Junior Showmanship helps young people grow in so many ways. From gaining confidence and learning responsibility to honing people skills, there are countless benefits that come from competing in Juniors. Here are my choices for the top 10 benefits of this great program.
1. You will develop self-esteem. Forcing yourself in the spotlight for evaluation can be intimidating and uncomfortable. Junior Showmanship offers a challenge that’s unlike any other. Not only do you have to show the best version of you, you’re more importantly tasked with showing off your other half — your dog — and with that comes huge unpredictability. This makes it fun because there are endless hindrances that can occur in any given ring experience. With each obstacle conquered comes more confidence. The ability to maintain poise and be able to handle any circumstance will be a paramount skill for the future. It’s an enormous confidence booster to climb up the placements and accomplish your goals.
2. You will make friends and connections. Involving yourself in the sport of purebred dogs will automatically welcome you to the supportive dog show family. We’re a strange, yet fun and eccentric group all sharing the same passion and love for dogs. Ask nicely, and there will always be someone willing to help. Lifelong friends will be made fast if you’re dedicated and eager to learn. Solidifying connections with people is crucial in the dog show world as well as in other aspects of life; these associations will surprise you with how advantageous they can be.
3. You will benefit academically. Schools today are overflowing with exceptional students. In such a competitive world, it can be hard to stand out, but showing in Juniors will give you an edge over a lot of other students, especially because of its rarity. Several shows offer scholarship money as prizes for winning juniors, and the AKC offers scholarships to veterinary school students. Juniors — especially if you’re hooked — will become a time commitment, which will help you develop time-management skills. I had to juggle doing schoolwork, traveling for shows and showing every weekend. Not getting good grades meant no dog shows for me, which forced me to manage my time more wisely.
4. You will learn to take criticism the right way. There will be times where you have to swallow constructive criticism; the successful juniors will take this as a tool for learning and not as a negative bashing. Hopefully, you will actually ask for this feedback in order to improve your game. Additionally, criticism will help you develop thick skin for when others aren’t so nice about a win you had or when people aren’t being so kind in general. You will learn to brush off the unsupportive chatter and continue to do your thing. Not getting tripped up by this will keep you always moving forward.
5. You will always learn something new. The hope is that juniors learn everything about dogs from the basics to the fine details. Grooming, breed standards, structure, breeding and handling are but a few of the endless areas of dogs to learn about. You’ll find so many varying techniques to do the same thing and different views or theories about things. There will never be a day that passes at the dog show where you can’t absorb something new.
6. You will learn to interact with adults properly. This sport will demand proper etiquette and manners around elders and people of authority. Learning how to carry yourself around adults will make conversing with them a less intimidating feat and will help you to advocate for yourself in the right way. Proper communication with adults will result in respect; this is huge in the sport of dogs and also a valuable skill to develop as a young person.
7. You will get the chance to travel. With a handful of shows happening every weekend, there are a lot of options. This opens up the opportunity to travel around the US and see places maybe you wouldn’t have seen if you weren’t involved in the sport. The chance to travel isn’t limited to this country either; dog shows are put on all around the world. Because of my participation in Juniors, I have had the privilege to travel abroad for shows, and have experiences I would never have had if Juniors wasn’t a part of my life.
8. You will understand responsibility. It will become your responsibility (we hope) to make sure your dog is in optimum health, fully bathed, groomed as needed, trained, exercised before showing, etc., in order to be ring-ready. It should be the junior’s job to take care of his or her dog. Having these basic responsibilities will form solid foundations of comprehending what it actually means to be fully responsible for the care of an animal.
9. You will develop good sportsmanship. No matter how talented a handler you are, you will face defeat in Juniors. Due to the absence of a “standard” spelling out how kids should handle their dogs to the finer points, there’s a lot of room left for diversified preferences from judge to judge. Your sportsmanship will be tested frequently and often. Forming admirable sportsmanship at a young age will continue to serve you for the rest of your life. Win or lose, you will learn to carry yourself with grace and composure. I can almost guarantee there will be weekends where you walk away with a pink ribbon the first day and ribbonless the next.
10. New things you try will have the potential to be great. You may be surprised where this sport can take you, and the only thing that could be standing in the way of something great is you. For kids who haven’t tried Junior Showmanship yet, tell them that although it may not be a well-known sport, you never know whether it could be for you until you’ve tried. If you’re a dog lover, there’s no doubt that involving yourself in Junior Showmanship can be life-changing. You’ll never know unless you try!