By Elise Edwards
JUNIOR HANDLER SEMINAR
DOGS Victoria held their first junior handler seminar in July. There were 25 handlers aged between 7 and 15 at the seminar held at the Bulla Exhibition Centre. The day was split into two halves - theory and hands on.
The morning began at 10am with registration followed by a talk with Mrs Stephanie Rickard about the differences between the conformation and junior handler ring. Mrs Rickard then discussed three major elements of junior handlers - waiting, watching and listening.
Watch - Watching the judge, dogs, other competitors and stewards
Wait - Wait for your competition, wait for your turn in the ring…there’s a lot of waiting!
Listen - It is very important to listen to the judges and steward’s instructions in the ring. Listen for the announcement of junior handlers over the loud speaker and what ring to attend to.
The next speaker was Mrs Charlene Fisher who spoke about the positives of junior handlers. Her daughter Michelle participated in junior handlers for 12 years and represented Australia at Crufts. Charlene talked about what it was like from a parents point of view. Here is a summary of what Mrs Fisher discussed:
- Strong friendships are formed in the junior handler ring
- Junior handler competitions give children the experience to handle as many different breeds as possible and learn from that experience
- Gives children an opportunity to compete with people of their own age, rather than adults
- Teaches children how to be a gracious winner and loser
Good sportsmanship is very important in not only the junior handlers ring, but in the conformation ring as well. No one wins all the time. It’s important for other competitors to congratulate the winner as it makes them feel ‘good and happy inside’. If you don’t win and get extremely upset about it, perhaps having some time off is a good idea, Mrs Fisher explained. She asked the children and parents in the seminar ‘Why do we show dogs?’ and the three main reasons everyone came up with was ‘because we love dogs,’ ‘to enjoy ourselves’ and of course ‘to win!’ But winning is only a third of the reason we show dogs, so if you don’t win it shouldn’t make you upset. It’s important for everyone to have a good day…perhaps an even better day if you win.
Dressing nicely is appropriate for showing dogs as it is polite to present yourself well to the judge. Neutral colours like pink and blue are good colours for showing dogs in, as the dog will easily be seen. Dark colours such as black or brown make breeds like Rottweilers and Dobermanns disappear. Dark colours aren’t good for showing dark-coated breeds because the dogs won’t stand out. Also, long flappy skirts aren’t a smart idea when showing smaller breeds as they often flap in the dogs face. Having clean shoes is very important.
How to ask for a dog for junior handlers
Every handler goes through this at some stage, and some will find it hard (and I agree) to ask an adult to use their dog for junior handlers. Mrs Fisher said it’s important to do it early in the day so you can give the owner plenty of time to prepare and you have time to practice. Don’t leave it to the last minute to find a dog (and I’m also guilty of doing this.) Confidently but politely, approach the owner and ask if you could possibly use their dog for junior handlers. Explain why you would like to use that particular dog and ask for tips on how to show the dog. The owner knows more than you do about the dog, so watch carefully on how to stack and gait the dog. Mr Ashley Reid said ‘when the owner gives you the dog to practice with, take time to get to know the dog. Pat it, play with it, and take it for a walk before forcing it into a stack.’ Learn what the dog likes and dislikes. Ask the owner the name of the dog, how old the dog is and what they were bred for, as they are common questions asked by the judge. Make sure you can control the dog. If you don’t think the dog is suitable, it’s okay to say no but politely thank the owner anyway. Some owners do not allow their dogs into junior handlers, accept this and move on to finding a new dog you would like to show.
It’s a good idea for younger handlers to find someone older to ask them for advice and help. Senior handlers are more than happy to help younger handlers with any troubles they might have. Don’t be afraid to ask…we were little once too!
Our final speaker was Mr Ashley Reid who spoke to us about the importance of listening to a judge. Mr Reid recently judged a junior handler competition overseas and he said that there were four handlers in the class, and he gave the first three handlers the same instructions, but the fourth handler didn’t wait to listen for his instructions, but instead, went ahead and did the same exercise as the first three handlers. A judge won’t necessarily give all the handlers the same instructions, so it’s very important to listen to what a judge tells you. It’s important to watch what the other competitors have done, but certainly don’t copy them as they might have got it wrong. Ashley Reid also emphasised what Mrs Fisher said about bonding with your dog prior to showing it.
After the theory part of showing was completed, all handlers and parents were provided with an amazing lunch provided by Colleen Morgan. Lunch ranged from tacos to macaroni cheese and sandwiches, followed by donuts, it was enjoyed by everyone. Thank you so much Colleen!
Then it was the fun part. Aimee Petersen, Stephanie Rickard, Charlene Fisher and Ashley Reid took a group of handlers each and taught us how to do triangles, T’s out and backs and out and backs together. It was great as they taught us the little things in order to perfect these exercises.
The day concluded at 3.30pm with a presentation of certificates to each of the children for participating in the seminar, along with a show bag. The day was truly fantastic and thank you to everyone who made it possible and helped out during the day. Every child had a smile on their face and I can’t wait for the next one!
September is a busy month with the Melbourne Royal and specialties on. Junior handlers are held every day during the Royal with the final on general specials day. Good luck