Getting Started in Junior Showmanship

The American Kennel Club licenses dogs shows (competitive exhibitions in which dogs are judged in accordance with an established standard of perfection for each breed) that test and evaluate the form and function of purebred dogs. In addition, at some shows the AKC offers classes which evaluate the abilities of the participant on the other end of the lead, the young handler.

AKC Junior Showmanship classes offer youngsters the opportunity to:

  1. Develop their handling skills
  2. Learn about good sportsmanship
  3. Learn about dogs and dog shows.

Join the world of AKC Junior Showmanship!

Juniors are important to the future of the sport of dogs and responsible dog ownership, and the more they learn, the more valuable they become. The values, attitudes and responsibility learned through Junior Showmanship will serve youngsters well throughout their lives. By putting time and effort into learning about their dog and how to present it, juniors are rewarded with a win.

Who may participate

Junior Showmanship classes are open to children from 9 to 18 years old and are divided into Novice and Open classes: All participants in Junior Showmanship classes must have an AKC Junior Showmanship Handler Number. Novice classes are for those children who, at the time entries close, have not won three (3) first-place awards in a Novice class at a licensed or member show. To qualify as a win, more than one child must be in competition in a class. The Novice class gives those children who are beginners a chance to gain experience and confidence apart from the more seasoned youngsters. Open classes are for those children having three or more first-place wins; these are the more experienced Junior Handlers. A beginner can learn how to present their dog more effectively by watching these talented youngsters in the ring.

The classes may further be divided into:

  • Junior: At least 9 years old but under 12 years old on the day of the show.
  • Intermediate: At least 12 years old but under 15 years old on the day of the show.
  • Senior: At least 15 years old but under 18 years old on the day of the show.

Judging criteria

Juniors are judged on their ability to present, or handle, their dogs within the same formats and guidelines as those who compete in the breed ring. The quality of their presentation, not the dog, is judged. Juniors are encouraged to develop their handling abilities, dress appropriately, conduct themselves in a proper manner, and present their dog in a well-groomed condition.

What about the dog?

Any dog entered must be eligible to compete in dog shows or obedience trials. The dog must be owned by the child, a member of the child's family or member of his household. Many times junior showmanship classes are free (if the dog is entered in regular classes) or are offered at the reduced rate.

How to get started

The best way for prospective junior handlers to see what is involved in junior handling is to watch the Junior Showmanship classes at a dog show. They will see how children take part at all levels of competition, how they have developed friendships and have learned to compete and accept their wins and losses in a gracious manner. Talk to these young participants in our sport. You will be impressed by their knowledge, attitudes and their willingness to share their experiences with someone new to the sport. Another way to learn the basics is at your local dog club. Many clubs offer weekly handling classes. These informal sessions are conducted in a relaxed atmosphere and afford both dog and handler an opportunity to practice in a setting similar to an actual show.

In order to receive Premium Lists (which detail date, location and judges of all classes at a particular show) for shows in your area, visit the Superintendent's office at any show. Or subscribe to the AKC Gazette and you will receive, as a part of your subscription, the Events Calendar, a bimonthly supplement which lists all the AKC events held throughout the country.