Juniors are important to the future of the sport of dogs and responsible dog ownership, and the more they learn, the more valuable they become. The values, attitudes and responsibility learned through Junior Showmanship will serve youngsters well throughout their lives. By putting time and effort into learning about their dog and how to present it, juniors are rewarded with a win.

The American Kennel Club licenses dogs shows (competitive exhibitions in which dogs are judged in accordance with an established standard of perfection for each breed) that test and evaluate the form and function of purebred dogs. In addition, at some shows the AKC offers classes which evaluate the abilities of the participant on the other end of the lead, the young handler.

AKC Junior Showmanship classes offer youngsters the opportunity to:

  1. Develop their handling skills
  2. Learn about good sportsmanship
  3. Learn about dogs and dog shows.


Junior Showmanship classes are open to children from 9 to 18 years old and are divided into Novice and Open classes: All participants in Junior Showmanship classes must have an AKC Junior Showmanship Handler Number. Novice classes are for those children who, at the time entries close, have not won three (3) first-place awards in a Novice class at a licensed or member show. To qualify as a win, more than one child must be in competition in a class. The Novice class gives those children who are beginners a chance to gain experience and confidence apart from the more seasoned youngsters. Open classes are for those children having three or more first-place wins; these are the more experienced Junior Handlers. A beginner can learn how to present their dog more effectively by watching these talented youngsters in the ring.

The classes may further be divided into:

  • Junior: At least 9 years old but under 12 years old on the day of the show.
  • Intermediate: At least 12 years old but under 15 years old on the day of the show.
  • Senior: At least 15 years old but under 18 years old on the day of the show.


Juniors are judged on their ability to present, or handle, their dogs within the same formats and guidelines as those who compete in the breed ring. The quality of their presentation, not the dog, is judged. Juniors are encouraged to develop their handling abilities, dress appropriately, conduct themselves in a proper manner, and present their dog in a well-groomed condition.


Any dog entered must be eligible to compete in dog shows or obedience trials. The dog must be owned by the child, a member of the child’s family or member of his household. Many times junior showmanship classes are free (if the dog is entered in regular classes) or are offered at the reduced rate.


The best way for prospective junior handlers to see what is involved in junior handling is to watch the Junior Showmanship classes at a dog show. They will see how children take part at all levels of competition, how they have developed friendships and have learned to compete and accept their wins and losses in a gracious manner. Talk to these young participants in our sport. You will be impressed by their knowledge, attitudes and their willingness to share their experiences with someone new to the sport. Another way to learn the basics is at your local dog club. Many clubs offer weekly handling classes. These informal sessions are conducted in a relaxed atmosphere and afford both dog and handler an opportunity to practice in a setting similar to an actual show.

In order to receive Premium Lists (which detail date, location and judges of all classes at a particular show) for shows in your area, visit the Superintendent’s office at any show. Or subscribe to the AKC Gazette and you will receive, as a part of your subscription, the Events Calendar, a bimonthly supplement which lists all the AKC events held throughout the country.



To compete, your child must be between 9 and under 18 years old and must obtain a Junior Number in PDF format, prior to the day of the event to track your wins.

Juniors must be able to control their dogs at all times. While the dog himself is not judged, your dog must be owned or co-owned by the Junior Handler or the Junior Handler’s father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandfather, or grandmother, including corresponding step and half relations, or by a permanent member of the Junior Handler’s household. Plus, your dog must be:

  • At least 6 months of age.
  • Physically sound and up-to-date on all inoculations and health check-ups.
  • Have an AKC number via one of the following:
  • AKC Registration as one of the 193 recognized breeds.
  • Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, which is for purebred dogs that cannot be fully registered with the AKC to participate in AKC events.
  • Eligibility of all Foundation Stock Service®(FSS) dogs for Junior Showmanship effective as of January 1, 2018.

In addition:

  • Spayed females and neutered males are eligible to participate but females in season are not.
  • Dogs that are blind are not eligible.
  • No dog can compete if it is taped or bandaged or in any way has anything attached to it for medical purposes.

For more information please visit the American Kennel Club.

*The above information is provided by the American Kennel Club.