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Junior Showmanship at Westminster

Junior Showmanship At Westminster

Since 1934, the Westminster Kennel Club has bestowed the title of Best Junior Handler to one deserving youngster. These talented handlers 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. Approximately 100 qualified juniors annually make their way to New York 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 dogs and beyond.

See the full Junior Showmanship Records here.

Find out what past Best Junior Handlers at Westminster are doing today in our Where Are They Now? series.

Junior Showmanship 101

What is Junior Showmanship?

Junior Showmanship is a competition assessing the handling skills of children 9-18 years of age independent of the traits of the dog. The competition promotes proper training and care to prepare future generations for responsible dog ownership, sportsmanship, and future success in the sport.

How is Junior Showmanship judged?

These young handlers must demonstrate breed knowledge in the presentation of the dog as well as the economy of motion. The judge is considering how well the handlers present their dogs regarding control, teamwork as well as composure, and unexaggerated movement. The goal for the Juniors, like the best adult handlers, is to enhance their dog’s qualities to the judge without using distracting, unnecessary motions.

How does Junior Showmanship work at Westminster?

Since 1934 the Westminster Kennel Club has offered Junior Showmanship competition (formerly known as Children’s Handling class). Today Junior Showmanship at Westminster is a limited class for young people who have won Best Junior Handler awards seven times or more at AKC dog shows over a certain time frame. The competition has preliminary judging round where nearly 100 Juniors from across the country are judged with eight finalists being selected to move on to the Finals competition.

How does one win at Westminster’s Junior Sportsmanship?

The Finals competition brings the eight finalists together for one more round of competition. The first-place winner is crowned Best Junior Handler followed by 2nd, 3rd, and 4th placements. Since 2010, the Westminster Kennel Club has offered Junior Showmanship Finalist Scholarship Awards to the eight finalists at the show: First place $10,000, Second place $5,000, Third place $4,000, and Fourth place $3,000. Each of the other finalists receives a $500 scholarship award. The scholarships are for their use in post-secondary schooling for the college or technical school of their choice.

What breeds are eligible to compete in Junior Showmanship?

All purebred dogs registered with the American Kennel Club are eligible to compete in Junior Showmanship. You may see dogs from the 209 AKC recognized breeds and varieties representing each of the seven groups, from Affenpinschers to Vizslas.

To learn how to get started in Junior Showmanship, visit AKC’s website here


Road to Westminster