CALIFORNIA 2008 JUNIOR HANDLER OF THE YEAR JUDGING
By Peri Norman
Judging California Junior Handler of the Year competition was a tremendous honor for me. Junior showmanship judging is the most important judging that takes place at the dog show and the show committee, the competitors, the coaches and the spectators should be encouraged to give it the attention and respect it deserves. Sun Maid Kennel club of Fresno has accomplished this in fine fashion and they are to be congratulated for sponsoring such an excellent event.
The competitors were outstanding. There really was not anything technically that could be criticized. Of course, there was a little rough spot here or there, but we are humans and dogs are living, breathing entities, so each time in the ring will be a little different and “perfection” will not be achieved. I believe strongly in judging dogs on their merits. When you eliminate an animal because of one “fault”, you may eliminate the best overall dog because overlook all of that particular dog’s outstanding characteristics as well. The same goes for judging young handlers. When judges eliminate handlers for their “mistakes” instead of looking for the most outstanding performance overall, they often miss the very talented handlers with perhaps a more difficult, younger and/or untrained dog. Besides, I’ve been showing dogs for 38 years now and I still make mistakes.
Almost all of the competitors were wonderfully attired. The younger girls were in age-appropriate dresses. The older young ladies looked wonderful in skirt suits and dresses. I certainly don’t object to an appropriate pantsuit or even short suit of an appropriate style. One of my very best friends is an AKC Agility field representative and she works some very long hot summers days in very well put together short suits. I must add a word of caution for the young ladies though. Brief tops and very short skirts that may be appropriate after show time or hanging out with your friends are not conservative enough for the juniors ring.
Attitudes were wonderful across the board. All the competitors were polite and respectful. All the competitors were kind to their dogs. The number one criteria I look for when judging juniors is evidence of a good rapport between the dog and the handler. There are so many ways that we can support our dogs and let them know that we couldn’t do this without them. I love that I saw juniors relating to their dogs in lots of positive ways; treats, petting, kind words, just a look that tells the whole story...
Overall, it was a really wonderful experience. I’m really proud of all the competitors. They did a great job and deserve to be congratulated on their accomplishments. I wish them all the best as they continue to strive toward their future goals.