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Junior HandlersA patient Mom or Dad may be at the wheel, but it’s a committed child who powers the journey into the world of AKC Junior Showmanship.

As former Junior Jack Darcy remarked about his experience, “You have to practice a lot so you and your dog know what to do in the ring.” Jack first ventured into the ring at the age of 11 and was promptly dragged by a powerful eight-month-old Clumber named Chip who had an unshakable instinct to Track. “I couldn’t lift his head up. He went around the ring sniffing the whole time.” Jack’s near daily grooming and handling practice paid off. He finished Chip’s championship and had a wonderful experience competing with Chip in Juniors.

Opened to ages 9 to 18 years, Junior Showmanship is a great way to introduce children to the sport of dogs and to responsible dog ownership, while making friends, building confidence and learning discipline and good sportsmanship.

Competition is divided into Novice and Open classes. Novice is for children who have not won three first-place awards in a Novice class at a licensed or member show and is designed to give beginners a chance to gain experience and confidence. Open is for children having three or more first-place wins. : The classes may further be divided into: 9 to 12 year-olds in Junior, 12 to 15 year-olds in Intermediate, and 15 to 18 year-olds in Senior.

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 or her household. However, Juniors are not judged by the conformation of their dog to the breed standard, but by the Juniors ability to present, or handle, their dog. They are encouraged to develop good handling abilities, dress appropriately, present their dog in a well-groomed condition and exhibit good sportsmanship.

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. Another way to learn the basics by attending handling classes, often offered by local dog clubs and designed to afford both dog and handler an opportunity to practice in a relaxed atmosphere, yet in a setting similar to an actual show.

For more details about Junior Showmanship, visit the American Kennel Club’s website, the source for the content on this page.

If you would like to talk to someone who has competed in Junior Showmanship with a Clumber Spaniel, please email the CSCA secretary or the Public Education chair. They will try to put you in touch with someone who can share his or her experiences.

If you are the owner of a Clumber Spaniel, but do not have eligible or interested children of your own, think about working with a friend’s or neighbor’s child who might enjoy and benefit from participating. Juniors are important to the future of the sport of dogs and responsible dog ownership. Get involved and encourage others to do so.