A Brief History of Junior Showmanship

In the late 1920’s, a number of dog fanciers were led by Mr. Leonard Brumby Sr. to develop a special competition for children.  The idea was that children would compete against their peers, judged on how well they presented the breed they were showing.  In 1971 the AKC granted official recognition for Junior Handler competition.  The American Kennel Club now recognizes Juniors handling dogs to Performance Titles with a Certificate to mark the achievement.  There is now a scholarship program sponsored by the American Kennel Club.

Juniors become ineligible to compete in Jr. Showmanship at the age of 18.  In many cases, these Junior participants have gone forward to become breeders, judges or handlers.  Many continue to serve the AKC or their parent club and some pursue careers related to dogs.

Junior Showmanship – Eligibility

Children between the ages of 9 and 18 may compete in Junior Showmanship.  Each child must have a “Junior Number” to compete.  (Junior Numbers are easy to attain by emailing a request to juniors@akc.org.  Each junior must have the capability of controlling their dog at all times.  The dog they show must be either owned or co-owned by the Junior or the Junior’s  father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandfather, or grandmother, including corresponding step and half relations, or by a permanent member of the Junior Handler’s household.

The dog shown must be six months of age or older, physically sound, up to date on shots and either have an AKC or PAL number.  Spayed or neutered dogs are eligible, females in season are not.

How do I get started?

If you haven’t been to a show to see a Junior Showmanship competition, it is a great idea to go see one in person with your child.  You can watch and see the interactions among the kids.   Many clubs offer handling classes, some specifically for Juniors, some are for all-breed competition.  That’s a good place to start the learning process.

Actual classes at shows are organized by age and experience.

  • Novice Classes are for junior participants who need to gain experience who haven’t won more than three first place awards at a licensed show at the time entries close. (There must have been two or more entered for the first place to count.
  • Open Classes are for junior participants who have won three first place awards in a Novice class with competition.
  • Master Class is for juniors who have 10 Best Junior wins with competition. (The master class eligibility changes each year with eligibility dates considered for the AKC National Dog Show.

Classes may also be further divided by age.

  • Junior – at least 9 years old and under 12 the day of the show.
  • Intermediate – at least 12 years old and under 15 the day of the show.
  • Senior – at least 15 years old and under 18 the day of the show.

Best Junior Handler must be offered at any show offering Junior Showmanship Classes

Reserve Best Junior must be offered by all breed shows.  It may be offered by Group or Specialty clubs.

Dogs shown by the junior may be entered for Junior Showmanship only, or may if eligible compete in the regular breed classes.

A completed AKC entry form must be completed and sent to the appropriate location in accordance with the premium list by the closing date for the show. 

Amateur Status

Individuals listed as agents are not eligible to compete in Juniors.  Any person who distributes a rate card or advertises themselves as handling dogs for pay or accepts payment for handling dogs is not eligible to compete in Juniors.

Know How Juniors are Judged

Those judging Junior Showmanship are expected to lead by example, be on time, courteous, patient and properly attired.  It is important that those showing in Junior Showmanship be the same.  Dogs presented should be properly bathed and groomed.

When showing a Basset Hound in Junior Showmanship, it is expected that the Basset be judged on a ramp.  Not all judges or ring stewards are familiar with the ramp requirement.  When you get to the ring and pick up your armband and don’t see a ramp present, politely let the ring steward know that Bassets are judged on a ramp and let the steward inform the judge if necessary. Be sure to be polite and not disruptive.  Basset Hounds may not be put on a table.

Judges should maintain control of the ring at all times as various Juniors have varying degrees of experience.  It is up to the judge to see that safe conditions are maintained at all times.  The ultimate arrangement of dogs in the ring with their Juniors are normally lined up considering their size and speed. It is very important for Juniors to listen to and follow all directions of the judge, as well as to show restraint and respect for their fellow competitors.  Don’t crowd others, don’t throw bait.

Occasionally, if a Junior is showing their dog in the breed ring, judges may allow them to enter the ring for juniors up until the time they have examined and gaited every dog in the ring.

Juniors should be evaluated on four basic areas.

  1. Proper breed presentation.

The Junior should present the dog they are showing in a breed appropriate manner.

  1. Skill in the individual’s dog presentation.

The Junior should demonstrate the ability to handle the dog as it is handled in the breed

ring, showing the dog to its best advantage both standing and in motion.  The dog should be responsive to the handler, the dog’s main “faults” should be minimized and moved at the correct speed, all with a minimum of effort and maintaining a relaxed manner showing teamwork.

  1. Knowledge of ring procedure.

The Junior should follow directions, use space wisely, and be alert.

  1. Appearance and conduct.

The Junior and their dog should be clean, neat and well groomed.  The Junior should be courteous, confident and businesslike and handle their dog without distracting or interfering with other dogs.  Unsportsmanlike conduct or heaviness of hand with their dog will be penalized.

Performance and Companion Events Competition for Juniors

Juniors may compete as a Junior in Performance and Companion Events.  The Junior must compete with their Junior Number.  Ownership requirements are the same as Junior Showmanship.  The dog’s qualifying score in these events will be linked to the Junior Handler number through the Junior Certification Form.  It is the Junior’s responsibility to have the Judge fill out the certification form and sign it on the day they receive a qualifying score.  One copy of this form will kept by the Junior and the other will be retained by the judge to be returned to AKC with the Judge’s book.

The American Kennel Club will acknowledge any Junior who successfully completes a title, if the Junior is responsible for all the qualifying scores.

To obtain a Junior Showmanship number and to get up to date information on Junior Showmanship, be sure to visit the AKC Website.

AKC Code of Sportsmanship

It is imperative that all Juniors, in fact all people attending the variety of events revolving around dogs exhibit sportsmanlike behavior at all times.