of asking “what did I do wrong?”, try asking “how can I improve?”
“WHY DID I NOT WIN A PRIZE EVEN THOUGH I DID A GOOD ROUND?”
There are a number of answers here – your lines may need more attention, you over-handled, your personal presentation may have been poor, you eyeballed the judge too much, you didn’t look happy, the judges chosen are not always Junior Handling specialists and/or the quality of the handlers on the day could have been high.
“MY DOG DRAGGED ME OUT OF THE RING, THEN THE STEWARD ASKED ME TO LEAVE, WHY?”
It is expected before you compete seriously, that you are strong and competent enough to keep control of your dog in a safe manner in the ring. For example your dog may be too large and boisterous for you to cope with. If the steward sees that you are not in control of your dog then he may ask you to leave the class. Your dog could put other dogs and their handlers at risk.
“WHAT IS THE GOLDEN RULE?”
When moving your dog for the judge, you should not get between the dog and the judge. Different ‘turns’ are used to ensure you do not break this rule. A good Junior Handling judge should penalise breaking this rule in competition.
“I HAVE JUST COME FROM THE YOUNGER AGE GROUP TO THE OLDER AGE GROUP. AT MY FIRST SHOW IN THE OLDER AGE GROUP i NOTICED THAT ALL THE HANDLERS THAT GOT PLACED HAD BIG DOGS. IS IT KNOW FOR JUNIOR HANDLERS WITH BIG DOGS TO GET PLACED HIGHER?”
It was probably a one off and maybe the judge preferred handlers with experience of larger dogs. The judge should not have been judging the class on bigger dogs but not all junior handling judges go by the rules unfortunately. It is always hard when you first move up into the older age group class. You will look young and less experienced up against the older handlers but a good judge should not take age into account.
“WHAT IS MEANT BY OVER HANDLING? HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M DOING IT? HOW CAN I BECOME INVISIBLE TO THE JUDGE?”
Over handling can result by doing a combination of things – for example, shouting commands at your dog is not acceptable. The judge will want to hear your encouragement but not be deafened by it. Do not exaggerate ‘YOUR’ movements – the judge doesn’t want to be distracted because you are waving your arms in the air or walking like you are on a catwalk. You are meant to merge in the background. I know junior handling is all about the handler but what the judge wants to see is you getting the best out of your dog, whether it be a Champion or the runt of the litter. You can spot a junior ‘over handling’ also when they are stacking or ‘setting up’ a dog. Too much fiddling like moving the dogs legs when they are already in the correct position or fluffing of the coat is a no no. And lastly another example of ‘over handling’ is glancing back to see where the judge is when performing your patterns. There is nothing worse than watching a handler looking over their shoulder every two seconds when doing a triangle. Before the first left turn – just slyly look over your shoulder and at the next one do the same again. ‘Eyeballing’ in my opinion should be seriously penalised.
DO YOU HAVE A HANDLING QUESTION?