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Where Are They Now

Since 1934, The Westminster Kennel Club has bestowed the title of Best Junior Handler to one deserving recipient. These talented handlers, who are between the ages of 9-18, come from all across the country to be judged on their dog handling skills, with eight advancing to the finals competition. These dedicated dog lovers spend countless hours training, grooming, and perfecting their ring techniques throughout the year to qualify for a chance to show at Westminster. Each year, approximately 100 qualified Juniors make their way to New York City for the most prestigious junior handling competition in the sport. The Westminster Kennel Club congratulates these Juniors for their continued involvement and future success in the sport of showing dogs and beyond.



Tell us about your experience competing in Junior Showmanship at WKC. Westminster is every junior’s dream show to compete at. As we all know, it is considered the “Super Bowl” of dog shows for us. I was lucky enough to be invited to show at Westminster three years in a row. I had three goals for myself while competing in Junior Showmanship: winning Best Junior Handler at my National, making Junior Showmanship finals at the National Championship, and making the Junior Showmanship Finals at WKC. Westminster is one of the most competitive shows to compete at. You are showing against many talented juniors from all over the United States. Most of the Juniors I showed against at Westminster in my preliminaries I never competed with before, which was always intimidating for me. 

A large mastiff breed dog stands on a winner's podium at a dog show, flanked by a trophy holder, two handlers, and a judge, all posing for a victory photo with awards and flowers in the background.

In 2014, when I showed at Westminster, I had no expectations. I almost did not attend that year. I went without knowing much about my preliminary judge and still training my 19-month-old Bullmastiff. I was so excited to have the opportunity to compete at Westminster again. I was a little nervous before I showed in my prelim that day, but the main goal for me was just to show my dog and enjoy every minute of it. When I made the first two cuts, I was so excited. Just being recognized was so exciting to me. When I was chosen to be one of the finalists in my prelim group, I can’t even describe my excitement. I felt like all my dreams came true right then. When I was chosen Best Junior Handler, I could not believe it. It was a mixture of being in shock and excitement all at once. Winning Best Junior at Westminster was the most significant accomplishment in my Junior’s career. It proved that hard work and determination pay off.


How has being a Junior Handler impacted your life? Being a Junior Handler has had an enormous impact on my life at Dog Shows. I started showing dogs at just 9 years old. My grandparents bought a Bullmastiff puppy for my sister and me from a local breeder in Florida. We attended our first dog show in 2007, and have been hooked ever since. Throughout my Junior Showmanship career, I showed a few different dogs. I showed an American Staffordshire Terrier, a few Golden Retrievers, and Bullmastiffs. Juniors is a great way to challenge yourself as you work through how to handle each breed specifically. It made me read the breed standards of each new breed I showed and observe Professional Handlers and Owner Handlers to see how the specific breed should be shown and conditioned. One of my favorite parts of showing in Juniors was having the challenge of training my dogs. The last two dogs I showed in Juniors were my two Bullmastiffs. They were quite the challenge, but they helped me become the handler I am today. 


Can you share any advice for any current or future Junior Showmanship handlers? My advice to all Juniors today is to never give up on your dreams. You are not always going to win, and that is okay. I made many mistakes while showing in Juniors. While it was frustrating at times, it was always a chance to learn something new. One of the best things you can do is work for a Professional Handler. I have met so many wonderful people over the years in Juniors and even after showing in Junior Showmanship. I had great mentors while showing in Juniors who helped me become the handler I am today, and I will always be grateful for that. 

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