Junior Showmanship (dogs), also called Junior Handling, is a sport for young people (called “Juniors”) in which they exhibit their dog handling skills in an event similar to a conformation dog show.
Learning sportsmanship and developing knowledge of the dog are given as the purpose for Junior Showmanship (Junior Handling) by most organizations. The Junior learns sportsmanship, ring procedures, and grooming and showing techniques specific to the dog he or she is showing, and develops a close bond with the dog. For the major show-giving bodies, Junior Showmanship can also be an apprenticeship in dog handling, preparing young people for careers in dog handling, raising, and training.
The Junior Showmanship competition is organized in a similar manner to a conformation dog show. The Juniors are separated into their age and experience levels, and enter the ring in order of the size of their dog. The juniors must move their dogs around the ring according to the instructions of the judge in pre determined patterns. The judge notes whether or not the Junior follows instructions correctly and presents the dog properly according to the dog’s breed or type. Dogs are examined as in a conformation show, but the emphasis is on how the Junior interacts with the dog and the judge, not on the quality of the dog.
At the basic or novice level, children are judged on how well they follow the judge’s instructions, their understanding of ring procedure and of the standard of the breed or type of dog they are showing. In some clubs, the children may be quizzed or questioned by the judge.
In close competition between advanced Juniors, judging is also based on the Junior’s knowledge of his or her dog’s faults, and how well they disguise the faults through skillful handling so that “what a judge observes are animals at the top of their form.”
In general, children and young people may compete with dogs of any breed or in some cases, mixed breed dogs. Competition is by age group, in various classification levels. Rules are specific to each show giving organization.
Children as young as age nine by the American Kennel Club and the 4-H. All end eligibility at age eighteen except for the Kennel Club (UK), which allows Juniors to compete until they are 24.