JUNIOR HANDLER Q&A
Have I bred or co-bred a litter? I have been helping to whelp Basset litters with my parents for several years now, but I officially co-bred my first Pug litter this year! I’ve learned puppies are defi- nitely a lot of work and sometimes frustration, but it’s all worth it because watching your puppies grow up into beautiful show dogs is very rewarding. Is breeding something that I’d like to pursue? I would love to continue breeding in the years to come. Breed preservation is extremely important because without it, we wouldn’t even have the dogs that we do, and dog shows wouldn’t be possible. What are my goals for the future? Do I see myself continuing in the sport once I’ve aged-out? I plan to graduate high school this December, then go to college to study and become a nurse practi- tioner. I will be continuing in the dog world, especially in breeding and showing my own dogs, but I don’t really foresee myself becom- ing a Professional Handler. Can I share a word or two about my relationship with my cur- rent dog? My current Juniors dog is my four-year-old Pug, Ozzie. I think most people would say we definitely have a very strong bond, and I truly consider him to be my heart dog. I’ve grown substan- tially since I started showing him, and he’s taken me on an amazing journey. Not only is he my Juniors dog, he’s also my pet and bed buddy, first and foremost! Is there a funny story that I can share about my experiences as a Junior Handler? One time, when I was about 10, I was showing in Grayslake, Illinois, and my shoe laces kept coming untied in the ring. I couldn’t get them tied by myself ! So, here’s me, a little girl in a sparkly dress with a slow, stubborn Basset trotting along next to me with some untied shoes. The judge eventually leaned down and tied my shoe laces for me before my down and back. My parents were dying laughing and now, looking back, it was pretty funny. GABRIELLA HERNANDEZ
Juniors when I turned nine. I showed in the Juniors ring for the first time a week after my 9th birthday! What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? Well, I remember I got so nervous that I ended up stacking my Bas- set the wrong way on the exam, and totally blocked the judge’s view! Looking back now, it was super embarrassing, but thankfully, the judge was super nice about it and let me fix it. How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? I’ve always used my “lucky lead” on Ozzie, no matter how many repairs we’ve had to do on it! I also swear by wearing exactly three rubber bands, every time, and my dogs and I always have a pep talk and extra lov- ing before we show. How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? I personally feel that the Midwest is a super competitive area of the country for Juniors. There are a lot of us who have grown up together and we definitely switch off wins around here! There will always be bad apples, but, for the most part, I think most Juniors that I compete with are good sports and are happy to see each other win. What about the judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring? Most Juniors judges that I’ve encountered do their best to be pleas- ant and they seem to enjoy their assignment. With such big entries, often filled of talent, I’m sure it can be overwhelming to pick your winner. But most of them smile to everyone and give words of encouragement to all of the Juniors. Do I have a mentor in the sport? Have I assisted any Profes- sional Handlers? My dad is definitely my biggest mentor; he cri- tiques my handling and always points out what is great and what needs improvement—and he keeps me motivated. I wouldn’t know a thing about the show world if it weren’t for him! I would say that I have many other mentors in the show world, in different ways; men- tors in each of my breeds, Juniors mentors, and those who simply give me tips or words of encouragement when needed. Are there any wins for which I am particularly proud? I’m defi- nitely very proud of any win I’ve been awarded with my dogs. For one, the 2019 Louisville Cluster is probably my most memorable. On Saturday, I won Best Junior in the all-breed show (Louisville’s entries can get close to 100 Juniors!) as well as Best Junior with both my Pug and my Basset at their corresponding specialties. We always call that day, when we won three Best Juniors in one day, “The Louisville Trifecta!” How do I accentuate my dog’s breed type in the ring? The breed-specific presentation is different for each dog I show. As for my main Juniors dog, my Pug, Ozzie, I definitely accentuate his beautiful headpiece the most. Pugs are a head breed, and showing off their flat, pigmented faces with lots of expression is something I always try to focus on. And for any Toy breed, I think a light and gentle hand, and a petite style of handling, are key to creating a beautiful picture. Are some breeds better suited for Junior Showmanship than oth- ers? I definitely think so! I don’t think it’s impossible to win with any breed, but I think some may just be “flashier” or a prettier pic- ture to watch. Also, I think it depends a lot on the dog itself and on the Junior’s connection with it. Even the least flashy of breeds can do great in Juniors if there’s a strong connection with the handler, and these bonds show in the ring. Is there something that judges should know about judging Juniors? Are all judges the same? Not all judges are the same, and some definitely have more knowledge on certain breeds and Groups than others! I think it’s just important to give each Junior his or her “time to shine” and to also give us a chance to show off the different things that we can do. I don’t personally feel that Juniors should be entirely a free-stacking competition, which I often notice it seems to be, because not all dogs will beautifully free-stack five or six times in a short timespan.
My name is Gabriella Hernandez, and I go by Ella. I’m 17 years old. Since I was little, I have always been an animal person. But the one animal I begged for—from ages 3-13—was a Poodle! This is 100% my heart breed, and I wouldn’t trade a second with them for anything. I live in Brooksville, Florida, and I am a senior at Hernando High School. Do I have any hobbies or interests
apart from purebred dogs? Do I have a job? I love to paint, more specifically, acrylic. I don’t have a job, but I do plan to work part- time over the summer. Have I grown up in a doggy family? What is my breed(s)? Yes, I have grown up around dogs. My breed is the Standard Poodle. How was I introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did I start competing? I was introduced to Junior Showmanship by my Obedience instructor, Linda Buffa. I started competing in Decem- ber of 2020. What do I remember about the first time I showed as a Junior? I remember how terrifying it was, and feeling like I had no idea where to go or what to do. How do I prepare my dog and myself for the ring? My biggest thing is making sure that I relax and breathe. I know that if I get stressed, Lili will get stressed and neither one of us will be perform- ing at our best. How do I assess my competition? Is everyone usually a good sport? Everyone I’ve met so far has been very nice and everyone has good sportsmanship. If you don’t place in the top four, you say congratulations to those who did and do what you can to perform better next time.
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